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Pinch points and how to protect against them

New Jersey residents who work around machinery may already know what pinch points are. These refer to any point in machinery where workers can get caught, and they can include the space between two moving parts, between a moving and a stationary part, or between a part and some material. Any machinery with gears, rollers, belt drives or pulleys will have pinch points.

A few examples of machines with pinch points are plastic molding machines, printing presses and powered doors, hatches and covers. Pinch point protection is addressed in OSHA standards for agriculture, general industries, marine terminals, longshoring and construction. These standards cover both engineering controls and work practice controls.

Controls require the use of guards that isolate workers from pinch points. If the machinery manufacturer offers guards, these should be installed. Any proposed guard designs should be reviewed beforehand for their adequacy by the equipment manufacturer. The nature of the machine itself should determine the choice of design and material. Guards must be able to stand up to blows and operational stresses.

Under its work practice controls, OSHA requires employers to train employees on how to properly use the equipment, how to stop it in case of emergencies and how to remove the guards for maintenance purposes. Keeping floors and aisles free from trip and slip hazards is also highly recommended.

Sometimes, workers can be injured despite current safety practices. Employees may be covered for their medical expenses and for a portion of their lost wages if they file a workers’ compensation claim, but since claims are often denied, it might be a good idea to consult a lawyer for the process. Victims may have the option of settling for a lump-sum payment, so they may discuss with a lawyer whether this would be in their best interest.