How-To: Machine Safety Planning & Implementation

April 2, 2013

So, you’ve been assigned a leadership role in your organization for a Machine Safety effort. Congratulations!

Laying a Successful Foundation for Machine Safety Implementation

Now, you need to decide HOW to start, WHERE to start, WHO is needed on your team, WHAT comes first, and WHEN to do WHAT. And, you probably have 15 other questions swirling around in your brain. There are a number of aspects that need to be considered and getting the first few steps done correctly will lay a foundation for success that you will appreciate for the duration of the machine safety implementation project.

Questions to Ask When Planning & Implementing a Machine Safety Project

Some of the most commonly asked questions when planning and implementing a machine safety project are:

Understanding Machine Safety Standards

Understanding the machine safety standards that exist is the key first step. While most of us have some level of familiarity with some of the safety standards, most do not have the extensive and deep expertise to apply the appropriate standards to the appropriate situation. This is why incorporating a machine safety consultant / safety solution provider into the process is a important consideration when planning your machine safety project. Here are some of the standards that may be appropriate for you production environment:

How Safe is Safe?

Determining how safe is safe is another element of decision making for your machine safety effort. This is a decision only you can make but consulting with experts in the field can help you get there. There will always be residual risk but understanding what is acceptable, in terms of industry best practices is something that helps in your decision-making process. The residual risk for a police officer is much different than that of a machine operator but you need to decide what is acceptable. It will require a thorough knowledge of your safety consultant to help you establish the level that is acceptable to you.

Choosing the Right Safety Equipment

Knowing which type of safety equipment is best in a given situation is more than just a safety question; it is also an operational question. To make the right safety equipment choices, you need to ask yourself questions like:

How often might an employee need to access the machine at this particular point?

Bolting a fence to the floor in front of the machine might be safe, but if an employee typically needs to access the machine twice a shift, it would be the wrong solution. Choosing the right type of safety equipment is critical for in both safety and operations. The right safety equipment is also crucial for employee involvement and acceptance. Your safety solution provider / consultant should work hand-in-hand with your machine safety team to blend safety and operational needs during this phase.

Types of safety equipment can include:

  • Hard guarding (e.g. railing, fencing)
  • Moveable guarding (e.g. doors, gates)
  • Electrical / electronic (e.g. CAT 3 Circuits, light curtains)
  • Safety automation (safety PLC’s)

Phases of a Machine Safety Project

Project phases for a machine safety effort are a bit different than typical manufacturing implementation projects. The initial step for assessments involves a safety analysis of the machine and the operations of the plant. It is a coordinated effort that involves a safety consultant, a solution provider, and your HSE, engineering, maintenance, and operations teams.

The safety project team includes people from all of these groups, and the work to be performed falls into the 3 main areas:

  • Hazard and risk assessment
  • Remediation
  • Commissioning, validation and sign off

How to Get Started with Your Machine Safety Project

How to get started is a common first question. There are definitely more steps to the whole process than outlined in this overview, but getting started in the right path is critical. One of the most critical key first steps is selecting a machine safety consultant / solution provider.

You would need to meeting with your machine safety consultant / solution provider to:

  1. Determine the appropriate standards
  2. Identify your acceptable level of risk
  3. Identify and prioritize machines
  4. Develop a schedule
  5. Establish a budget

The Role of a Machine Safety Consultant / Safety Solution Provider

The role of your machine safety consultant / safety solution provider is threaded through out the project. Choosing this team member carefully is critical to success of your safety project. In addition to the safety qualifications that are necessary, look for a team member that will truly be a partner. Find a team member that will take the time to genuinely get to know your operations and your people, and look for ways to make the implementation a success.

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