July 29, 2016

On your guard: keeping your workplace machinery safe for employees

Whether you operate an industrial plant with heavy-duty equipment, a butcher’s shop with a meat slicer, or a joinery workshop with a laser cutting machine, you need to be aware of the vital systems that will keep your employees safe from moving machinery parts.

In 2014/15, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported 15 fatal injuries in workplaces which use machinery such as conveyor belts, rollers, saws, blades and presses.

Five of these were caused by employees coming into direct contact with the machinery they were operating, with other fatalities caused by employees being struck by objects expelled by poorly-guarded machinery.

With as many as 782 major injuries caused by machines with inadequate safety equipment in place, it’s clear that every organisation which operates machinery of any size must be on its guard.

The need for guarding

All employers should be aware of the basic safety requirements in the workplace (see this blog for a handy checklist). But when it comes to workplaces that use machinery, particularly in the manufacturing industry, the rules are much more stringent.

Investing in machine guarding is paramount for ensuring the safety of your employees, and it should be seen as a priority rather than a ‘necessary evil’. Well-designed guarding, thorough training and a clearly communicated health and safety policy will enhance productivity and ensure efficient operations as well as a safe workplace.

Legal requirements for using machinery in the workplace

When you use ANY type of machinery in the work place, you have a duty to make sure it’s suitable and safe under the Provision and Use of Work Regulations.

The machinery you use should also comply with the requirements of The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, and every new machine you install should have passed the following tests:

  • Each machine must have been assessed and certified by the manufacturer as complying with all relevant EU standards.
  • The manufacturer should supply a Declaration of Conformity as proof that all checks have been completed and passed.
  • The manufacturer must provide a technical file – comprising an operating manual including all relevant safety information and safe-operating instructions – specific to the machine.
  • The manufacturer must have followed the recognised conformity assessment procedures put in place by the EU in relation to the product being supplied.
  • The machine must carry the appropriate CE mark.
  • The machine must be intact.

The HSE will prosecute employers who fail to comply with these rules.

Under new sentencing guidelines punishment can include heavy fines (running into millions of pounds for the worst breaches by larger firms) and jail sentences for company directors.

Making sure your machinery is safe – what do you have to do?

If you have ANY machinery in place at your business premises, you need a safe system of work in place. This should include:

  • Risk assessments – these must:

    • Identify and confirm the correct guarding is in place.
    • Be suitable and sufficient for the machinery in question.
    • Identify any potential hazards.
    • Identify who could be harmed.
    • Identify how harm could come about.
    • Identify how harm can be prevented.
  • Safe operating procedures, including whether training is required, and the type and frequency of training required.
  • The type and frequency of servicing required.
  • Training and instruction for the safe operation, maintenance and cleaning of each machine.
  • Correct signage on the machinery with relevant warning instructions.
  • Regular pre-planned service and safety checks which should be reviewed annually (if the guarding is modified or replaced, all assessments should be re-done).
  • Emergency stop buttons.
  • The manufacturer’s operating certification, available to view in the location of each machine.
  • Emergency procedures for first aid and emergency services.

Trained personnel should always carry out risk assessments, and findings should be shared with all employees who will use or come into contact with the machine.

All assessments should be reviewed annually, or following any changes to the processes or tasks. In the event of any accidents or near-misses, a thorough review of all processes and procedures should be carried out to ensure existing control measures are adequate, or introduce new controls if required.

If you require any advice and guidance to help you establish if your business is fully legally compliant in providing and maintaining a safe place of work, or to check your risk assessments are suitable and sufficient, contact us or call 0845 184 4615.

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About the author

Michael Sturgess