10 Things You Need To Know About Machine Safety
The UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidelines for machine safety, and there are also stringent standards in place governed by both British and International Standards Organisations. With this in mind, there are 10 things you need to know about machine safety to help keep your machines running, and your personnel free from injury.
Before you invest in any new machinery, you should carry out a risk assessment exercise to identify the potential risks, and how they might best be managed. This will involve identifying the purpose and function of the equipment, how and where it will be used, and by whom. Look for potential hazards in its activity and location. You need to know how to protect your personnel from inherent dangers. These include such hazards as hot surfaces, sharp edges, presses, clamps and moving parts, as well as proximity to pneumatic, hydraulic or electrical power supplies.
There's a set of legally binding European Commission standards (sometimes called Euronorms) that ensure the conformity of industrial and domestic machinery, as well as stipulating required safety guards and associated safety devices. All new machinery designed and constructed in accordance with these common safety requirements should bear a CE marking, and come with a Declaration of Conformity. There's a wide range of other, non-binding standards governing machinery which you can read more about here.
Review your application carefully to ensure that the machinery you choose is fit for its purpose, and institute proper safety routines for its use. It must be capable of functioning safely during normal operation, installation and set-up activities, and scheduled or unscheduled maintenance. Make sure that any residual risks documented by the machinery's manufacturer are also incorporated in safe work routines, and that the machine will perform exactly as it is designed to.
It's important to make sure that your machine is complete and free from defects, with all the appropriate safeguards fitted. Machines must be installed as per the manufacturer's instructions. Check all electrical connections carefully, and make sure electronic linkages to control panels are operating correctly. If the machine is static, make sure it is properly installed and stable – which usually means fixed down. The equipment must also be installed in accordance with prevailing ergonomic standards, to prevent staff injury caused by unnatural or uncomfortable movements.
Do not situate any machines close to known hazards, and ensure that all machines are optimally sited for maximum operational safety. Emergency stop controls should be within easy reach, and all control switches must be clearly marked with their function. Each machine's operating controls should be designed and located so as to avoid any unintentional activation. Start buttons and/or pedals should be shrouded to help prevent injury from accidental activation, and two-hand controls installed where necessary. Make sure that staff, customers and visitors are not exposed to any risks from proximity to equipment, and that appropriate safety guards, such as light barriers or fences, are installed.
You must ensure that access to dangerous parts is prevented, so as to make the machine properly safe. Built-in safeguards installed by machine manufacturers include two-hand controls, light curtains, interlocks and pressure-sensitive mats. These can also be installed separately, with fixed guards secured with bolts or screws. If these types of guard aren't suitable for your circumstances, it may be possible to install an automatic trip system, like a pressure-sensitive mat or photoelectric device. Do not use any damaged or unauthorised guards.
The 1996 HSE Regulations on signage mandate that specific hazards must be clearly identified with easily recognisable signs. These serve to heighten awareness of specific hazards and remind everyone, every day, about safety in the workplace. Safety signage is not limited to hazards like noise, electricity, fire, chemicals and corrosive materials, but also draws attention to specific areas, machine safety components or operations. Training should be given to ensure that all personnel are familiar with the location and meaning of safety signage.
It is vital for machine safety that all users and operators are given the necessary training and Personal Protective Equipment. Untrained, unqualified or unauthorised people should never be permitted to use machinery. Staff training should emphasise that equipment must only be operated when all safeguards are in place and correctly adjusted – and on no account should personnel be permitted to remove or bypass them. If guards must be removed for maintenance, lubrication, or replacement of parts, this must only be after locking and tagging out of the machine.
It must be clearly understood by workers that if they are in any doubt about a machine's safety, they must not operate it until safety issues are reported to and resolved by a supervisor.
Required PPE must be worn in the workplace at all times, including where necessary gloves, hats, masks, aprons, and boots. Long hair, loose clothing and jewellery must not be worn near machinery as such items pose a risk of being caught up.
Maintenance should be carried out regularly and in a safe manner. This should include instituting preventive maintenance schedules for inspecting critical elements where risks might arise from wear and deterioration. To perform any maintenance tasks, whether scheduled or not, the machinery must be correctly isolated, and switched or locked off. This applies even to minor jobs such as adjustments, cleaning or removing blockages.
Unless you're starting from scratch, it's likely to be the case that you'll need to upgrade existing equipment to ensure maximum machine safety. This will require a preliminary risk assessment of all machinery and systems to determine their existing safety level, and what upgrades might be required. In some cases, manufacturers themselves may have issued safety upgrades which can be retrofitted into existing equipment.
Our safety experts at Rowse are available to carry out site visits for risk and PUWER assessment purposes. We are accredited machine safety specialists, with several TÜV Nord-Certified Machinery Safety Experts on our team who will be happy to confer with you.
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