Machine safety compliance: Who is responsible?

Who is on the hook for machine safety compliance? What standards apply? How will merging standards affect machine safety? What tools can help? A functional safety expert answers these and other machine safety questions.


Rockwell Automation Safety Automation Builder (SAB) software tool guides users through the design process by providing options for layout, safety Performance Level, and product selection using the broadest safety automation product portfolio. It compilesControl Engineering, CFE Media, discussed machine safety compliance with Mike Miller, functional safety TÜV expert and global safety market development, Rockwell Automation.

CFE: Who is on the hook for machine safety compliance?

Miller: Primary responsibility for machinery safety compliance varies depending on the particular location around the world. In North America for example, the end-user manufacturer is primarily responsible for having machinery that is compliant with the latest safety standards and regulations. OSHA requires every employer to provide a safe working environment for employees. However, to help balance the responsibility, end users share machinery safety requirements with OEMs when providing specs in the design phase. This helps the OEM build compliant machinery and fulfill OSHA requirements from the early design stages. In European and Asia-Pacific regions, the responsibility to design and build safe and compliant machinery falls primarily on OEMs. 

CFE: What standards committees are involved for users, OEMs, and system integrators of industrial machines?

Miller: Standards committees are generally open to a wide range of participants, including end users, OEMs, and certification bodies. Standards committees try to achieve a generally well-balanced representation of participants from different areas within the industrial machinery market so that each group has equal representation.

In terms of what main standards bodies to look to for guidance, end users that want machinery safety systems that are compliant with the most stringent standards should require OEMs to use ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) functional safety standards. Companies located in North America also need to comply with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

CFE: How will the upcoming merger of ISO 13849 and IEC 62061 (called IEC/ISO 17305) change machine safety compliance?

Miller: OEMs and end users find it difficult to choose between ISO 13849 (which is based on required Performance Levels for simple systems) and IEC 62061 (which is based on required Safety Integrity Levels for complex systems). There isn’t a defined guide for which standard is most appropriate because each one has different requirements aimed at various design approaches for machinery safety systems. The upcoming merger of the two standards will help ease confusion for OEMs and end users because the new standard—IEC/ISO 17305—will represent the best sections of each one. The merger will harmonize content shared by both standards, including unique sections from ISO 13849 and IEC 62061, and the new standard will contain requirements for simple and complex systems.

CFE: In what ways is that different than what people are doing now?

Miller: Today people are choosing between each of the two standards, resulting in different companies using a different standard. There also is confusion regarding which standard is the most applicable for different machinery designs. The merger will result in one clear standard and will help reduce the amount of time and documentation required to comply, simplifying the overall process. 

CFE: What will the merger mean for OEMs?

Miller: One unified standard will help shorten and simplify the safety system design process for OEMs. It also will help alleviate confusion between the two existing standards and add clarity by combining the best of both.

CFE: What design tools can help OEMs automate the process of designing safety into a machine to help ensure compliance and get machines out the door faster?

Miller: Rockwell Automation is creating tools to help simplify the machinery design process for OEMs as well as end users. These tools help designers more easily understand whether their machinery safety system will meet the required Performance Level before purchasing components and building machinery, saving time and money later on. Such software guides users through the design process by providing options for layout, safety Performance Level, and product selection using the broadest safety automation product portfolio. It then compiles product selections and generates a bill of materials, along with necessary data to populate SISTEMA [Safety Integrity Software Tool for the Evaluation of Machine Applications], which automatically indicates the attained Performance Level using ISO 13849.

CFE: How does all of this relate to what OSHA requires?

Miller: Each region has its own set of safety regulations, directives, and laws that require manufacturers to demonstrate compliance. In North America, following ISO standards and providing appropriate documentation allows OEMs and end users to demonstrate due diligence in creating and maintaining a safe working environment, as required by OSHA.

CFE: Anything else that’s important to convey on this topic?

Miller: Keeping workers safe is every company’s ethical responsibility. The manufacturing industry as a whole must continue to focus on improving machinery safety compliance. To do that, companies need to keep up with the latest, most stringent regulations, but also strive to make safety a top priority within their corporate cultures. Even with the best compliance processes in place, if even one employee doesn’t feel that safety is a priority from the top down, those processes are out the window.

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering,

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