The following is taken from thePress Brake Safety Compliance Kit Employers Reference Manual, published by the Sheet Metal and Air-conditioning Contractors’ National Association.

What is a safe distance?

For the purpose of the compliance directive, the safe distance has been defined as 4 inches from the exterior point of contact of the press brake die closest to the employee.

‘Safe distance' safeguarding program

An employer who chooses to adopt the “safe distance” protection procedures must have in place an effective program. This chapter describes each of the program elements which must be present.

Exposure-prevention procedures

Specific procedures for the safe operation of the power press brake must be developed and documented in a written program by each employer. These procedures must address the methods which the operator of the power press brake will utilize to maintain a safe distance from the point of operation. SMACNA has developed and recommends the safe operating, or exposure-prevention procedures, located in the sample program in Appendix A.

SMACNA recommends the installation of a warning-barrier device as a reminder to operators of the 4-inch safe distance. This device can be constructed and attached to the press brake in numerous ways. A diagram of the warning-barrier device used for the SMACNA program is located in Appendix B. While OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) does not require such an apparatus be installed, it is a good safety practice.

Employee training

In order for the safety program to be effective and meet the requirements of OSHA, each employee must be trained in all safe operating and exposure-prevention procedures. The training must be completed before any employee operates the power press brake as covered under the procedures of the safety program. The employee must be able to demonstrate an ability to follow any and all safe operating or exposure-prevention procedures outlined in the safety program. Elements of a training program are contained in the sample program.

After training is completed, the employer must ensure that any operator of a power press brake utilizing the safe operating and exposure-prevention procedures have a demonstrated proficiency of such procedures. In addition, both operators and helpers must comply with the standard operating procedures of the power press brake, as recommended by the manufacturer or in accordance with the industry’s recognized safe-working practices.

Documentation of training

In order to properly demonstrate training on the power press brake safe operating and exposure-prevention procedures, the employer should document that each employee who operates a power press brake has received such training. The sample program contains a training documentation form.


Whenever it is observed, or whenever the employer has reason to believe, that there are deviations from or certain inadequacies in an employee’s knowledge or use of the safe operating or exposure-prevention procedures, retraining is necessary. The employer must also retrain any time the employee is not following work practices required to operate a power press brake safely.

During the retraining process, it may be necessary to introduce new or revised control methods and procedures. The employer must also re-establish proficiency to operate a power press brake safely.


Another vital part of the safety program involves the supervision of employees. Each employer must ensure that power press brakes are operated only by employees who are trained to do so and must enforce the work practices on which the press brake operator-training program is based.

Periodic inspections

The supervision process must include periodic inspections of the safe operating and exposure-prevention procedures. Such an inspection must be conducted at least annually and ensure that all provisions of the press brake safety program are being followed.

The inspection has to be conducted by a person who has been trained to operate power press brakes using the safe operating and exposure-prevention procedures outlined in the safety program. In addition, the person conducting the inspection must be someone other than the current operator of the press brake. In other words, employees cannot inspect themselves.

The inspection must be designed to identify any deviations or inadequacies. As part of the inspection, the inspector must review with each employee operating the power press brake of that employee’s responsibilities in accordance with the work practices described in the safety program. Any deviations or inadequacies in the safety program procedures detected during the inspection process must also be corrected promptly. An employee’s corrective action must include retraining and also disciplinary action when appropriate.

The employer must document that the periodic inspections have been performed. Such documentation must indicate that the power press brake on which safe operating and exposure-prevention procedures are being utilized, the date of the inspection, the employees included in the inspection and the person performing the inspection. The sample program located in Appendix A contains an inspection documentation form.

To order the press brake safety kit and manual, contact SMACNA’s publications department at (703) 803-2989 or go towww.smacna/bookstore.orgon the Internet.