13 February 2017

Keeping guard

When it comes to machine safety, failure to adhere to regulations can be an expensive business, but compliance need not be such an onerous task, as Mark Venables explains

The importance of machine safety and the adhering to machine guarding regulations cannot be overemphasised. A quick glance through the HSE prosecution from last year reveals a host of hefty fines levied for non-compliance. A kitchen furniture manufacturer in Northampton was fined £10,000 for each of four offences. A bakery in Scotland was fined £24,000 while a condiment manufacturer in Ilkeston faced a £6,000 fine.

The Work Equipment Directive is implemented in the UK by Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), and covers any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not) - effectively anything used at work,” Neil Dyson, business line manager for machinery safety at TÜV SÜD Product Service, explains. “The primary objective of PUWER is to ensure the provision of safe work equipment and its safe use. PUWER requires machinery end-user organisations to carry out risk assessments and provide work equipment that is suitable for its intended task and can be used without putting persons at risk.”

Although industry is improving its understanding, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about the requirements of PUWER and CE. “We still come across sites and organisations that haven’t dealt with PUWER at all,” Dyson adds. While many machinery end-users may think that they have PUWER compliance covered, TÜV SÜD continues to see common hazards and issues that have not been adequately addressed in the production environment. While machinery safety is a complex process, the guidance that is widely available means that there is no excuse for getting PUWER wrong.

“Risk assessments ensure that machinery meets the requirements of both the Machinery Directive and PUWER,” Dyson says. “A thorough and correct risk assessment should therefore be completed before any new machinery goes into operation and if substantial modifications are made. As PUWER assessments are an ongoing process, assessment documentation must always refer to the latest standards and not to the standards that were applicable when a machine was first brought into service.

“Any substantial changes to machinery, such as upgrades, or interlinking with other equipment as part of an assembly, may make the existing CE Marking Declaration of Conformity invalid, and a new conformity assessment may therefore be required.”

PUWER also requires that inspections must be repeated ‘at suitable intervals’ if machines are exposed to conditions that may lead to deterioration. In reality, every machine is exposed to conditions that may lead to deterioration, so the requirement effectively means that they must all be regularly inspected.

The results of these inspections must be documented and kept until the next subsequent inspection is recorded. This means that there should be a current inspection report kept on file at all times. The PUWER regulations also make it an offense to allow work equipment to be sold or hired (leave an employer’s undertaking), or if obtained from another undertaking, be used, unless it is accompanied by physical evidence that the last inspection has been carried out.

CE marking

One misplaced misconception is that if a machine carries a CE mark then there is no further action required. This is not necessarily the case. By placing the CE marking on a product a manufacturer is declaring, on his sole responsibility, conformity with all of the legal requirements to achieve CE marking. The manufacturer is thus ensuring validity for that product to be sold throughout the EEA. This also applies to products made in third countries which are sold in the EEA and Turkey.

Not all products must bear the CE marking. Only those product categories subject to specific directives that provide for the CE marking are required to be CE marked.

CE marking does not mean that a product was made in the EEA, but states that the product is assessed before being placed on the market. It means the product satisfies the legislative requirements to be sold there. It means that the manufacturer has checked that the product complies with all relevant essential requirements, for example health and safety requirements.

In our experience, many machinery owners assume that if their equipment has a CE mark that no further action is required,” Dyson says. “However, PUWER applies to all work equipment regardless of its age, including equipment that carries the CE mark. Machinery Safety is one of the most significant issues facing organisations today. It is equally as important as productivity, and is essential for the wellbeing of everyone involved.

“Whether you are designing, manufacturing or importing machinery, you must understand what your legal duties and responsibilities are. For end-users of machinery, it is imperative that they understand the requirements with which their machinery supplier should comply.

“Some businesses fully embrace machinery safety and endeavour to work to the latest standards and best practice. At the other end of the spectrum, we come across others who are trying to continue to work the way that they always have.”

While meeting the requirements of PUWER can be complex, it is not impossible and guidance is widely available. In total, there are 39 PUWER regulations. “While some of them are very detailed, running to 2,500 words, a simple checklist can be constructed to determine the necessary compliance actions,” Dyson says. “If this process reveals a potential hazard, then a risk assessment must be carried out, with the implementation and recording of appropriate control measures.”

Software is available to help you automate this checklist process, and the suppliers of the best packages will be happy to adapt them as necessary, in order to meet any special requirements. It should also store results locally or on the cloud and produce appropriate reports to confirm that the work has been carried out with due diligence, as well as generate a list of any outstanding action points.

Machine guarding

EN ISO 14120 (Safety of machinery - Guards - General requirements for the design and construction of fixed and movable guards), was published in November 2015 as a new common global standard for fixed and movable guards. Some elements of the Standard are more detailed, helping to make risk assessments less subjective as it leaves less room for interpretation by individual machine builders.

The Standard specifically refers to verification methods - outlined in Annex C, which covers guidelines for the selection of guards according to the number and location of hazards. If there is a safety problem further down the line, and a machinery builder cannot demonstrate that they followed the very specific guidance in Annex C, it may suggest that due diligence has not been followed and legal action may be taken.

Annex B (Guidelines for the selection of guards against hazards generated by moving parts) in EN ISO 14120 provides a flowchart for the selection of guards against hazards generated by moving parts. This asks the question: ‘Is access required only for setting, process correction or maintenance?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, the flowchart then asks: ‘is frequency of access high (more than once per month)?’

“This of course has significant implications as a typical manufacturing day may include three shifts, each of which may require a different machine configuration - potentially more than 1,095 alterations a year,” Dyson explains. “This means that the Standard is only asking manufacturers to consider if access is required more than twelve times per year, whereas the old standard was more focused on the frequency of individual shifts.

“The Standard introduced the concept of ‘the foreseeable misuse and defeat of the guards’. Machinery builders must therefore consider more deeply how an operator could disable a guard or interfere with a machine in order that it continues to operate without guarding. A thoroughly documented risk assessment is therefore vital to not only highlight where guarding is required, but also how the machinery builder has considered that it may be defeated.

“We are living in an ever more litigation-strewn world and it’s not enough anymore just to say how something can be used, you now also need to say how it shouldn’t be used as well,” Dyson says. “The positive angle behind it is to make people think more about what is safe practice as opposed to unsafe practice. Incidents often happen because someone has tried to keep production running whilst clearing a jam etc. If this sort of behaviour can be anticipated, it can also be designed out.”

In theory, the Standard only applies to manufacturers of machinery. However, in reality, it also applies to anyone who is adding new or additional guarding to an existing machine. Therefore, the machine owner will need to be aware of the changes as they may be producing guarding themselves, or at the very least, specifying it from a supplier.

As technology increases, more options become available. The use of devices such as light curtains, safety scanners and safety cameras is becoming more prevalent, with the devices becoming increasingly smart. “RFID technology is also being used in safety applications and this, along with the scanners, could in the long term see the demise of traditional perimeter fence guarding,” Dyson says. “It’ll never go completely, however its use will more than likely diminish over time.”

It might appear to be common sense to say that guards play a vital role in ensuring that machines are safe to operate. However, they are often treated surprisingly casually and continue to be the cause of many severe injuries that could have been prevented had the appropriate guards been used. However, with the HSE still prosecuting companies for flouting machinery guarding legislation, it would seem that many are not aware that they are breaking health and safety laws.

“Many of HSE’s prosecutions are down to existing machines being used in the workplace and an in-house maintenance team not being fully aware of the requirements,” Dyson explains. “For example, a new guard retro-fitted onto an existing machine also requires CE marking as it is considered part of the machine.

“Clearly, achieving full standards compliance for a guard to carry the CE marking is no trivial task,” Dyson concludes. “CE marking, along with the design and manufacture of guards, requires specialist expertise as guards perform an indispensable function to minimise the risk of injury as well as meeting the multitude of regulatory requirements.

“Many businesses may use the excuse that they are not guarding experts and must rely on their machinery suppliers to know what they are doing. However, the plea of ignorance is not acceptable and failing to comply with both the Machinery Directive and PUWER, whether knowingly or unknowingly, can have serious and far-reaching consequences for both employers and their employees.”

Industry needs to embrace safety with a positive attitude across the board. Many companies do, but not everyone. Implementing safety can have many positive outcomes, not only cutting incidents, but also helping to improve productivity.

Adam Offord

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