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NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

NIOSH Safety and Health Topic:

Machine Safety

Workers are killed or injured as result of hazardous contact with machinery and equipment.

According to NIOSH NTOF data from 1980 to 1998 occupational injury from machinery was ranked third after motor vehicle and homicide as cause of death. Fatalities from machine related incidents accounted for approximately 13% of the total. The industry divisions that ranked the highest in injury due to machinery were: Agriculture, Mining, Manufacturing and Construction. Some of the leading injuries experienced in these industries were struck by or against an object, caught in or compressed by equipment and caught in or crushed in collapsing materials.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 92,560 private-sector lost-time injuries during the year 2002 were caused by machinery. The median number of lost workdays resulting from these injuries was 7 with 24% of the total incidents resulting in 31 or more lost-work days. The type of machine (source) most often identified included metal, woodworking, and special materials machinery (19, 269 injuries); material handling machinery (16,183 injuries); special process machinery (15,576 injuries); heating, cooling and cleaning machinery (13,330 injuries); unspecified machinery (6,148 injuries) and construction, logging, and mining machinery (6,069 injuries). Machinery was identified as the primary source of fatal occupational injuries in 483 of 5915 total fatalities during 2002.

NIOSH Publications on Machine-Related Injuries

— Manufacturing —

ALERT: Preventing Deaths and Injuries While Compacting or Baling Refuse Material
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-124 (July 2003)
The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) is a multisource 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.

Alert: Preventing Worker Deaths from Uncontrolled Release of Electrical, Mechanical, and Other Types of Hazardous Energy
DHHS (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.
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-113
This leaflet presented 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 16 and 17 year old workers may legally load material into balers, they may not operate or maintain them. Three criteria were 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 were defined. Minimum performance requirements for the control of hazardous energy as set forth by OSHA also were noted.

— Agriculture & Forestry —

Hazard ID 13: Hazards Associated With Using Farm Tractors to Move Large Bales
Publication No. 2000-146 (August, 2001)
En español
According to NIOSH analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 74 workers were fatally injured from 1992 through 1998 while harvesting, handling, or working near bales and bale-handling equipment [BLS 2000]. 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 (ROPS) on tractors and specialized handling equipment were not used, and parked tractors were not secured to prevent them from rolling.

Hazard ID 8: Injury Associated With Working Near or Operating Wood Chippers
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-145 (August, 1999)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 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.

Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Loggers
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-101 (May 1995)
En español
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.

Alert: Preventing Scalping and Other Severe Injuries from Farm Machinery
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-105 (June 1994)
En español
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 (PTOs).

Update: Danger of Hair Entanglement in Ht Baler Drive Shafts
DHHS (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 1970's. 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.

Alert: Preventing Entrapment and Suffocation Caused by the Unstable Surfaces of Stored Grain and Other Materials
DHHS (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 co-workers. These deaths demonstrate the need to focus on preventing future fatalities.

— Youth —

Injuries Youth Among Youth on Farm ,2001
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-172 (December 2004)
The majority of deaths to youth on farm operations were due to machinery (25%), motor vehicles (17%), and drowning (16%). An estimated 695 youth died on US farms and most fatalities occurred to youth 16-19 years of age.

Alert: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-125 (May 1995)
En español
Machine-related deaths were the second leading cause of work-related injury death for 16- and 17-year-olds for the years 1980-89 [Castillo et al. 1994]. Tractors alone accounted for 44% of the machine-related deaths.

— Motor Vehicle —

Alert: Preventing Worker Injuries and Deaths from Mobile Crane Tip-Over, Boom Collapse, and Uncontrolled Hoisted Loads
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-142 (September 2006)
This Alert describes six incidents resulting in the deaths of eight workers and injuries to two others that 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
DHHS (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 using appropriate personal protective equipment.

Preventing Injuries When Working with Hydraulic Excavators and Backhoe Loaders
DHHS (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.

RI 9657: Recommendations For Testing Radar-Based Collision Warning Systems on Heavy Equipment
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-135 (May 2002)
Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are investigating 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.

ALERT: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts (superseded by 2001-109)
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2000-112 (December 1999)
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.

ALERT: Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Skid Steer Loaders
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-117 (February 1998)
En español
During the period 1992-97, the NIOSH FACE program identified 37 work-related fatalities involving skid steer loaders. These fatalities resulted from workers being pinned between the bucket and frame of the machine or between the lift arms and frame, from rollovers, and from other causes.

Machine-Related Fatality Investigation Reports (conducted under the FACE Program) —

  In-house (All)
  State-based (All)

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.


Skid-Steer Loader-Related Fatalities in the Workplace - United States, 1992-1995
Parker-DL; Boyle-DJ; Wahl-G; Murray-JS; Rolf-JW; Merchant-JA; Rautiainen-R; Johnson-W; Hirsh-GL; Hetzler-WE (1996 Jul), MMWR, 45(29):624-638

Journal Articles

Fatal and nonfatal occupational injuries involving wood chippers — United States, 1992-2002.
Struttmann TW (2005 Jan), JAMA J Am Med Assoc, 293 (4): 418-419.

Computer simulations help determine safe vertical boom speeds for roof bolting in underground coal mines.
Ambrose-DH; Bartels-JR; Kwitowski-AJ; Gallagher-S; Battenhouse-TR J (2005 Oct), Saf Rest, 36(4):387-397

Commercializing an automatically deployable rollover protective structure (AutoROPS) for a zero-turn riding mower: initial product safety assessment criteria.
Etherton-JR; McKenzie Jr-EA; Powers-JR (November 13-20, 2004), Proceedings of IMECE04, 2004 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Anaheim, California, New York: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2004 Nov; :1-7

Temporal factors and the prevalence of transient exposures at the time of an occupational traumatic hand injury.
Lombardi-DA; Sorock-GS; Hauser-R; Nasca-PC; Eisen-EA; Herrick-RF Mittleman-MA (2003 Aug), J occup environ med, 45(8):832-840

Machine-Related Work Injury in the USA.
Etherton-J; Long-D (2002 May), Injury Prevention and Control, 6th World conference, Les Presses de l-University de Montreal ::428-429

Safety-Related Machine Controls for Maintenance Risk Reduction.
Etherton-JR (2002 Jun), Proc ASSE Prof Develop Conf Expo Nashville, Tennessee June 9-12, 2002, American Society of Safety Engineers, :1-20

Remote controls on an agricultural tractor for performing ASAE/SAE field upset tests.
Lutz-TJ; Homce-GT (2000 Jul), 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, :1-6

Control of scrap paper baler crushing hazards.
Etherton-JR; Estill-CF; Earnes-GS; Flesch-JP (2000 May), Appl Occup Environ Hyg, 15(5):397-399

Effectiveness of roll-over protective structures in reducing arm tractor fatalities.
Reynolds SJ; Groves W (2000 May), Am J Prev Med, 18(4S):63-69

Machinery-related fatalities in the U.S. construction industry, 1980-1992.
Pratt SG; Kisner SM; Moore PH (1997 Oct), NOIRS 1997 Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 1997. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, :2

Machine Safety Research at NIOSH and the Future Directions.
Etherton-JR; Myers-ML (1990 Sep), International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics,6(2):163-174

Interfacing Safety Sensors to Industrial Robotic Workstations Sensors.
Sneckenberger-JE; Kittiampon-K; Collins-JW (1987 Apr), 4(4):35-37

Human Motor Reactions to Dangerous Motions in Robot Operations.
Helander-MG; Karwan-MH (1987 Mar), Department of Industrial Engineering, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, :47 pages

Simulation of the After-Reach Hazard on Power Presses Using Dual Palm Button Actuation.
Pizatella-TJ; Moll-MB(1987 Feb), Hum Factors, 29(1):9-18

Automated Maintainability Records and Robot Safety.
Etherton-JR (1987), Proceedings of the Annual Reliability and Maintainability Symposium 1987, :135-140

A Model of Human Reaction Time to Dangerous Robot Arm Movements.
Helander-MG; Karwan-MH; Etherton-J (1987), Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 31st Annual Meeting, New York, October 19-23, 1987, 1:191-195

The Use of Safety Devices and Safety Controls at Industrial Machine Work Stations.
Etherton-JR (1987) Handbook of Human Factors, :861-875

Other Pages of Interest

The American Society of Safety Engineers
External link:

Farm Machinery and Equipment Safety Part I: Recognizing and Understanding the Hazards

International Social Security Association (ISSA) Section for Machine and System Safety
External link:

Machine Safety Downloadable Mining Publications

National Agriculture Safety Database (NASD)

National Safety Council
External link:

OSHA Publication: Concepts and Techniques of Machine Safeguarding
External link:


WorkSafe Health & Safety Centre for Construction
External link:

Page last updated: June 30, 2006
Page last reviewed: March 27, 2008
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Machine Safety

Worker performing machine-related task

Topic Index:

Machine Safety
Machine-Related Fatality Investigation Reports

  In-house (All)
  State-based (All)

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Traumatic Occupational Injuries