June 20, 2014

The rise of the killer machines

How many machines do you have responsibility for? When was the last time you safely carried out a function test to prove the safety devices were in place and operated correctly?

There have been several recent prosecutions of companies for accident to employees where the safety control devices have either been removed or over ridden. Whether they were interfered with to remove blogged material allow maintenance or just to increase production is not the point. What is of real concern is that they did not preform the function they were installed to do.

Protect people working on the machine

Despite all the legislation that is in place there is still an increase in work related accidents / incidents Workplace falls and dangerous machines have been named as the two most common reasons for companies being prosecuted over health and safety breaches in the North West.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) successfully brought 65 cases to court in the region during the 12 months from April 2013, with 14 cases involving work at height and 12 involving unsafe machinery.

A recycling plant in Kelbrook was also fined £46,000 after a worker almost lost his arm when it became trapped in machinery. On average, 23 people are killed while at work in the North West every year, with an estimated 181 lives lost across Great Britain. In 2012/13, falls from height were the most common cause of workplace deaths, accounting for almost a third of fatal injuries to workers.

The figures also show the manufacturing industry was responsible for almost one in five deaths and injuries to workers, despite the sector only employing around 10 percent of the British workforce.So what does the legislation tell us there are numerous pieces of legislation governing safe working machinery equipment? PUWERMAWRHaSaWLOLAR Machine directive This is not an exhaustive list of legislation by any means and employer should be aware of all legislation that cover the safe working procedures of the machine / equipment and environment they operate in.

We will only review some of the issues employers need to be aware of. But one of the key piece of information carry out risk assessment ensure it is suitable sufficient and appropriate for the machine / equipment being operated

What the PUWER say

PUWER requires that equipment provided for use at work is:Suitable for the intended useSafe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate Used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training?

Accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices Used in accordance with specific requirements, for mobile work equipment and power presses.

We have said that interfering with protective devised is one of the main reasons for injury due to contact with moving parts In order to ensure work equipment does not deteriorate to the extent that it may put people at risk, employers, the self-employed and others in control of work equipment are required by PUWER to keep it ‘maintained in an efficient state, in efficient order and in good repair’.

Such effective maintenance can not only help in meeting PUWER requirements but can also serve other business objectives, such as improved productivity and reduced environmental impact.The frequency and nature of maintenance should be determined through risk assessment, taking full account of:

  • the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • the intensity of use
  • operating environment (e.g. the effect of temperature, corrosion, weathering)
  • user knowledge and experience
  • the risk to health and safety from any foreseeable failure or malfunction

Safety-critical parts of work equipment may need a higher and more frequent level of attention than other aspects, which can be reflected within any maintenance programme. Breakdown maintenance, undertaken only after faults or failures have occurred, will not be suitable where significant risk will arise from the continued use of the work equipment.

The manufacturer’s instructions should describe what maintenance is required to keep the equipment safe and how this can be done safely. These instructions should always be followed, unless there are justifiable reasons for not doing so (e.g. where more frequent maintenance is necessary, due to intense use, adverse environmental conditions or when other experience shows this need).

Maintenance on a less frequent basis than the manufacturer’s recommendation should be subject to careful risk assessment and the reasons for doing so should be reviewed at appropriate intervals. For example, where there is already an inspection regime, perhaps for lightly used equipment, less frequent maintenance may be justified because of the condition monitoring already provided by the inspection programme.

The machine directive EHSR gives guidance on  1.4.2.1. of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC says: “1.4.2.1. Fixed guardsfixed guards must be fixed by systems that can be opened or removed only with tools.Their fixing systems must remain attached to the guards or to the machinery when the guards are removed. Where possible, guards must be incapable of remaining in place without their fixings.”

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