What machinery guarding checks are required?

One of our subscribers recently received a visit from an HSE inspector who criticised the firm’s lack of routine checks of machinery guarding. If you were in this position what action would you need to take?


The first checks to make are about the appropriateness of machinery guarding . You may have older equipment which does not have up-to-date protection, or you might carry out work with the machine which is incompatible with the standard guarding.

Tip. Carry out a detailed machinery risk assessment in which you review the type of activity undertaken alongside the cleaning and maintenance work (see The next step ). This will help you to identify when and where staff could be exposed to dangerous parts and enable you to evaluate whether the machinery guarding is up to the job.

Tip. If you don’t have the skills to do this in-house, find a health and safety consultant to assist. The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) website will help you to find one with the right competency (see The next step ).

What’s good enough?

When assessing machinery guarding you should follow the hierarchy of protection set out in Regulation 11 Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) . This requires that where practicable you should fit fixed enclosing guards which are removable only with a key or a special tool. An example is a hatch which may be fitted to allow routine cleaning of wood dust from the recesses of a machine. This would usually have a key or a fitting requiring a tool.

For situations where more frequent access is required you might have an “interlocking” moveable guard. An example is a cover over a lathe, which automatically cuts the power to the machine when it is lifted. Other types of guard which allow some access to a blade or other danger point are only permitted where it’s not practicable to use a fully enclosing guard.


Under Regulation 6 PUWER you should carry out routine checks to ensure that guarding is in place, guards and interlocks operate correctly and there are no signs of damage or tampering.

Tip. There are no general rules about the content and frequency of these checks. Review the manufacturer’s instructions and the findings of your risk assessment to create a schedule.

Tip. As a guide, in a busy workshop it would be usual to carry out a daily pre-shift visual inspection plus a weekly formal inspection. If you find that you have compliance problems, e.g. staff removing guards or not adjusting them correctly, increase the frequency to nip this in the bud. You can always reduce the frequency later on.

Tip. You must ensure that the staff appointed to undertake inspections have the competency to do it well. This will include knowledge of: (1) the key components; (2) likely faults; (3) what to do afterwards in terms of reporting and recording; and (4) the circumstances in which a machine should be put out of use until it is repaired.

Tip. You can use our register and record form to enter your planned and completed checks (see The next step ).

You must ensure that machinery guarding is suitable and sufficient, taking into account the work undertaken. Conduct a risk assessment to determine this and then create a schedule. A quick visual check before shifts and a formal weekly inspection programme would be a normal approach.

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