The Importance of Machine Safeguarding in Restaurants

Restaurants and commercial kitchens are filled with equipment that have the potential to cause injuries such as crushed or maimed hands, severe burns, and more. Workplace accidents happen all the time – over 5,000 people died while on-the-job in 2018. This is why organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were created: to prevent workplace injuries by improving conditions and safety regulations. One of the most vital workplace safety requirements is machine safeguarding.

Visit our Risk Control Library for additional safety resources for restaurants.

What is Machine Safeguarding?

Machine safeguards are features that are installed on machinery or equipment that have moving parts with the potential to injure employees. Employers are responsible for safeguarding machines and should consider this need when purchasing machinery. Most machines that are purchased new will come with manufacturer installed safeguards, but used or older machines may not have proper machine safeguards. If your machines do not have safeguards, you may be able to purchase them from the original machine manufacturer or from an after-market manufacturer. Safeguarding equipment should be designed and installed only by technically qualified professionals. If possible, the original equipment manufacturer should review the safeguard designs to ensure that it will protect employees without interfering with the operation of the machine or creating additional hazards.

Two primary methods are used to safeguard machines: guards and safeguarding devices. 

  • Guards: prevent access and contact to dangerous and hazardous areas. Guards are preferable because they are physical barriers that enclose dangerous and hazardous machine parts and prevent employee contact with them. Guards are installed directly onto the machine to protect from hazards such as moving parts, sparks or debris. Guards must be properly designed and installed; and cannot create additional hazards such as pinch points. Openings in guards must be small enough to prevent employees from accessing danger areas. An example of this is guard that is installed on a bakery mixer. 
  • Safeguarding devices: are machine controls or attachments, that when properly designed, applied and used will prevent inadvertent access by employees to dangerous and hazardous machine areas. This may include presence-sensing devices, like photoelectric sensors that prevent the machine from operating if an employee’s hands or body parts are inadvertently placed in the danger area. This may also include two-hand controls that require both of the operator’s hands to be on the controls when the machine is being operated. Safeguarding devices must be properly designed and installed at predetermined safe distances from the machine’s danger area and other hazardous moving parts. 

Restaurant Equipment That Requires Machine Safeguarding

While many examples of machine safeguarding are more common in manufacturing facilities and factories, restaurants and commercial kitchens also often have dangerous equipment and machines that require machine safeguarding. These may include:

  • Meat slicers, choppers and dicers
  • Bakery mixers
  • Food processors
  • Steamers and pressure cookers
  • Any portable power tools

Common Hazards in Restaurant Kitchens

Studies have shown that the “morbidity rate for food system industries was significantly higher than the morbidity rate for nonfood system industries.” Most food industry injuries are caused by slips/falls, falling objects, chemical hazards, fires, machinery accidents and food toxicity.

Any number of these incidents can harm not only staff and the business in general, but also customers. This is why it is incumbent on the restaurant owner(s) to protect the health and safety of their workers. OSHA recommends:

  • Always using machine safeguarding on equipment
  • Training every employee on how to use machinery properly
  • Providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever necessary
  • Following manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning and maintaining all equipment
  • Never inserting your hands into a machine while it is plugged in
  • Following child labor laws that state no child under the age of 18 may “operate, set up, adjust, clean, oil or repair power-driven food slicers, grinders, choppers, cutters, bakery mixers and other power-driven bakery machines”

How Insurance Can Help Restaurants Mitigate Risk

Our business insurance program is tailored to the unique needs of your bar or restaurant. Your local Society agent will help you to determine the restaurant insurance coverage necessary to protect your livelihood. To learn more about how Society Insurance can help your restaurant grow and mitigate risk, consult with a Society agent in your area.

For more information on reducing cut injuries to your employees, don’t miss these blogs:


As a mutual insurance company, we operate and exist for the benefit of our policyholders. For more than 100 years, Society has been helping businesses overcome the unexpected with comprehensive coverage packages and outstanding claims handling, underwriting and risk management.

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