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Legal requirements for guarding

DrillSafe Articles

Safety information and collaboration forum for the exploration drilling industry in Southern Africa.

Legal requirements for guarding

Drill Safe

By Colin Rice
Colin Rice Exploration Drilling Advisory -


Apart from the common law duty of every employer to ensure that his employees can work in a safe environment, in South Africa, there are also legal requirements to ensure that people cannot come into contact with rotating, moving or hot components.


This is the first article in Part 1 of our Technical Series on Guarding and Safeguarding. Click here for an outline of the entire Technical Series on Guarding and Safeguarding.

There are several references to guarding and barricading in the Regulations of the Mine Health and Safety Act as well as in the Regulations of the Mines and Works Act. In the interests of keeping this article short, I have only included the relevant regulations contained in Section 8.8 General Machinery Regulations of the Mine Health and Safety Act.

Section 8.8 General Machinery Regulations of the Mine Health and Safety Act No 29 of 1996

(1)   The employer must take reasonably practicable measures to prevent persons from being injured as a result of them, the clothes being worn by them or any equipment being held by them coming into contact with or being drawn into any moving part of any machine.

Sections 2 and 3 not relevant to this topic.

(4)   The measures to be taken by the employer to prevent any person from coming into contact with any moving part of machinery or any equipment attached thereto, must include 

(a)   effective physical barriers at the machinery such as screening, guarding or fencing; or

(b)   failsafe electric or electronic barriers interlocked with the machinery in such a way that the machinery would be stopped before persons come into contact with moving machinery or parts thereof; or

(c)   effective barriers at a safe distance away from any machinery.

The regulations refer to two mechanisms to prevent people coming into contact with machinery - “guarding” and “barriers”.

What is the difference between a guard and a barrier?

Nowhere in the Act does it define what these two terms mean and so, as in many other cases, we need to interpret a meaning and then apply that to our work.

I suggest that the following interpretations would be generally accepted:

  • A guard is a device fitted to a piece of machinery to prevent a person or any part of a person’s body making contact with a moving, rotating or hot component.

  • A barrier (or barricade) is a device erected a distance away from a machine or structure to prevent access to the machine or structure by any person or an animal.

Read the rest of the Guarding and Safeguarding Series here.

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