Controlling risks from power press machines

A power press can trap arms, wrists or fingers, causing serious injuries. This guidance can help employers control the risks to employees operating power presses.


Injuries from power press machines

Power presses are pneumatic, mechanic or hydraulic machines that form, punch or shear metal and other materials. They can cause amputations and crush injuries and also present hazardous manual handling risks and noise hazards.

Your legal duties

Employers, self-employed persons, employees, designers, manufacturers and suppliers all have legal obligations to workplace safety under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations). Find out about your occupational health and safety obligations relating to plant on WorkSafe's Plant and your legal duties page.

How to control risks from power press machines

A range of measures can help employers control hazards and risks from power press machines. As an employer you can control the risks of injury through the following:

  • Install permanently fixed guards or interlocked guards that prevent any part of the body from entering the danger areas of the power press while it is operating.
  • If it is not possible to have fixed or interlocked guards, install a presence-sensing system such as a light curtain.
  • If necessary, install a combination of systems to ensure safe access to areas of the press. Examples include:
    • mechanical back-up to the electrical interlocks
    • chocks to prevent the ram from falling during maintenance
    • covering operator foot pedals to prevent accidental activation
    • using a single means of control that allows only limited movement, known as inching or jogging, when setting up or cleaning the power press
    • using interlocks that de-energise the plant automatically
  • Inspect and test the safety system daily, including interlocked guards, clutch locks and clutch brake mechanisms.
  • Inspect and maintain power presses and their components in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Inspection and maintenance may include examination and testing by a suitably qualified or competent person. Also consider additional tests that might not be in the recommended inspection and maintenance schedule. For example:
    • inspect the press cam-plate and, if the plate is a banjo-type, replace it with a full-ring knockout cam-plate. Banjo-type cam-plates used in older machines are susceptible to wear, leading to an unintended stroke of the press. A clicking sound is a sign of wear and that the clutch is close to engaging the flywheel
  • Where necessary, use mechanical lifting aids to lift materials to and from the press.
  • Train operators and qualified setters and technicians to check and test-run the press several times before production starts.
  • Where it is not possible to have engineering controls, implement safe operating procedures that include de-energising, isolating, lockout and tagout systems.
  • Place signs on or near the machine to alert employees to the dangers of operating the machine.
  • Provide employees with information, training and instruction on the procedures for using the machine, and review regularly.
  • Reduce noise from power presses by enclosing machines within noise barriers.
  • Ensure employees who use power presses always wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including protective gloves and hearing protection.
Image shows a cam plate with a red arrow pointing to the worn section of this plate.
The red arrow indicates the wear area on the cam-plate of a power press machine.
Image shows a 'full-ring knockout' cam-plate.
The original cam-plate should be replaced with a newer and more reliable 'full-ring knockout' cam-plate.

The hierarchy of control

Use the hierarchy of control to help control risks associated with power press machines. The hierarchy of control ranks methods of controlling risks from the highest and most effective level of protection to the lowest and least effective. Eliminating the risk is the highest level of control, followed by reducing the risk through substitution, isolation and engineering controls, then reducing the risk through administrative controls. Reducing the risk through the use of protective personal equipment is the lowest level of control.

In the hierarchy of risk controls, employers should give emphasis to eliminating the hazard by preventing bodily access to the danger areas, namely the trapping space between the upper and lower sections of the die set. Use fixed guards and provide automatic feeders wherever possible.

In line with the OHS Regulations, consider the following if using guarding as a measure to control risks associated with plant:

  • If access to the area of plant that requires guarding is not necessary during operation, maintenance or cleaning, use a permanently fixed physical barrier.
  • If access to the area of plant that requires guarding is necessary during operation, maintenance or cleaning, use an interlocked physical barrier that allows access to the guarded area only when that area does not present a risk and prevents access to that area at any other time.
  • If it is not reasonably practicable to use the guarding referred to above, the guarding can be a physical barrier that can only be altered or removed with tools.
  • If none of the guarding above is reasonably practicable, use a presence-sensing safeguarding system that eliminates any risks while a person or any part of a person is in the area being guarded.

The Compliance code: Plant has more information about the hierarchy of control and employer duties.

Further information

Australian Standards

  • AS 4024.3001-2009: Safety of machinery – Materials forming and shearing – Mechanical power presses
  • AS 4024.3002-2009: Safety of machinery – Materials forming and shearing – Hydraulic power presses

Related information