Controlling entanglement risks

This guidance may help employers control the risk of employees becoming entangled in plant, including machinery, equipment, appliances, implements and tools.

The risk of entanglement

Employees working near powered machinery with exposed moving parts can be at high risk of entanglement. They risk being pulled into the moving danger points of machinery. Entanglement can result in serious injury or death. Injuries include scalping, amputation and de-gloving.

Items that can easily become entangled in moving parts include:

  • clothing
  • hair
  • gloves
  • jewellery
  • cleaning brushes
  • rags or other materials

Body contact that may lead to entanglement includes:

  • contact with a single rotating surface. For example, shafts, spindles, chucks and leadscrews
  • being caught on projections or in gaps. For example, keys and pins projecting from a shaft, fan blades, flywheels, mixer arms
  • contact with materials in motion. For example, centrifuges, tumble driers, dough mixers, winches, winch ropes
  • contact between counter-rotating parts. For example, gear wheels, rolling mills
  • contact between rotating and tangentially moving parts. For example, components of power transmission belts and conveyor belt
  • contact between rotating and fixed parts. For example, flywheels and the machinery bed, screw conveyors and their casings

When entanglement risk occurs

The risk of entanglement with machinery can occur during:

  • operation
  • maintenance
  • repairs
  • inspection
  • servicing
  • cleaning-type activities

This risk increases when the guarding on plant and equipment is inadequate, broken or removed.

Entanglement examples

Examples of entanglement incidents include:

  • a timber processing plant employee whose clothing became entangled on the rotating shaft of a conveyor. He suffered fatal injuries
  • the hair of an employee becoming entangled with an unguarded rotating drive shaft as she cleaned at a wholesale fruit grower. Her scalp and an ear were torn from her head
  • a labour hire employee who was cleaning a feeder auger at an abattoir. The employee reached into the drain hatch at the base of the auger with a 30 cm metal pole. His arm was dragged into the machine and amputated

Entanglement control measures

Employers can manage the risk of entanglement by implementing control measures that:

  • provide the highest level of protection and reliability  under the hierarchy of control as is reasonably practicable
  • minimise human error, so far as is reasonably practicable

The hierarchy of control

The hierarchy of control is a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. It ranks risk controls from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and least reliable, and must applied in order. The levels of control in order are:

  1. eliminating the hazard altogether
  2. reducing the risk through substitution, isolation and engineering controls
  3. reducing the risk through administrative controls
  4. reducing the risk through protective personal equipment (PPE)

Examples of controls

Examples of entanglement controls include:

  • substituting the machine with one that has a lower level of risk
  • if guards are used, ensuring the guards are fitted to prevent access to moving parts and nip points.  Guarding controls should include:
    • fitting guards that cannot be removed, where reasonably practicable and there is no need for access
    • installing interlocked guards if access is required for operation, maintenance, repair, inspection, servicing and cleaning. The interlock should account for factors such as tamper resistance, stored energy and run-down time of components
    • only using guards which require a special tool to remove or modify them if it is not reasonably practicable to permanently secure the guard or interlock the guard. This is considered an administrative control. 

Other controls to consider include:

  • presence-sensing systems, for example, light curtains and pressure mats
  • hold-to-run control devices. These may be useful when a person must work in the danger area on running machinery, such as during set-up, troubleshooting or programming

If using administrative controls such as lock-out tag-out, ensure employees account for stored energy and run-down time before starting work on the machine.

Other considerations

Other considerations to manage the risk of entanglement include:

  • inspecting and testing guards and safety devices before use and ensuring they are operational
  • regularly inspecting guards and safety devices for damage and immediately reporting and repairing anything that is damaged
  • providing operators with adequate information, instruction and training and appropriate supervision before and when using the machinery. Information, instruction and training includes:
    • how to use the machinery safely
    • reasons for the safety devices and guards on the machine
    • what to do if the safety devices and guards are damaged and not working
  • ensuring operators do not have loose items of clothing, hair, jewellery, etc. that may get caught by moving parts
  • providing and maintaining adequate warning signs. Warning signs are a constant reminder to operators and others of the potential hazards associated with the machine

Do not rely on emergency stop devices

An emergency stop device such as a stop button does not stop an incident from occurring. It cannot be relied on to as the only measure to control the risks associated with entanglement. A person being pulled into a machine may not be able to reach and activate the stop device.

Legal duties

Employers

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) requires employers to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. An employer contravenes this duty if they fail to:

  • provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health
  • make arrangements for ensuring, so far as reasonably practicable, safety and the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant or substances
  • maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, each workplace under the employer’s management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health
  • provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the management and control of the employer
  • provide information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those employees to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health

Consultation

Employers also have an obligation to consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) on certain matters related to health and safety that directly affect them, or that are likely to directly affect them. This duty to consult also extends to independent contractors, including employees of the independent contractor, engaged by the employer in relation to matters over which the employer has control.

Employees

While at work, employees also have duties under the OHS Act to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the health and safety of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions in the workplace. Employees must also co-operate with their employer's actions to make the workplace safe and comply with the OHS Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.