Machines can help improve production efficiency in the workplace. However, their moving parts, sharp edges, and hot surfaces can also cause serious workplace injuries such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns, or blindness. Safeguards are essential to protect workers from injury. Any machine part, function, or process that might cause injury should be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine may result in a contact injury to the operator or others in the area, the hazard should be removed or controlled.
Robots are machines or automated technologies that are capable of performing a series of actions to do everything from drive cars to perform surgery. To learn more visit the Center for Occupational Robotics Research.
NIOSH is home to two labs for machine safety research. Continue reading to learn more about their capabilities.
Containing a 37-foot-high ceiling with an overhead catwalk, the NIOSH High Bay Laboratory is dedicated to research efforts in reducing fall-related injuries and improving the safety of large equipment used in industrial, construction, and agricultural applications. Test equipment includes a 5-ton bridge crane, a test bed, an MTS hydraulic power supply and actuator system, and a research manikin.
The laboratory, which was developed in 1995, has been used for projects related to improving:
- scaffolding stability
- ladder safety
- design of tractor rollover protective structures
- tension/compression testing of fabricated protective structures
- ingress/egress safety for construction equipment.
Facts about our test equipment:
- The hydraulic actuators can produce up to 20,000 pounds of force.
- The Advanced Dynamic Anthropomorphic Manikin (ADAM) is representative of a 95th percentile Air Force male. ADAM contains a sophisticated and ruggedized onboard data acquisition system, joint sensors, three tri-axial accelerometers (located in the head, chest, and lower torso), and two load cells (located at the neck and lower spine). ADAM has been used in a series of tests on the biodynamic forces that protective equipment and the human body would experience during free-fall and rapid deceleration while wearing fall-restraint equipment.
- Equipped with protective rails, a catwalk provides a mechanism for studying human perception and responses at heights.
The NIOSH Virtual Reality Laboratory contains a simulation space with a computer-generated projection that gives users the illusion of being immersed in a three-dimensional world. How does it work? The user wears special eyewear that synchronizes and filters the projected images to create a realistic impression of a three-dimensional space. A motion tracking system continuously adjusts the projection to the current position of the user, tracking the subject’s position and updating the projection in real time. This lab is also equipped with a six-camera VICON motion measurement system to capture movements of human subjects in the virtual environment. Users’ physiological responses can also be captured using a Biolog Data Recorder.
NIOSH scientists have developed virtual environments that simulate dangerous working conditions to evaluate innovative fall prevention strategies without placing human subjects at real risk. An example of a dangerous working condition is construction work at heights. Subjects can be studied working at virtual heights in a safely controlled laboratory. This lab is also being used to visualize scientific concepts or virtual prototypes, such as vehicle cab controls, brain neural cells, and protective gear, for further discussion and enhancement.
This 28- by 35- by 14-foot laboratory is currently being utilized to better understand human behavior, physical responses, and decision-making skills under simulated conditions of elevated work, such as scaffolding, roofing, and ladder use tasks. The Virtual Reality Laboratory was developed in 1996 and updated to a digital format in 2010. The NIOSH fully immersive Virtual Reality Laboratory is among the largest in scale of its kind and is one of very few being utilized for occupational safety research applications in the country.
Findings from the National Machine Guarding Program: safety climate, hazard assessment, and safety leadership in small metal fabrication businesses
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2017 / 59(12):1172-1179
Occupational Injuries in Ohio Wood Product Manufacturing: A Descriptive Analysis with Emphasis on Saw-related Injuries and Associated Causes
American Journal of Industrial Medicine: November 2014 / 57(11):1265-1275
Machine Safety: New & Updated Consensus Standards
Professional Safety: May 2012 / 57(5):50–57
Innovative Safety Interventions: Feasibility of Using Intelligent Video for Machinery Applications
IEEE Industry Applications Magazine: May-June 2010 / 16(3):45–49
Machine Safety: Developing an Operator Presence System
Professional Safety: November 2009 / 54(11):28–31
Reducing Risk on Machinery: A Field Evaluation Pilot Study of Risk Assessment
Risk Analysis: June 2008 / 28(3):711–721
Fatal and Nonfatal Occupational Injuries Involving Wood Chippers-United States, 1992-2002
JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association: January 2005 / 293(4):418–419.
Computer Simulations Help Determine Safe Vertical Boom Speeds for Roof Bolting in Underground Coal Mines
Journal of Safety Research: October 2005 / 36(4):387–397
Temporal Factors and the Prevalence of Transient Exposures at the Time of an Occupational Traumatic Hand Injury
Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine: August 2003 / 45(8):832–840
Machine-Related Work Injury in the USA
Injury Prevention and Control, 6th World Conference, May 2002, Les Presses de l’Universite de Montreal, 428–429
Safety-Related Machine Controls for Maintenance Risk Reduction
Proc ASSE Prof Develop Conf Expo, June 9-12, 2002, Nashville, Tennessee. Des Plaines, IL: American Society of Safety Engineers, June 2002; Proceedings of the ASSE Professional Development Conference Expo 1–20
Control of Scrap Paper Baler Crushing Hazards
Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene: May 2000 / 15(5):397–399
Machine Safety Research at NIOSH and the Future Directions
International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics: September 1990 / 6(2):163–174
Interfacing Safety Sensors to Industrial Robotic Workstations Sensors
Sensors: April 1987 / 4(4):35–37
Human Motor Reactions to Dangerous Motions in Robot Operations
Department of Industrial Engineering, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, March 1987:47 pages
Automated Maintainability Records and Robot Safety
1987 Proceedings of the Annual Reliability and Maintainability Symposium 1987:135–140
A Model of Human Reaction Time to Dangerous Robot Arm Movements
Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 31st Annual Meeting, New York, October 19-23, 1987; 1:191–195
NIOSH Manufacturing Program
NIOSH Publication No. 2019-142 (June 2019)
The Manufacturing Program provides leadership to reduce occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among workers in manufacturing industries. This snapshot shows recent accomplishments and upcoming work.
Workplace Solutions: Using Lockout and Tagout Procedures to Prevent Injury and Death during Machine Maintenance
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-156 (April 2011)
Workers are at risk of severe injury and death during machine maintenance and servicing if proper lockout and tagout procedures are not followed. NIOSH recommends developing and implementing a hazardous energy control program including lockout and tagout procedures and worker training to prevent such incidents.
Circumstances of Fatal Lockout/Tagout-related Injuries in Manufacturing
American Journal of Industrial Medicine: October 2008 / 51(10):728–734
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths and Injuries While Compacting or Baling Refuse Material
NIOSH Publication No. 2003-124 (July 2003)
The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) is a multi-source data system maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify work-related deaths in the United States. A NIOSH review of the CFOI data identified 34 compactor-related fatalities during 1992–2000 in which the victim was caught in or crushed by the compacting ram of the machine.
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Worker Deaths from Uncontrolled Release of Electrical, Mechanical, and Other Types of Hazardous Energy
NIOSH Publication No. 99-110 (August 1999)
No detailed national data are available on the number of workers killed each year by contact with uncontrolled hazardous energy. However, during the period 1982–1997, NIOSH investigated 1,281 fatal incidents as part of their FACE Program. Of these, 152 involved installation, maintenance, service, or repair tasks on or near machines, equipment, processes, or systems.
Hazard Controls: Control of Scrap Paper Baler Crushing Hazards
NIOSH Publication No. 97-113 (April 1997)
This leaflet presents methods for controlling the crushing hazards associated with scrap paper balers. Exposure to crushing and amputation hazards exist for workers involved in loading, operating, or maintaining balers. Hazards also exist in the lockout procedures. Although sixteen and seventeen year old workers may legally load material into balers, they may not operate or maintain them. Three criteria are suggested for protecting workers from injury during operation of paper balers. First, the point of operation guarding must prevent workers from placing any parts of their body into hazardous areas during operation. Secondly, periodic inspection and maintenance of the equipment and the safeguarding devices must be conducted. Thirdly, workers must be trained in the safe operation of the equipment, understand the hazards related to bypassing safety devices, and recognize the limitations and effective operating ranges of safety devices. Requirements of the American National Standards Institutes for baling equipment safety are defined. Minimum performance requirements for the control of hazardous energy as set forth by OSHA also are noted.
Simulation of the After-Reach Hazard on Power Presses Using Dual Palm Button Actuation
Human Factors: February 1987 / 29(1):9–18
The Use of Safety Devices and Safety Controls at Industrial Machine Work Stations
Handbook of Human Factors: 1987 / :861–875
Farmer Driving a Pickup Truck was Struck When a Pickup Ran a Stop Sign.
NIOSH State FACE Report: June 2020
Predicting the Performance of Cost-Effective Rollover Protective Structure Designs
Safety Science: October 2011 / 49(8-9):1252-1261
Evaluating the Protective Capacity of Two-post ROPS for a Seat-belted Occupant During a Farm Tractor Overturn
Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health: January 2011 / 17(1):15-32
Certified Safe Farm: Identifying and Removing Hazards on the Farm
Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health: April 2010 / 16(2):75-86
ROPS Performance During Field Upset and Static Testing
Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health: January 2010 / 16(1):5–18
Commercializing an Automatically Deployable Rollover Protective Structure (AutoROPS) for a Zero-turn Riding Mower: Initial Product Safety Assessment Criteria
Proceedings of IMECE04, 2004 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, November 13-20, 2004, Anaheim, California, New York: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2004 Nov; :1–7
Hazard ID 13: Hazards Associated With Using Farm Tractors to Move Large Bales
NIOSH Publication No. 2001-146 (July, 2001
According to NIOSH analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 74 workers were fatally injured from 1992 through 1998 while harvesting, handling, or working near bales and bale-handling equipment. Forty-two of these workers were killed while preparing bales for transport or while moving them. Farm tractors were involved in 34 of these 42 events. In a number of these deaths, rollover protective structures on tractors and specialized handling equipment were not used, and parked tractors were not secured to prevent them from rolling.
Remote Controls on an Agricultural Tractor for Performing ASAE/SAE Field Upset Tests
Proceedings of the 93rd Annual International Meeting of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, Paper No. 007004, Milwaukee, WI, July 9-12, 2000. St. Joseph, MI: American Society of Agricultural Engineers, July 2000; :1-6
Effectiveness of Roll-over Protective Structures in Reducing Arm Tractor Fatalities
American Journal of Preventive Medicine: May 2000 / 18(4S):63-69
Hazard ID 8: Injury Associated With Working Near or Operating Wood Chippers
NIOSH Publication No. 99-145 (August, 1999)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 11 workers lost their lives during 1992 through 1997 while working near mobile wood chippers. In seven of the incidents, the victim was caught by the feed mechanism and pulled through the chipper knives. The victims in four of the incidents were struck by hoods (guards that cover the rotating chipper knives) that separated from the machines after being improperly opened or closed while knives were still rotating.
Update: Improper Hitching To Tractors Can Be Fatal
NIOSH Publication No. 97-108 (January 14, 1997)
Farmers and others who use tractors are at risk for severe injury or death if proper hitching methods are not used when towing or pulling objects with tractors.
Update: NIOSH Warns Farmers of Forage Wagon Hazards
NIOSH Publication No. 95-118 (September 14, 1995)
Working with forage wagons can be extremely dangerous and may cause severe injury, amputation, or death. Installing an extension to increase the space between the tractors and ensuring that PTO drivelines are properly guarded will significantly reduce the risk of injury.
Safe Grain and Silage Handling
NIOSH Publication No. 95-109 (August, 1995)
Grain-handling machinery is the second largest cause of farm machinery-related deaths and also causes many severe disfiguring injuries and amputations. Many grain-handling hazards can be avoided. The goal of this booklet is to point out these hazards and suggest practical ways to prevent injury. These suggestions were gathered from agricultural engineers and safety experts throughout the world, but primarily from the United States and Canada.
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Loggers’
NIOSH Publication No. 95-101 (May 1995)
During the period 1980–89, an estimated 1,492 deaths occurred in the logging industry. Most of these logging deaths occurred in four occupational groups: logging occupations (for example, fellers, limbers, buckers, and choker setters), truck drivers, general laborers, and material machine operators.
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Scalping and Other Severe Injuries from Farm Machinery
NIOSH Publication No. 94-105 (June 1994)
Many farm workers are injured each year when clothing, hair, or body parts become entangled around the inadequately guarded rotating drivelines or shafts of farm machinery driven by power take-offs.
Update: Danger of Hair Entanglement in Hay Baler Drive Shafts
NIOSH Publication No. 93-126 (May 20, 1993)
Five women in New York have been scalped and/or suffered severe facial disfigurement due to their hair becoming entangled in hay balers. All four incidents involved a secondary driveline which powers bale throwers on hay balers manufactured by New Holland in the early 1970s. The bale throwers that post this hazard are Models 54A, 54B, 58, and 62, which were placed on a variety of New Holland hay balers. Although these models are no longer manufactured, an unknown number remain in use. It is essential that all farmers, farm family members, and farm workers be alerted to the hazards of working with this and other farm machinery.
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Entrapment and Suffocation Caused by the Unstable Surfaces of Stored Grain and Other Materials
NIOSH Publication No. 88-102 (December 1987)
Entrapment and suffocation are hazards associated with storage bins and hoppers where loose materials such as grain, sand, or gravel are stored, handled, or transferred. The fatalities described in this Alert occurred when suspended materials or crusted surfaces of stored material suddenly broke loose and entrapped the workers. The behavior of such material is unpredictable, and entrapment and burial can occur in a matter of seconds. This Alert recounts seven case reports describing the deaths of 12 workers. In each case, the workers became entrapped in grain or other loose material and were unable to free themselves or be freed by their coworkers. These deaths demonstrate the need to focus on preventing future fatalities.
Toolbox talk: work zone safety – vehicle operators
CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training: March 2020 / :1–2
Operators’ Views of Mobile Equipment Ingress and Egress Safety
International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics: July 2019 / 72:272–280
Topics in Construction Safety and Health – Sruck-by and Caught-in Hazards: An Interdisciplinary Annotated Bibliography
CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training: August 2018 / :1–30
An Investigation on the Dynamic Stability of Scissor Lift
Open Journal of Safety Science and Technology: March 2012 / 2(1):8–15
Assessment of Fall Arrest Systems for Scissor Lift Operators: Computer Modeling and Manikin Drop Testing
Human Factors: June 2012 / 54(3):358–372
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Skid Steer Loaders
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-128 (December 2010)
NIOSH studies in the 1990s suggested that employers, supervisors, and workers may not fully appreciate the potential hazards associated with operating or working near skid-steer loaders and they may not follow safe work procedures for controlling these hazards. This Alert describes six deaths involving skid-steer loaders and recommends methods for preventing similar incidents.
Fall Arrest Characteristics of a Scissor Lift
Journal of Safety Research: June 2010 / 41(3):213–220
Scissor Lift Safety – An Initiative to Model Static Stability
Professional Safety: April 2009 / 54(4):43–48
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Worker Injuries and Deaths from Mobile Crane Tip-Over, Boom Collapse, and Uncontrolled Hoisted Loads
NIOSH Publication No. 2006-142 (September 2006)
This Alert describes six incidents resulting in the deaths of eight workers and injuries to two others who were either working near or operating mobile cranes. In each incident, these injuries or deaths could have been prevented by using proper safety procedures.
Workplace Solutions: Preventing Injuries When Working With Ride-On Roller/Compactors
NIOSH Publication No. 2005-101 (November 2004)
Workers who operate or work around roller/compactors are at risk of injury from a machine rollover or being struck by the machine or its components. NIOSH recommends that injuries and deaths be prevented through wider use of rollover protective structures (ROPS) and seat belts on roller/compactors, training, establishing and adhering to safety plans and safe work practices, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment.
Preventing Injuries When Working with Hydraulic Excavators and Backhoe Loaders
NIOSH Publication No. 2004-107 (November 2003)
Workers who operate or work near hydraulic excavators and backhoe loaders are at risk of being struck by the machine or its components or by excavator buckets that detach from the excavator stick. NIOSH recommends that injuries and deaths be prevented through training, proper installation and maintenance, work practices, and personal protective equipment.
Ergonomic Risk Factors: A study of Heavy Earthmoving Machinery Operators
Professional Safety: October 2002 / 47(10):38–45
RI 9657: Recommendations For Testing Radar-Based Collision Warning Systems on Heavy Equipment
NIOSH Publication No. 2002-135 (May 2002)
Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigate technologies that could be used to detect objects, small vehicles, and pedestrian workers that may be in the blind areas of haulage equipment used in mining and construction. This report discusses several different test procedures and test targets and recommends methods to determine how effective a radar system will be in detecting a person near heavy equipment.
NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts
NIOSH Publication No. 2001-109 (June 2001)
Each year in the United States, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents. Forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts; they represent about 25% of all forklift-related deaths.
Machinery-related Fatalities in the U.S. Construction Industry, 1980-1992
NOIRS 1997 Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 1997. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, October 1997:2
Skid-Steer Loader-Related Fatalities in the Workplace-United States, 1992-1995
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: July 1996 / 45(29):624–628
Limitations in Fields of Vision for Simulated Young Farm Tractor Operators
Ergonomics: June 2010 / 53(6):758–766
Ability of Youth Operators to Reach Farm Tractor Controls
Ergonomics: June 2009 / 52(6):685–694
Injuries to Youth on Farms and Safety Recommendations, U.S. 2006
NIOSH Publication No. 2009-117 (February 2009)
The majority of deaths to youth on U.S. farms were due to machinery (23%), motor vehicles (19%), and drowning (16%).
NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths, Injuries and Illnesses of Young Workers
NIOSH Publication No. 2003-128 (July 2003)
Working youth are exposed to, and injured by, machinery in agriculture, retail trades, transportation and construction.
The FACE fatality investigation program focuses on machine-related fatalities as one of its primary targets for surveillance and prevention. Since the inception of the FACE program in 1982, hundreds of fatal incidents involving machine-related injuries have been investigated by NIOSH and state investigators. These links provide lists of those cases which in turn links to the full-text reports on the FACEWeb.
NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Machine Safety
is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.
Other Machine Safety Resources
The American Society of Safety Engineers
The ANSI B11 Accredited Standards Committee
Farm Machinery and Equipment Safety Part I: Recognizing and Understanding the Hazards
TRAC-SAFE: A Community-Based Program for Reducing Injuries and Deaths From Tractor Overturns Facilitator’s Manual NIOSH Publication No. 96-108
The link below is from a foreign source and may contain requirements not applicable in the United States.