Whether you are an employer or a worker, you have an obligation to adhere to industrial machine safety standards. As a worker, your job is mainly to participate in the identification and control of hazards and take the necessary measures to protect yourself. You should also know your rights as far as refusing unsafe work and receiving proper training.
Of course, when it comes to the workplace, it is the employer who carries the bulk of the responsibilities. Employers must develop and implement measures to identify, correct and control the dangers of the workplace in a permanent way so as to protect the health and ensure the safety of the worker. A lot of work falls under that umbrella, even just in the industrial machine department. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics of industrial machine safety standards.
On machine safety, the CSST and IRSST state that risk management involves two major steps: risk assessment and risk reduction. By following these steps with their industrial machinery, employers can provide a safe environment for employees, despite the presence of large machines in the workplace.
Any improvement to a machine’s safety usually begins with a risk assessment. This involves analyzing three key aspects of the machine and using that information to evaluate the risk. To properly evaluate the risk, take into account:
The limits of the machine. What are the conditions in which the machine will be used? Who will use the machine, for how long, and with what materials? The machine’s life cycle must also be taken into account, including design, installation, use, unjamming, maintenance and disposal. You should also establish the users’ expected level of experience in this step.
The hazards. The list of every hazard must be carefully established. This includes all the energy sources or man-machine interfaces that can affect the health and safety of exposed workers, whether they are moving elements, electrified components, machine components that are too hot or cold, noise, vibration, visible or invisible radiation, hazardous materials or awkward postures.
The risks. Risk is defined as the combination of the severity of the harm and the probability of occurrence of this harm. You can think of severity in terms of the severity of injuries or health effects, the frequency of exposure to the hazard, the probability of the hazardous event occurring, and the possibility of avoiding the harm.
After this analysis, you can make an informed decision about whether the risk is tolerable or not. If the risk is too high to be considered tolerable for employees, risk reduction measures must be taken.
Ideally, risk reduction would actually be risk elimination, which comes from an inherently safe machine design. However, if owning a machine with a risk-free design is not an option, the next step to reduce risk is installing guards and protective devices. Guards are safest when they are “fixed” and a tool must be used to remove them, but they can also be “movable,” as long as a stopping signal is sent to the machine as soon as they are opened. If a guard is not an option, a protective device such as a safety light curtain, surface detector, validation device, pressure mat, or two-hand control must be used to reduce the risk.
After risk elimination and guards, the two other risk reducing options include (1) work methods and personal protective equipment and (2) training and information. These are not considered the most effective means, and should be used with other risk reduction methods instead of replacing them.
As an employer with industrial machines, you have a big responsibility on your shoulders. Take the time to go through the risk assessment and management steps for your company – the health and safety of your employees depends on it.