March 25, 2004
Mr. Jack Worrall, President
JM Engineering, Inc.
PO Box 590
142 Will Drive
Canton, MA 02021
Dear Mr. Worrall:
Thank you for your March 5, 2004 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence.
In your letter, you expressed concerns about worker safety and raised questions about the use of laser guarding devices. As you know, OSHA's mission is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for the Nation's workers. While OSHA recently stated that the use of laser guarding devices does not inherently violate the machine guarding provisions of 29 CFR 1910.212(a), the Agency provided that the use of a laser guarding device would constitute compliance with the standard only if the device effectively and reliably prevents worker injury by controlling the zone of danger associated with the machinery. Further, the scope of OSHA's response was limited to hydraulic powered press brakes, and the Agency explicitly expressed reservations with respect to the use of laser guarding devices on other types of machinery/pieces of equipment.
While the Agency has determined that the laser guarding device may be considered an acceptable form of guarding under 1910.212, OSHA also has cautioned employers that guarding systems generally are appropriate only if they are designed, installed, used, and inspected in a manner that will effectively and reliably prevent injury. Thus, OSHA will consider carefully individual laser guarding systems installed in conjunction with hydraulic press brakes to determine whether they effectively and reliably protect employees from point of operation hazards and other equipment-related hazards. While the Agency will provide its inspectors with more specific guidance in the near future, inspectors currently will consider the laser guarding device in isolation, as well as in conjunction with the specific press on which it is installed, to ascertain whether it provides effective and reliable protection under the conditions in which the laser guarding device and the press brake are used at a specific worksite. Employers who are using laser guarding devices in a manner such that they do not work in conjunction with a hydraulic press brake to provide effective and reliable protection are subject to citation under 1910.212.
You expressed concern specifically about the ability of the laser guarding device to timely stop the ram and prevent employee injury. OSHA recognizes that a laser guarding device, which is not capable of always stopping the ram on a press brake prior to contact with a worker's finger, hand, or other body part, does not provide effective and reliable protection, as required by 1910.212. This is one of the factors that OSHA inspectors will consider when inspecting worksites using laser guarding devices on hydraulic press brakes.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs