3 Fundamental Ways to Avoid Hazardous Pinch Points

Caught-in/between accidents are no joke. Are you doing your part to prevent them?

If you’ve ever caught your thumb in a car door, you know what a pinch point is and how much pain it can cause. On a construction site, pinch point injuries can be disastrous.

In 2016, more than 7 percent of construction deaths were due to “caught-in/between” accidents — when a person is caught in or compressed by equipment or objects or struck by, caught in or crushed by a collapsing structure, piece of equipment or material. And that figure doesn’t include nonfatal injuries such as amputations.

Any space in which a worker might get a hand, finger, foot or other body part caught (or the entire body, for that matter) is a pinch point. Just about any machine that moves or has a moving part can create one.

Avoiding pinch points comes down to common sense and best practices. These three basic approaches are the keys to keeping appendages intact and workers alive when moving machines are involved.

Use machine safeguarding

Engineering controls are the first line of defense against pinch point accidents, and guards are an obvious choice. In its manual on machine safeguarding, OSHA put it this way: “Any machine part, function, or process which many cause injury must be safeguarded.”

There are many types of machine guards. Fixed guards, for example, are a permanent part of the machine or tool and prevent workers from touching dangerous mechanisms. Interlock guards shut off or disengage the power when the guard is removed.  

Then there are safety controls —triprods and body bars, tripwire cables, two-hand trips, etc., as well as photoelectric and radiofrequency presence-sensing devices, restraint devices and pullback devices.

Remember, it’s the employer’s job to protect workers from preventable accidents, so use the appropriate safeguards with all machinery and tools. Inspect machines regularly to make sure guards aren’t missing or damaged.

Provide ongoing safety training

Workers should be trained on the hazards of the machines they operate as well as what safeguards are in place and how to use them. They should know what to do if a guard is missing or damaged, and when it’s okay — and not okay — to remove one.

Use toolbox talks and safety meetings to remind employees of basic precautions, such as wearing the right PPE, tying back long hair and removing dangling jewelry or loose scarves that could get caught in machinery. Remind them to think before putting hands, fingers, or feet between two moving objects or one stationary object and a moving object. 

Place signs or tags to help workers maintain awareness of possible pinch points.

Use lockout/tagout procedures

Lockout/tagout procedures keep machines or other equipment with at least one energy source from restarting or releasing stored energy while someone is performing maintenance or service on it, such as cleaning or lubricating it or clearing a jam.

Entrust the maintenance or servicing of energized equipment only to authorized employees.

Accidents happen when workers sidestep procedures or bypass safeguards meant to protect them, often in order to get the job done faster. If your company is serious about creating a culture of safety, management should find ways to convey that safety comes first.


Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.