There is no hiding from the fact that guarding is a crucial element of a machine or production line, yet the guarding design is often left until last and not given as much thought as the aspects that are seen to relate directly to productivity. Nevertheless, guards usually control the interaction between operator and machine, so it should be remembered that their design can be a significant factor in optimizing a machine’s performance.
A perceived difficulty with designing guards is that there are numerous regulations and standards that must be complied with. In fact, as the designer becomes more familiar with the ‘rules’, the ‘game’ becomes easier. Alternatively, specialists such as Procter Machine Safety can be employed to undertake the complete design, manufacture and installation, including electrical aspects.
This guide seeks to direct the reader towards the main standards for machine guarding and machinery safety in general, as well as providing some advice on how the standards can be applied. At the end, there are lists of useful resources and sources of additional information.
Machinery Guards is a Matter of Life and Death …
- In 2017/18 there were 15 fatal injuries in the manufacturing industries.
- In 2017/18, across all industries, contact with machinery caused 13 fatal injuries.
- Between 2013/14 and 2015/16, in the manufacturing industries there were an average of 66,000 self-reported non-fatal workplace injuries, of which 12% (approximately 8000) were due to contact with machinery.
The Importance of Machinery Guards
Most employers today have at least a basic understanding of safety issues and accept that their employees are one of the company’s biggest assets. But many still see machine guarding expenditure as a necessary evil rather than a key investment that can really help deliver improved productivity.
If guards are well designed they will not interfere with an efficient operation; ill-considered guards invariably do. Worse than that, poorly designed guards encourage operators, maintenance staff and management to bypass them, which can compromise quality and significantly increase risks.
Machinery Safety Regulations
Machinery guards safety in the US is driven by two main sets of regulations: The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 as amended (the US implementation of the American Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, requiring all machines placed on the market in the American Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland and Turkey to carry a CE mark) and The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98). In addition, there are The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
In practice, the way suppliers and users of machines can most easily meet their legal obligations is to ensure that their machines, guards and other safety devices conform to harmonized American standards (American norms). These standards have been developed to ensure an equally high standard of machine safety across the US.