At age 16, working at his first job, WSPS Consultant Clinton Brown suffered a traumatic nip point injury. He recalls the details vividly:
"I worked on a conveyor system that moved plastic discs to an element where welding took place. I was told the element was expensive and to not let the plastic sit for long. One day, the plastic disc got caught on the element. I reached through the belt to grab it and my sleeve got caught in the drive chain. As I tried to rip it out, my thumb got stuck in the sprocket. I was screaming and yelling from the pain. My co-workers tore the machine apart to release my thumb. It was crushed at the base and the bone split in half."
Today, Clinton offers recommendations to workplaces on how to prevent nip point incidents like the one he experienced. "Nip point hazards are still commonly overlooked," he notes, "even though they can affect virtually every workplace that uses equipment with moving parts.
The consequences of ignoring pinch point hazards can be severe: workers may suffer fractures, amputations, and crush injuries, like Clinton's, and employers may be hit with fines, penalties, and prosecutions.
Nip points explained
A nip point (or pinch point) is a point on a machine where hair, clothing, fingers or other body parts can catch between moving parts or stationary and moving parts. "Generally, it would involve some type of rotating gear, sprockets, spindle or shaft that is rotating at speed, and another moving part like a belt or a sprocket or chain," explains Clinton.
Machines with nip points include: conveyors, lathes, pulleys, cranes, hoists, press brakes, band saws, assembly machines, power presses, and more.
6 lessons to guide prevention
These insights can help your workplace protect employees from the perils of nip points.
1. Identify all nip point hazards in your workplace. Look at each piece of equipment and ask, "Does it move, can I touch it, can it hurt me?" Make sure your joint health and safety committee or representative has received certification training, can identify nip point hazards during monthly inspections, and recommend controls.
2. Put engineering controls in place. "Most likely, this will be a fixed guard that's tool tight," says Clinton. "This means guards cannot be removed without using a wrench, screwdriver, pliers, etc."
3. Make sure the guard is effective. Guards are intended to prevent anyone from accessing the machine from above, under, through or over (AUTO). "Guards often have small holes for air movement to prevent the machine's motor from overheating. The holes need to be far enough away from the pulley or drive wheel so that a finger inserted into the hole won't be drawn in."
4. Develop written safe work practices for each piece of equipment. "Create these in conjunction with the joint health and safety committee so that there's documentation to support the way the job is carried out." Increase awareness of the risks and safety practices around nip points by holding safety talks, bringing in an expert, and placing stickers or posters around conveyors, drive shafts, gears and sprockets.
5. Provide orientation and hazard-specific training to new and young workers. "Ensure they know what a nip point is, the related risks, the purpose of a guard, safe work procedures, lockout/tagout procedures, and how to report problems with the guard."
6. Make safety your first priority. "Safety was clearly not a priority at my first workplace until after my injury. Way too often we are reactive to issues like this instead of being proactive."
How WSPS can help
Our consultants can carry out a risk assessment of the nip point hazards in your workplace, make recommendations for machine guarding, and more. Reach out to our on-duty consultant with your questions and concerns.
- Certification Training Part One (3 day, classroom)
- Certification Training Part Two: manufacturing, office, agriculture or service sectors (2-day, classroom)
- Lockout/Tagout Safety Essentials
- Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control (3 hour, e-course)
Webinars & Videos
- Machine Safety 411: Safeguarding Machines with Workers in Mind, Parts 1 and 2 (webinar)
- Warehouse Safety Tips - 6: Conveyor Safety at Your Facility (video)
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.