Yes, you really do need to safeguard machines in your workplace. But to what extent can be a matter of interpretation based on minimum safety requirements (OSHA regulations), or best safety practices (ANSI standards).
Most employers are familiar with OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) and the enabled OSH Act of 1970. Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards. Employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.
By law, employers are legally required to follow OSHA regulations. That means an OSHA inspector will issue citations for noncompliance to their CFR (Code of Federal Regulations). OSHA’s CFR SubPart O—Machinery and Machine Guarding has six (6) machine-specific safeguarding regulations which are:
1910.213 Woodworking Machinery
1910.214 Cooperage Machinery
1910.215 Abrasive Wheel Machinery
1910.216 Mills and Calendars
1910.217 Mechanical Power Presses
1910.218 Forging Machines
OSHA regulations for safeguarding most other machines fall under 1910.212 General Requirements For All Machines which specifies that the operator and others in the machine area be protected from exposure to hazards.
However, ANSI’s B11-Series Safety Standards (which has 24 machine categories) are often used to fill in the details for specific safeguarding and can be used as reference material by OSHA inspectors. Even though ANSI safety standards are voluntary, they could become legally mandatory if an OSHA citation mentions a specific ANSI standard for you to comply with.
The bottom line is that all employers should strive to exceed minimum requirements and abide by the best safety practices found in the ANSI B11 standards. The key to employee safety is to observe best safety practices at all times. After all, it could be a matter of life and death!