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Improve Safety with your Packaging Machines

Don’t risk your employees’ safety as well as your business

Throughout our experience dealing with clients from different countries and regions, we have noticed a tremendous difference between clients’ attitudes toward ergonomics and safety, which is an intriguing fact.

For example, we were once asked by a local client in China to remove all safety guards and safety devices, so that the machine can be cheaper, and according to his statement – too many safety guards and devices are inconvenient for the operator’s work. Which is, in fact, HILARIOUS.

While on the contrary, an Australian client once insisted on a complete safety-concern solution, from physical protection such as safety guards to those with electricals such as modular safety relays and Non-Contact Safety Switches, RFID, and hall switch options.

In this article, we talk about what are those common approaches to ensure safety, ergonomics, and protection with packaging machines, the relative regulations, as well as the outcome and backfire upon failure to comply with them.

This will help you to avoid employee amputations, reduce compensation for worker’s injuries, avoid legal issues, as well as to improve your productivity.


  • How to achieve safety and ergonomics with packaging machines?
  • What are those regulations related to operator’s safety with packaging machines?
  • What is the outcome of the failure of conformity with the packaging machine’s safety design?
  • How to make packaging machines safer


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We have written this blog with awareness of US copyright laws governing fair use.

Industry research will inevitably cite sources and references from 3rd parties, to comply with the regulation of “Fair Use”:

All citations here are intended to be used in compliance with Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, in a way of ¨Fair Use¨ for purposes such as criticism, comment, news, reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Not for promotion.

All rights and credit go directly to their rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended.

See the final part of the Bibliography to find all citations.


Official Data of Injuries with Packaging Machines

Packaging machines are ubiquitous in most industries and sectors during processing and manufacturing. A majority of the installations are with the food, drink and beverages industries, while the pharmaceutical industries coming following as the second.

From minor yet chronic injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) [1] to disability and fatal injuries caused by severe accidents, packaging machines fall in compliance with ergonomics and safety can lead to disasters for either people or the business.

Karen Kosanovich, U.S. Department of Labor [2], once extracted data about CTS among various workers, statistics were carried out on a per 1000 employees basis, male and female included. The investigations show that there are up to 406 cases of CTS per 1000 employees in the packaging and filling operations.

Conroy C., stated in his thesis – Work-related injuries in the meatpacking industry [3] that in the meat packaging industry, the rate of injury was 27.6% per year among workers. And among them injured, a considerable 76% had suffered from strains, sprains, lacerations, contusions, or abrasions, and the death rate was 3 per 10,000 workers, According to his study during the 1970s and 1980s in the United States.

This seems to be an antique study that is of no reference for the time being, however, the situation today is still serious. Official data from the US government has shown that there are on average 2 workers reported injured each week during the process of packaging and operation with packaging machines.


Penalty, Compensation, and Legal Issues: Don’t Take the Risk

Graphic Packaging International Inc., the world’s top leading packaging machine manufacturer of wrap-around, can clip, and miscellaneous sustainable packaging, was once proposed by rh U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupation Safety and Health Administration a penalty of USD 129.000,00 due to an operator’s injury where his hand was caught in the machine and caused severe injury and disability. [4]

Ohio department of labour

The penalty caused by injury during operation is not something any business would want. Citing the regulation in Ohio, the United States, which is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. [5]

As stated in the regulation’s section 17:

“Any employer who willfully or repeatedly violates the requirements of section 5 of this Act, any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 6 of this Act, or regulations prescribed pursuant to this Act, may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $70,000 for each violation, but not less than $5,000 for each willful violation.”


Apart from the penalty, workers injured, as long as he or she has acted in compliance with the safety operation guides during the work, should stay with the right to claim compensation.

State of Connecticut, Workers’ Compensation Commission, has stated compensation-related clauses in its Statutes & Regulations, to be more exact, the CHAPTER 568 of the 2022 Workers’ Compensation Act. [6]

We suggest discussing this with your lawyer now that this is a complex topic that we are not able to cover here.

State of connecticut worker's compensation commission

You should strictly pay attention and importance to worker safety at your facility. Otherwise, it will be a problem for not only money, as well as your company’s reputation.


How to Make a Packaging Machine Safer?

To answer this question, we need to start with another question: what are those factors about packaging machines that probably can cause injury?

According to the “Buying new machinery” by Health and Safety Executive [7], the following parts and factors are what a packaging machine may bring hazards, or are potential factors that may put workers in danger:

  • The cutter of a meat packaging machine, or flow wrapper
  • Safety guards that can easily be removed
  • The noise that the machine causes
  • The vibration, for example, the unscrambler connecting another machine
  • Hight temperature devices or low-temperature devices (sealing station, heat shrink unit, etc.)
  • Electrical enclosure
  • Moving and mechanical parts of the machine

The overall concept here is that, in order to make a packaging machine safe enough, concerns must be given around:

  • Mechanical Parts
  • Electricals
  • Develop the packaging machine with “State-of-the-art”

Improve Safety with Mechanical Parts

It is actually unrealistic and impractical, should you save, remove and redesign some essential mechanical parts such as cutters, cam loaders, rotary pickers, etc.

The common approach is to install full safety guards, or at least guards around the hazardous parts to keep them out of workers’ reach.

An example of Noncontact Sensaguard – Allen Bradley

To improve the level of safety, a further option is to install each of these safety guards with the Safety Switches RFID feature. There are a variety of safety switches such as interlock switches, solid state contacts or noncontact safety switches. For example, the Noncontact Sensaguard Safety Switch by Allen-Bradley, known as well the hall switch, takes avail of the Hall Effect to improve the safety level with the guards:

The hall switch enables the machine to accept signals so that once the safety guard is lifted, the machine would stop working to as to avoid the circumstances when the worker is reaching beyond the machine when it is running, which is a dangerous situation.

Sensaguard - Rockwell
SensaGuard Non-contact Interlock Switches
Courtesy of Allen-Bradley (Rockwell Automation)


“The hall effect sensor is a type of magnetic sensor which can be used for detecting the strength and direction of a magnetic field produced from a permanent magnet or an electromagnet with its output varying in proportion to the strength of the magnetic field being detected. [8] 

— Electronics Tutorials


We would suggest you read and refer to local and regional regulations and standards regarding safety devices for packaging and production equipment. See: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.



The danger and hazard with electricals often happen when a technician is dealing or troubleshooting with the hardware, or an engineer is handling the programming sitting by the machine. Enabling electricals with full safety has a variety of choices and options.

  • Enable a Disconnect Switch

A disconnect switch can de-energize a circuit when it is for maintenance and service, or in case of emergency. [9]

  • Enable a Door Disconnect Switch

A door disconnect switch is similar to a normal disconnect switch, yet is installed in the interior part of the electrical enclosure. This allows the maximum level of protection in terms of maintenance or repair, during which processes the enclosure will be inevitably opened. This can prevent also an injury in the case that random people open the machine’s enclosure.

  • Impose Training with your workers and technicians regarding safe Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedure

According to 1910.147 – The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), stated by United States Department of Labor (OSHA) [10]:

Tagout. The placement of a tagout device on an energy isolating device, in accordance with an established procedure, to indicate that the energy isolating device and the equipment being controlled may not be operated until the tagout device is removed. ”

“Lockout. The placement of a lockout device on an energy-isolating device, in accordance with an established procedure, ensuring that the energy isolating device and the equipment being controlled cannot be operated until the lockout device is removed. ”

The same regulation has stated the importance of safety-compliant LOTO procedures [10]. When all electrical parts, conductors, and circuits are kept disconnected, it is able to avoid hazards when workers or technicians are carrying out maintenance to electrical parts.


Develop packaging machine with “State-of-the-Art”

The “state-of-the-art” is not only about performance or appearance, yet all factors besides mechanical as well. Here, we are addressing the “state-of-the-art” with the ergonomics design, user experience, and friendliness. Recommended reading: The “State-of-the-Art” of packaging machines


Apply Safety Signs on the Machine

All of the safety labels used on this machine have a particular action word. The use of such action words mark the severity of the danger involved with each safety label, along with how frequently personnel will be exposed to those dangers. Knowing the amount of danger involved with each label and heeding its warning will help prevent personal injury and/or damage to this machine or other equipment.

NOTICE – Denoted with a blue background and white letters, this is for notification of information needed and does not represent any possible harm to personnel.

notice - packaging machine safety

CAUTION – Denoted with a yellow background and black letters, this represents a possibility of a slight to moderate injury at a low possibility of an injury.

caution - packaging machine safety

WARNING – Denoted with an amber background and black letters, this represents a low to moderate possibility of a moderate to fatal injury. There could be a fatal injury, but not enough of a possibility to warranty using danger.

warning - packaging machine safety

DANGER – Denoted with a red background and white letters, this represents a very high possibility of a severe to fatal injury.

danger - packaging machine safety

We have examples as follows about some of the common safety signals on a packaging machine. The following labels are used to warn against dangers or possible sources of danger. It is recommended that all personnel, working on or around the machine, be trained on their meanings. Failure to heed a warning could lead to personal injury and/or damage to the machinery or other equipment.

Labels around Electrical Components

Labels around Electrical Components

Label on hot surfaces such as Glue Melter and Jetting Gun, if any

Label on Glue Melter and Jetting Gun, if any

Labels around Principal Mechanical and Functional Parts

Labels around Principal Mechanical and Functional Parts

Label on Safe Guard and Enclosure Door

Label on Safe Guard and Cabinet Door


Think beyond your Worker, but as well Consumers

Food safety with packaging machines is another factor of concern. Though it does not directly entail injuries, ensure your packaging machines are with compliant FCMs is a critical issue for your consumer’s safety and health. Seemingly, any fault to deliver food-safe seriving machines will bring significant damage to your business.


At the End

We understand that the purchase of a packaging machine at your site stands for your expectation of improved productivity. Yet, bear in mind, a packaging machine installed which is not in compliance with safety regulations and standards can put both your employees and your business in danger: legal issues, official penalties, business reputation, moral issues, humanity…

We hope this blog has been of help. And appreciation for the enlightening workpieces among all the citations here. Best regards.





All citations are used for comments, criticism,  report scholarship and research

and comply with the “Fair Use” stated in section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976.

All rights and credit go directly to their rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended.

About the Authors

Zixin Yuan
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Zixin Yuan - LinkedIn

Zhiwei Bao
Company Owner
Zhiwei Bao - LinkedIn

About the Company
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery Co., Ltd
No.1088, Jing Ye Rd, Economic Development Zone, Dong Shan District, Ruian Wenzhou Zhejiang, China 325200
+86 (0577) 6668 2128
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery