Providing Safety
Machine safety

Learn more about machine safety

The importance of machine safety
The machine directive and other laws on machine safety
Analysing safety risks for optimal use of the machine
Lockout-Tagout
The importance of machinery maintenance for safety

Machine safety related questions?

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Read our articles on machine safety legislation, standards and norms here.

Machine Safety
Birgit Mol

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Why is machine safety  important?

19 per cent of all workplace accidents reported in 2020 were related to working with machinery. Therefore, in industries working with machinery, it is extremely important to take safety measures. Not only is safety important for protecting workers, there are also legal requirements attached to it. In addition, it reduces risks, and improves productivity, company reputation and confidence in the company. It also ensures cost savings in the longer term. It is crucial to create a healthy, safe working environment.

Where is machine safety  important?

There are also specific situations where extra attention needs to be paid to machine safety. When using (automated) machinery. When maintaining and repairing these machines. And when inexperienced users operate (automated) machines.

Sectors in which machine safety is particularly important:

Industrial sector
Factories, production lines and industrial plants use a wide range of machinery, such as presses, conveyors, robots and heavy equipment. Here, machine safety is vital to protect workers from potential hazards.

Building and construction
Machinery such as excavators, cranes, saws and other tools are used on construction sites. Ensuring safety measures are in place is crucial to prevent accidents that may occur while using these machines.

Agriculture
Machinery such as tractors, mowers and harvesters are used in agriculture. Safety regulations are important here to ensure the health of agricultural workers.

 

Healthcare
Medical equipment such as scanners, radiation devices and surgical robots must follow strict safety standards to ensure the safety of both patients and medical staff.

Transport and logistics
This includes machinery such as forklifts, loading and unloading equipment in warehouses and logistics centres. Ensuring safety measures are in place is essential to prevent accidents.

Machinery Directive

The essential health and safety requirements “maximum requirements” for the machine trade are set out in the Machinery Directive. The manufacturer of the product (the machine) is responsible for following this Machinery Directive. The requirements in this directive are not “optional” in the EU, as they are laid down by law.

There are hundreds of different types and sizes of machinery. It is therefore impossible to lay down all the rules for all these machines in detail. For this reason, the European Union has drafted the Machinery Directive as global legislation. Any machine released or used within the European Union must follow this directive. This also means that a European Union member state may not impose requirements that differ from what the Machinery Directive prescribes with regard to free trade of goods.

CE-Marking

Machinery that complies with European requirements receives a kind of ´stamp´, a CE mark. The CE mark is a certification indicating that a product meets European health, safety and environmental standards. Products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) often have to meet specific standards and directives to get the CE mark, such as the Machinery Directive in this case. CE marking is a kind of “passport” that allows manufacturers to demonstrate that their products meet the essential requirements applicable within the European Union.

The employer must verify that the new machine complies with all applicable Community Directives (are EU directives met?). The employer must approve the machine after it has been installed by the manufacturer before it is put into service for the first time. This is the employer commissioning inspection. Many employers hire external parties to teach machine safety. As a result, a manufacturer must ensure that its machine is fully CE-marked so that no further discussions on safety arise during the customer commissioning inspection. However, a CE mark is not a good stamp. It only indicates that the manufacturer confirms that his machine meets the requirements of the Machinery Directive.

A-, B-, C-standards for machine safety

Within the Machinery Directive, there are different types of standards that can apply to machinery. These standards are divided into three categories: A, B, and C.

Category A standards, overarching standards
These are the fundamental standards that contain the basic safety principles for machine design. They can be general topics such as risk assessment, ergonomics, safety information and more. Compliance with the machinery directive requires following these standards.

Category B standards, basic standards
These standards complement Category A standards and focus on specific safety aspects for specific hazards or types of machinery. They provide detailed instructions on the design, construction and use of machinery to reduce risks.

Category C standards, machinery
These standards contain technical specifications, test methods and other details that can be used to comply with machinery directive requirements. They provide specific test and measurement methods to verify that a machine meets the specified safety requirements.

Veiligheidsrisico’s analyseren voor optimaal machine gebruik

Roadmap for risk analysis:

Step 1: Identify potential hazards
Start by identifying all potential hazards associated with using the machine. This includes moving parts, electrical components, chemicals, noise, heat, etc.

Step 2: Evaluate the risks
Assess the probability of each identified hazard occurring and evaluate the severity of the possible consequences. This helps prioritise the risks that need to be addressed.

Step 3: Determine who may be exposed
Identify which workers, users or others in the environment are exposed to these hazards. they may include operators, maintenance workers, bystanders, etc.

Step 4: Develop control measures
Implement measures to reduce risks. This may include modifying the design of the machine, installing protective equipment, providing training to workers, implementing safety procedures, etc.

Step 5: Verify and validate
Ensure that the proposed measures actually reduce risks as intended. This may include tests, inspections or simulations to ensure effectiveness.Documentatie en communicatie

Step 6: Documentation and communication
Document the risk analysis performed and the measures taken. Make sure this information is available to all concerned, so that employees are aware of the risks and how to deal with them.

Step 7: Regular review
Safety risks change over time, especially with changes in machinery, processes or working procedures. It is therefore essential to regularly review and update the risk analysis.

Importance: Conducting a structured risk analysis is an integral part of an effective safety management system. It enables companies to proactively identify and minimise hazards, ultimately contributing to a safer working environment.

Lockout-Tagout

A crucial safety measure used in various industries is Lockout Tagout (LOTO), a procedure that protects workers by ensuring that machines and energy sources are properly switched off and cannot be restarted during maintenance or service.

The main purpose of LOTO is to protect workers from the unexpected release of hazardous energy during machinery maintenance. Proper training, clear procedures and strict adherence to safety protocols are crucial for effective implementation of LOTO.

Failure to implement LOTO procedures correctly can lead to serious injuries or fatalities. Therefore, companies often have strict policies and training programmes to ensure that employees understand and closely follow these safety protocols.

Communication and training

Communication and training play a crucial role in the effective implementation of lockout-tagout (LOTO) procedures. Here is an overview of the importance of communication and training in LOTO:

Training

Comprehensive training programmes: Hold regular training sessions for all workers involved in maintaining or servicing equipment. This training should cover the purpose of LOTO, potential hazards, step-by-step procedures and proper use of LOTO devices.

Practice: Offer practical demonstrations and hands-on exercises to ensure employees understand how to properly apply LOTO procedures to different equipment.

Refresher courses: Provide periodic refresher courses to emphasise the importance of LOTO and keep workers informed of changes in procedures or equipment.

Certification and competence assessment: Assess and certify workers’ competence in applying LOTO procedures. This ensures that they understand the safety measures and can apply them effectively.

Communication

Familiarity with policies and procedures: Clearly communicate company policies and procedures related to LOTO to all employees. This includes the importance of LOTO, when it is required and the specific steps to be followed.

Notification: Inform all relevant personnel of planned equipment shutdowns for maintenance. This way, everyone is aware of the potential risks and the need for LOTO. And nobody faces any surprises.

Clear instructions: Provide clear and concise instructions, signage and visual aids near machines to remind and guide workers through the LOTO process. This can be done, for example, through the use of safety pictograms.

Feedback and reporting: Encourage an open communication culture where workers can report concerns, incidents or potential improvements related to LOTO. Employees are ultimately the ones who will be most affected by procedures, thus they are experts in the field and can indicate what they are missing in a LOTO policy.

The seven steps of a Lockout-Tagout procedure

Step 1: Coordination
The procedure should be discussed with the team in advance. Determine the nature and duration of the work and which equipment is to be locked out. Communicate the work with the team.

Step 2: Switch off the equipment
Switch off the machine.

Step 3: Isolate
It is not enough just to deactivate the machine. The power source must be shut down completely. Always check for residual energy.

Step 4: Interlock
The locking point on the power source, should be immobilised with a safety padlock. Never give the key to your personal safety padlock to anyone else.

Step 5: Tagout
Locked equipment should be identified with specific tags to indicate that work is taking place and that the equipment should not be unlocked.

Step 6: Tryout
Check that the equipment is properly locked: a start-up tryout, a visual check for the presence of a locking system or measuring equipment indicating the absence of voltage, pressure and flow.

Step 7: Carry out the work
Once you are sure that the machine is locked correctly, you can carry out maintenance and/or cleaning work on the machine.

Machine maintenance

Maintenance is an essential pillar of machine safety, and its importance cannot be overemphasised. Regular maintenance of machinery is not just a matter of efficiency and performance, but it is central to protecting people who work with these machines.

Regular maintenance can identify and minimise potential hazards arising from machine wear, defects or obsolescence. This is crucial to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries to workers. Moreover, proper maintenance contributes to the smooth functioning of machinery, preventing breakdowns and unexpected situations that could lead to accidents or loss of production.

Not only does regular maintenance comply with legal regulations and safety standards, but it can also be cost-saving in the long run. Maintaining machines regularly extends their lifespan, which can result in fewer major repairs and reduced production losses due to unplanned downtime.

Moreover, ensuring machine safety through maintenance contributes to a safer working environment and employee well-being. This not only increases productivity but also employee morale, as they feel valued and protected.

In short, maintenance is the backbone of machine safety. It is an investment in employee safety, equipment reliability and the success of a company as a whole. It is not just a task, but a fundamental responsibility to be taken seriously.