Factors contributing to mechanical equipment injuries in small manufacturing businesses were investigated. Thirty-five small businesses participated in the study. Interviews were carried out with all 35 managers, and 145 employees returned completed questionnaires. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents reported having experienced an injury. Grinding machines and printing presses were found to have a high ratio of accidents per number of hours used. Factors contributing to the causes of accidents were investigated. Failure to follow known safe work procedures, non-existent and inadequate guarding and poor machine design and poor machine condition were common contributing factors. The implications of these findings for improving safety in small businesses are discussed. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.