Presently there are two machine room equipment guarding solutions available on the market, but before going into detail about them, it helps to review the most common hazards found with elevator machine room equipment:
Elevator machine guarding that does not protect a person from all the hazards listed above is not OHSA compliant and does not fully mitigate the risk of injury or death. One thing to keep in mind is that elevator machine guards are not only required in the elevator machine room but also in the secondary levels (when present) and sometimes in the hoist way.
Governing bodies have different ways of wording their standards for guarding but the OHS Act summarizes them well. Standard 1910, Subpart O - Machinery and Machine Guarding, sub-section 1910.212(a)(1) states:
“One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks […]”
As mentioned above there are two elevator equipment guarding options:
Global Guarding (also known as Fencing, Screen, Mesh, or Perimeter Guarding)
This approach is basically a fence around the machines to separate them from each other and from controllers.
- Simple solution
- Usually cheaper than component guarding but that depends on size of machine and/or setup
- May not need to be disassembled for major work on the machine
- May be reusable if machine is modernized or replaced
- Usually shorter lead-time
- Minimal impact on machine visibility
- Only protects people outside the perimeter. Once inside, workers are exposed to an unguarded machine with all hazards mentioned above
- Questionable if it is OHSA compliant and actually mitigates the risk. Some states and provinces, such as Québec, Canada, do not consider global guarding as a compliant machine room guarding solution and will fine the owner and elevator contractor if an accident occurs
- Create confined space between the machine and the fence which may not be ideal for all machines
- Cannot always be installed due to distance between machines and/or cabinets and controllers
- Requires room layout measurements to determine panel lengths
- Typically, does not work in secondary levels
Component Guarding (also known as Modular or Individual Guarding)
This solution consists of a collection of parts assembled to guard any hazard belonging to the machine. This type of guarding is tailored to each different machine type.
- Complete protection and always OHSA compliant
- Access panels only expose specific machine components and keep other components guarded
- Protect all people all the time
- Can always be installed
- Some elevator component guarding providers have standard guarding designs for common machines
- Keep elevator machine room cleaner
- Usually more expensive than global guarding
- Tailored fit to each machine type
- May need custom parts for each machine specific installation setup
- Will need to be disassembled for major work on the machine
- May need to be reworked if machine is modernized and will likely need to be replaced if machine is replaced with a different machine
- Can have a longer lead-time
Regardless of the machine room guarding option used, key questions to ask when buying and installing elevator machine guarding include:
1. Is the selected guarding solution compliant with my state/province law?
2. Is the guarding OHSA compliant?
3. Does the guarding provide access to regularly maintained parts?
4. Is the guarding readily removable? Does it require more than one person to install?
5. Are the guards secured in place using fasteners and do they require a common tool to remove? (fasteners such as wing nuts are prohibited)
6. Will the guarding impinge on equipment operation?
If you answered no to any of the above, it is recommended to either modify the installed guards (if possible) or find a new machine room equipment guarding supplier who will meet these criteria.