Guarding Against Pallet Wrapper Injuries
I always pay special attention to pallet wrappers each time I see them inside a warehouse. While plastic wrappers may look like a small karaoke stage, the platform actually spins, and can make you dizzy enough to fall over if you were to step on it.
For a second, you may think a trip or two around might be fun, but trust me it is not. A plastic wrapper’s disc-like platform is a moving part. Even though it is not a high speed machine, it does move fast enough that, whether empty or loaded with a pallet, it can cause serious injury, including lacerations, abrasions, even an amputation, if an employee gets too close and is not paying attention. The employee could also be injured if caught between this disc and the plastic wrap.
Like any machine with moving parts, guarding is required by OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(1). One or more methods of machine guarding must be provided by the employer to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from inadvertent contact with moving parts.
Pallet wrappers can be guarded by guard barriers such as post and chain or a standard guardrail system with a top-rail and mid-rail. Some employers have even gone the extra mile by placing the wrapper in a cage. Regardless of the type of guard used, it must be located at a distance to prevent employees from accidentally coming in contact with moving parts. Employees must be trained and instructed on how the guards work and also have them in place at all times during machine operation.
It is not uncommon for an employer to complain that guarding will take up too much room on the floor, make it difficult to maneuver around. This is not a valid excuse when it comes to employee safety. Lacerations, abrasions and amputations are costly, can adversely affect injury and illness rates, and increase workers’ compensation premiums. If space is an issue, consider relocating the machine and its guard to an area with more room or to an area that is out of the way.
To learn more about machine guarding, visit OSHA’s machine guarding safety and health webpage here or let us visit your worksite for free and confidential machine guarding guidance.
USF SafetyFlorida is OSHA’s on-site safety and health consultation program for Florida’s small businesses. The non-profit organization provides free and confidential safety and health consultations for employers, helping workers remain safe while on the job and businesses profiting from workplace safety. To learn more about USF SafetyFlorida or to request a free and confidential on-site consultation, visit www.usfsafetyflorida.com.