Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Machine Shop Safety Controls

Many control systems exist to provide protection from hazards. Users must be provided protection from all hazards during their work in a machine shop.

Engineering controls must be given first priority. If engineering controls are not feasible, then an appropriate administrative control must be used. If an administrative control will not control the hazard, then personal protective equipment must be utilized by the machine user.


Engineering controls include guards, ventilation systems, and dust collection systems.


There are three main types of guards. At least one type of guard can provide protection from most machine hazards.guard

Fixed Guard: refers to a guard that is a permanent part of the machine, but is not dependent upon moving parts of the machine to perform its guarding function. A fixed guard that can be manually set into the appropriate position before machine operation is sometimes referred to as an "adjustable guard". A fixed guard that completely separates the user from the hazard is often called an "enclosure guard".

Interlocked Guard: refers to guards that are connected to a mechanism that cuts power to the machine when the guard is tripped or moved out of position.

Self-adjusting Guard: refers to a guard that adjusts automatically to the thickness and movement of the stock material. An example is a floating guard on a table saw that raises up and floats along the top of the stock while the stock is guided across the saw.


When chemical or flammable liquid work is performed, ventilation may be required in addition to the building ventilation. This may include fume hoods or other types of local exhaust ventilation.

Dust Collection

Dust collection systems remove sawdust or other particles from the shop area. The particles are generally collected in a bag or other container for disposal. Where woodworking or other dust generation activities are conducted, it is recommended that a dust collection system be put in place.


Administrative controls include training, standard operating procedures, access to machines and the shop, maintenance activities, and shop guidelines. Each shop should establish these guidelines, put them in writing, and post them at the entrance to the shop.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment used in a machine shop may include safety glasses, protective shoes, face shields, respirators, gloves (typically for material handling only - not recommended during machine use in many instances), welding gear and disposable clothing. Hazards in the shop area and for tasks performed must be evaluated and controlled. Where personal protective equipment is required, it should be documented on a Hazard Assessment Form and personnel using such equipment must be trained. For more information regarding recommendations and guidelines for requiring specific personal protective equipment, review the Personal Protective Equipment Program.