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Machine Shop Safety

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Machine Shop Safety Program Summary

A general overview of requirements for machine/maintenance shops.

This program applies to all departments that have a work area with fixed metal- and/or wood-working machinery where the primary function is to fabricate or machine materials or parts. Areas are defined as  "shops" if they have three or more pieces of fixed machinery and at least one employee who uses or oversees the shop. Common shop equipment includes band saws, table saws, radial saws, mills, lathes, drill presses, bench grinders, polishers/buffers/sanders, planers/jointers, power presses, thermoforming equipment, and welding and cutting equipment. 

If the area is not considered a "shop", but a few pieces of machinery are present, machine-specific requirements for safe use still apply; however, a designated machine shop coordinator or supervisor may not be necessary. 

Maintenance/machine shops on campus are subject to routine inspections by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSH) through their local emphasis program. To assist with the oversight of such areas, departments must designate one or more persons to serve as the machine shop coordinator to implement program requirements. Typically, the shop supervisor is appointed coordinator.

Student-use shops may require a more formal shop safety program. Shop oversight, established policy, more frequent self-inspections, machine maintenance, and machine-specific training in addition to general safety training is typically required.

Machine Shop Safety Online Program

This program was developed to assist departments with maintenance/machine shop oversight by ensuring that:

  • Machinery and equipment available for use is of a safe design, and is used and maintained in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations;
  • Authorized personnel are provided training and information on how to protect themselves from shop and machine hazards;
  • Shop areas are maintained in a safe and orderly manner; and
  • All work is performed in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements.

Environmental, Health and Safety

Environmental Health & Safety will provide the following services for this program.

  • Monitor the overall effectiveness of the program;
  • Provide machine shop coordinator training and general shop safety training for shop users;
  • Conduct periodic audits of shop areas; 
  • Provide technical assistance; and
  • Coordinate Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) visits and citation responses, as necessary.


Departments with maintenance/machine shops shall provide a safe and healthy workplace. Coordination of this program involves the following:

  • Designate a machine shop coordinator for each shop area under the department's control and provide support as needed for the coordinator to meet the requirements of this program. Typically, this role is filled by the shop supervisor;
  • Ensure that each departmental employee or student who works in and around shop areas receives appropriate training as indicated in this program; and
  • For student shops, establish shop policy regarding hours of operation and oversight.

Machine shop coordinators

  • Machine shop coordinators must ensure that all personnel using the shop equipment have been instructed in safe operating procedures (i.e. hands-on training) and are aware of specific personal protective equipment requirements. User training must be documented;
  • Operator manuals for each piece of machinery shall be available;
  • All machinery shall be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations; 
  • Ensure all machinery is in safe and proper working order when in use; 
  • A preventative maintenance program for each machine is highly recommended;
  • Perform periodic shop self-inspections to identify and correct existing or potential hazards; 
  • Machine shop coordinators, or a designee, must be current on first aid/CPR/AED training;
  • Ensure required safety features, such as guards, are installed for each piece of machinery and are functioning properly; and
  • Ensure required personal protective equipment is used, and operating procedures are followed by users.

Shop users

Each person, employee or student, who performs work in a shop area must:

  • Operate machinery or equipment only after being trained by the machine shop coordinator (or designee);
  • Follow standard operating procedures for the machinery and equipment including the proper use of safety features;
  • Use prescribed personal protective equipment;
  • Report injuries to the machine shop coordinator;
  • Dress appropriately (no loose jewelry, clothing, or unsecured long hair); and
  • Report problems with machines to the machine shop coordinator, so that they can be tagged out-of-service until properly repaired or replaced.

Machine shop safety

Each person who uses shop equipment must receive training prior to use. General training is available online. Machine shop coordinators (or designee) should provide machine and shop specific training, such as:

  • Shop policy and guidelines such as housekeeping and access;
  • Shop hazards and methods of controlling exposure;
  • Machine-specific operating procedures and safety features (training record must be maintained); and
  • Use and care of prescribed personal protective equipment.

Machine shop coordinator

Persons who are assigned responsibilities as a machine shop coordinator must attend the following training:

  • Machine shop coordinator
  • Hot work permit supervisor (if welding/cutting is performed on-site)
  • Lockout/tagout authorized person
  • First aid/CPR
  • Hazard communication program coordinator
  • Personal protective equipment coordinator

Other safety trainings that may be required (dependent upon the specific worksite and scope of work) include:

  • Compressed Gas Cylinder Awareness
  • Electrical Awareness
  • Powered Industrial Truck Certification

General Requirements


Machine shop coordinators should perform periodic shop inspections and document results. This checklist may be used to help identify hazardous conditions. Hazardous conditions must be corrected immediately or machinery tagged "out of service" until properly repaired or replaced. 

Environmental Health & Safety inspections/audits

Environmental Health & Safety will audit shops on a one or two-year frequency (depending on size and risk) to ensure training, documentation, and the physical space is compliant. A written report will be issued to the machine shop coordinator with recommendations for correction. 

VOSH inspections

Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) may inspect shops on campus without prior notification. Their focus will be on the physical space and machinery present, as well as proof of first aid/CPR training. A representative from Environmental Health & Safety should accompany the compliance officer, and a representative from the shop should be present during the walk-through.

  • Violations identified should be corrected at the time of their visit, if at all possible. A citation may still be issued. Before and after photos will be taken.
  • Violations that cannot be corrected at the time of the inspection must be corrected within 15 days of the visit, regardless of when the citation(s) is received.
  • Citations are typically received within one to two months after the onsite visit and are mailed directly to Environmental Health & Safety for response coordination.
  • Environmental Health & Safety will forward a copy of the citation to the machine shop supervisor.  It must be posted in the shop area for three business days, or until the violation has been abated, whichever is greater.
  • Environmental Health & Safety will coordinate proof of abatement (photographs, training records, etc.) with the machine shop coordinator, and officially respond to VOSH. A copy of the response will be sent to the machine shop coordinator.
  • Floors, machines, and other surfaces must be kept free of dirt and debris. If floor surfaces are wet or slippery or become wet during work activities, they should be protected with a non-slip coating or covering.
  • Wood and metal chips, sawdust, and other debris must be routinely cleaned if dust collection systems are not in place and operating.
  • Where machinery is hard-wired into the electrical system, an accessible and labeled disconnect (if not  obvious) shall be provided.
    • Clearances in front of electrical panels and disconnects must be maintained. It is recommended that the floor below the disconnects be marked as a reminder.
  • Where machinery is cord-and-plug connected to the power supply, proper grounding shall be maintained.
  • Exposed energized electrical hazards, such as missing knockouts, covers, damaged cords, etc., shall be corrected immediately. 
  • Proper lockout/tagout procedures shall be followed for all servicing and maintenance of machinery and equipment.
  • Stock materials must be stored in such a manner as to prevent falling, slipping, or rolling. 
  • Material should not be stored on the floor, and may not be stored where they will impede egress from the area, or where they block electrical disconnects. 
  • Use shelves or cabinets, as appropriate, to store materials.
  • Mezzanines used to store materials shall be load rated and marked accordingly. Mezzanines shall not be overloaded.
  • Chemicals must be stored in cabinets approved for that use, as appropriate. 
  • Do not store incompatible chemicals together. 
  • Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals used must be maintained in the shop area.
  • Compressed gas cylinders must be stored, used, and handled in accordance with safe work practices.
  • A Hazard Communication Plan must be available upon request.

Flammable and combustible liquids include, but are not limited to, materials such as gasoline, oils, some paints, lacquers, thinners, cleaners, and solvents. To determine if a material or product is flammable or combustible, review the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or read the manufacturer's label on the product.

  • Information regarding proper storage, handling, and use of flammable and combustible liquids can be found in the Fire and Life Safety Program, or by contacting Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-9068.
  • Store any cloth or paper rags or material that has been saturated with flammable or combustible liquids, in an approved metal can with a tight-fitting lid. These materials should be removed on a daily basis and placed into a 55-gallon metal drum with a tight-fitting lid located in an approved storage location. Contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-2982 for approval of the storage location and to arrange disposal of the drum when full.
  • Always remove/replace clothing that has become saturated with a flammable or combustible liquid-even if it is just a little. Saturated clothing can easily ignite if exposed to an ignition source, such as radiant heat, flame, sparks or slag from hot work, or an electrical arc.

Access to shop areas should be restricted to authorized personnel (users) only. Personal protective equipment required for access should be posted at the entrance.  

  • Aisles and walkways must be kept free of debris and obstructions and a clear path must be maintained to the exit.
  • All exits shall be properly identified with signage. 
  • Machinery should be placed so that a clear and safe operating area is maintained for each machine.
  • The shop area must have adequate lighting to perform the work safely. Task lighting on machinery should be provided, where necessary.
  • Sufficient ventilation is required for welding and cutting areas.
  • Noise control or hearing protection may be necessary.
  • Harmful dusts, mists, and fumes shall be properly controlled or employees shall be protected.

Machine shops accessed by students or other departments should establish a policy for safe and proper use of the area. The policy should include expectations, guidelines, and rules to be followed by personnel.

The machine shop coordinator should establish shop-specific information, such as:   

  • No person should work in a shop area alone (i.e. buddy system);
  • Hours of operation where appropriate oversight is provided should be established;
  • Housekeeping rules should be established;
  • Required training should be defined;
  • Emergency contact numbers, and a means for summoning help, must be readily available; and
  • Shop guidelines and rules must be clearly posted. 

Machinery hazards include rotating parts, which can catch loose hair, clothing, or jewelry in a matter of seconds pulling you into the machine causing serious injury (scalping, choking, cuts, amputations, crushing, etc.) or death. Look for belts, pulleys, shafts, blades, bits that rotate and ensure they are properly guarded. In addition, the following guidelines should be specified on the Hazard Assessment Form for the shop:

  • No long sleeve shirts;
  • No loose shirttails (tuck into pants); 
  • No neckties, scarves, or hood strings;
  • No loose jewelry (i.e. necklaces, bracelets, watches, rings, etc.); 
  • No gloves (recommended for material handling only; not during machinery use);
  • No open-toed shoes (i.e. sandals, flip flops); 
  • Long pants recommended; 
  • Hearing protection is highly recommended and may be required in some instances; 
  • Hair below the collar of your shirt must be secured (tied back and tucked in shirt or covered by a hat);
  • Long beards must be covered; 
  • Safety glasses must be worn at all times; 
  • Face shields (required when using grinders); and
  • Other machine-specific clothing/equipment as recommended by the manufacturer.

Machinery Hazards Overview

Machinery and equipment may have the following hazards which require controls to be in place: 

  • Point of operation: Refers to the area where work (e.g. cutting, shearing, shaping, boring) is performed on a stock material. Some machinery, such as table saws and bandsaw have a point of operation guarding that must be in place during operation. 
  • Nip or pinch point: Refers to an area other than a point of operation where a belt contacts a pulley or one or more rotating parts come together where it is possible for a part of the body to get nipped or pinched by the moving parts. Machinery with rollers is a prime example of nip/pinch points. 
  • Power transmission: Refers to areas where power is transferred from one part to another such as a drive shaft, belt, or chain. Belts, pulleys, flywheels, rotating parts, etc. must be guarded to prevent entanglement and amputations. Older machinery is notorious for not providing this type of guarding.

The owner's or operator's manual must be in the shop area with the machine. A standard operating procedure indicating safety features and their appropriate use may be necessary for some machinery.

The area of operation must be free and clear of obstructions. Space must be provided between each machine and other objects, including other machine operating areas, as needed, to allow the safe operation of the machine.

Please review our general checklist for all machinery. 

One issue with older shop equipment is that it may not have appropriate guarding when compared to newer standards and design requirements. Machine guarding issues are not grandfathered by OSHA and must be addressed before the machine is used. Check with the manufacturer first to see if a retrofit kit is available. If so, it will be up to the department to purchase and install it. If a retrofit kit is not available, a guard may have to be manufactured and installed. In general, the guard must sufficiently cover the hazard without creating an additional hazard. EHS can provide general recommendations, if necessary.

Machinery that is no longer used by a department should be removed from the site. Older machinery typically has insufficient guarding or other issues that would prohibit safe use and must be secured by a positive means to prevent accidental use while it remains onsite. "Positive means" would include placing a "Do Not Use" tag on the machine that specifies the problem (ex. missing guard) and applying an energy isolating device and lock on the cord-and-plug, or cutting the plug off of the machine to prevent someone from using the machine easily.

Machinery and equipment must be inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations. This information, along with safety-related guidelines, can be found in the operator's manual. If a manual is not available, the manufacturer should be contacted to obtain one. Many manufacturers post manuals on their websites as well.

Some machine-specific checklists and guidelines are available below.

Hazard Controls

Many control systems exist to provide protection from hazards. Users must be provided protection from all hazards during their work in a machine shop.

Engineering controls must be given first priority. If engineering controls are not feasible, then an appropriate administrative control must be used. If administrative control will not control the hazard, then personal protective equipment must be utilized by the machine user.

Engineering controls include machine guarding, ventilation systems, and dust collection systems.

Machine guarding

There are three main types of guards. At least one type of guard can provide protection from most machine hazards.

Fixed guard refers to a guard that is a permanent part of the machine, but is not dependent upon moving parts of the machine to perform its guarding function. A fixed guard that can be manually set into the appropriate position before machine operation is sometimes referred to as an adjustable guard. A fixed guard that completely separates the user from the hazard is often called an"enclosure guard.

Interlocked guard refers to guards that are connected to a mechanism that cuts power to the machine when the guard is tripped or moved out of position.

Self-adjusting guard refers to a guard that adjusts automatically to the thickness and movement of the stock material. An example is a floating guard on a table saw that raises up and floats along the top of the stock while the stock is guided across the saw.

Ventilation systems

When chemical or flammable liquid work, welding operations, or soldering is performed additional ventilation may be required. This may include fume hoods, ventilation hoods, or local exhaust ventilation systems.

Dust collection systems

Dust collection systems remove sawdust or other particles from the shop area. The particulates are generally collected in a bag or other container for disposal. Where woodworking or other dust generation activities are conducted, it is recommended that a dust collection system be put in place.

Administrative controls may be necessary when engineering controls are not available or feasible. Such controls include:

  • Safety training;
  • Machine operation training;
  • Standard operating procedures;
  • Machinery and shop layout;
  • Restricted access;
  • Preventative maintenance;
  • Established shop guidelines or policy; and/or
  • Signage, barriers, or other warning methods.

Personal protective equipment used in a machine shop may include safety glasses, protective shoes, face shields, respirators, gloves (typically for material handling only - not recommended during machine use in many instances), welding gear and disposable clothing. Hazards in the shop area and for tasks performed must be evaluated and controlled. Where personal protective equipment is required, it should be documented on a Hazard Assessment Form and personnel using such equipment must be trained. For more information regarding recommendations and guidelines for requiring specific personal protective equipment, review the Personal Protective Equipment Program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Environmental Health & Safety reviews 3D printing systems and procedures for exposure and discharge risks. Information gathered includes printer model and description, process type, raw materials, and location. If you have a system and have not already contacted Environmental Health & Safety personnel, please do so at 540-231-3600.

Yes, Virginia Tech can be cited by Virginia OSHA (VOSH) and penalties can be assessed. Any violation cited must be abated within the specified period, or contested.  Penalties will be the responsibility of the cited department. Environmental Health & Safety coordinates the response efforts. Contact Environmental Health & Safety (Robin Miller) at 540-231-2341 or 540-231-5985 (Zack Adams) for assistance.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Departments that perform welding, cutting, brazing, torch cutting, soldering, and similar open-flame operations must designate a hot work coordinator and implement a hot work permit program.

Class length: 1 hour.

Available online: Yes.

When is refresher training required? Never.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

The answer, in most cases, is most definitely yes. Storage of equipment or materials in hallways, even on a temporary basis, can seriously impact the safety of building occupants and first responders. Consider, for example, that if a fire occurs, visibility will be greatly reduced. If you are trying to exit the building--perhaps by crawling on the floor to minimize your exposure to smoke--those items in the hallway could impede your ability to get out quickly. Or, if they're easily movable (rolling carts, for example) and you bump into them, they could actually obstruct your exit access.

Also, during a fire, the first responders may be dragging fire hoses down the corridor. If there is storage or easily moved equipment located in the hallway, the hose could catch on to these stored items and either obstruct the hallway or impede response efforts.

In general, any furniture located in the means of egress must be approved for that location. When doing our evaluation, Environmental Health & Safety will look at the configuration of the hallway, the construction and materials used in the furniture, if applicable, and other factors. If you are planning to place equipment or furniture in hallways or lobbies, please contact Environmental Health & Safety first to make sure your plan is appropriate and safe. And, never store anything in stairwells.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Departments that have machine shops, woodworking shops or similar operations must designate a machine shop coordinator and implement a machine shop safety program. The coordinator must attend this training.

Class length: 2 hours.

Available online: No.

When is refresher training required? Every 5 years.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Persons who perform welding, cutting, or brazing must attend this training.

Class length: 1 hour.

Available online: Yes.

When is refresher training required? Never.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Regardless of who owns the equipment or tools used by an employee while on the job, it must be in good condition and in proper working order. Good condition would also include any required safety features of the equipment/tool. Departments permitting employee-owned equipment/tools to be used while on the job are responsible for ensuring it is safe. If the person is injured while on the job because of defective, improper, or sub-standard equipment, it is still work-related. It is our goal, and everyone's obligation, to reduce hazardous conditions in the workplace.

All program requirements still apply; however, shop policies and designated coordinators may not be necessary for such limited applications.

A guard is a device that provides some measure of protection from machine hazards. Guards may be fixed (isolating the user from the hazard), interlocking (shut off the machine or the power transmission system when the guard is displaced or removed), or self-adjusting.

A machine shop is an area where fixed or permanent machinery or equipment (woodworking, metalworking, or similar) is used.

University personnel using hazardous materials in their research and/or teaching laboratories, or any other space where chemicals are used/stored must generate an inventory listing and update it annually. This policy resulted from negotiations with the State Fire Marshall related to chemical use and storage, and concerns raised by accidents at other universities as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The registration process has been vetted through the University Environmental Health & Safety Committee as well as the Chemical Safety and Hazardous Materials Management Committee, and the Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Registration is completed through Environmental Health and Safety's Safety Management System. For additional information, please contact Zack Adams, 540-231-5985.

Hoists typically only offer two directions of load motion: forward/reverse and up/down. Cranes typically offer three directions of load motion: forward/reverse, up/down, and left/right.

Also look at what the manufacturer calls it, as well as any design and installation drawings.

Hoists are typically mounted on a beam, which must be rated with a load capacity that is equal to, or greater than, the rating on the hoist.


Fixed guard: Refers to a guard that is a permanent part of the machine, but is not dependent upon moving parts of the machine to perform its guarding function. This may include some guards that can be manually set into appropriate positions and fixed into place.

Interlocked guard: Refers to guards that are connected to a mechanism that cuts power to the machine when the guard is tripped or moved out of position.

Nip or pinch point: Refers to an area other than a point of operation where a belt contacts a pulley or rotating parts come together where it is possible for a part of the body to get nipped or pinched in the moving parts.

Point of operation: Refers to those activities (e.g. cutting, shearing, shaping, boring) performed on a stock material.

Power transmission: Refers to areas where power is transferred from one part to another such as a drive shaft, belt, or chain.

Self-adjusting guard: Refers to a guard that adjusts automatically to the thickness and movement of the stock material. An example is a floating guard on a table saw that raises up and floats along the top of the stock while the stock is guided across the saw.

Shop safety coordinator: Means the departmental person responsible for ensuring compliance with this program.

Documents and Checklists

Contact Information

Robin McCall-Miller, Occupational Safety Program Manager

Phone: 540-231-2341