Machine safety compliance: start with design


Production considerations

A key component to the functionality of the machine is the design of and usability of the operator’s station and the accessibility of the machine components to maintenance personnel who will need to service and repair the machine.

Many machines are designed with production rates in mind, and this can lead to re-design once operations and maintenance begin. Re-design because of complications with operators or other humans can be very costly, resulting in injury, quality issues, low production rates, and machine shutdown time. The same issues arise when a machine is designed without considerations for how the machine will need to be serviced, repaired, and maintained. Some designers do not have a good understanding of what it takes for a mechanic to gain access to the motors, gearboxes, chains, sprockets, and the like, so servicing can be completed quickly and, in many cases, without shutting down the equipment.

Machine safety compliance draws upon many standards, including these. Courtesy: Optimation

The inability for maintenance staff to easily and quickly access equipment parts that need service and or repair also can lead to extended downtime. Fixing design errors makes retrofit or re-design extensive and expensive. Failure to re-design or even just living with these problem areas (the issues not considered in the original design process) can lead to worker morale issues, dissatisfied customers, and a loss in future business.

Cost of noncompliance 

Noncompliance may be disregarded as the cost of doing business. These costs can be broken down into two groups, direct and indirect costs. Direct costs are those easily identified, such as cost of wasted materials, hours spent in making inferior nonsaleable products, and wasted raw materials. Cost of injuries, insurance, and worker’s compensation expenses are among examples of direct costs.

Indirect costs are more subtle and sometimes not as easy to identify. The cost of extra administrative duties, additional paperwork, incident reports and recordkeeping, extra meetings to discuss the proper resolutions to a given problem, loss of clients because of poor quality products, and negative media coverage are all consequences not easily quantified. Indirect costs can lead to lower worker morale, employee turnover, and injuries. Poor design can result in bringing in more employees or temporary employees to work on equipment not functioning properly or even doing the production work by hand because of a machine failure.

Safety compliance is the competitive edge

Professional engineers strive to design equipment and machinery so that it is “done right, the first time, without incident.” Safety compliance designed and built into machinery is a proactive approach that will give companies a competitive edge for anyone who interfaces with this equipment. Engineering “done right” builds quality into the equipment.

“Done right, the first time” gives a company the quality edge, plus provides a better opportunity for achieving the desired schedule. When combining “done right, the first time, without incident,” quality is achieved, schedule is maintained, and losses and waste are reduced. All these factors lead to machine safety compliance and a competitive edge.

Companies on the leading edge include safety engineering in the design phase of project work to provide a different set of eyes to look for and identify gaps that may lead to safety problems when the machine begins production. Most safety engineers would be looking for all of the issues outlined here and other safety concerns that may present themselves during the HSE planning process.

Al Manzer is Optimation corporate safety engineer. Courtesy: Optimation- Al Manzer is Optimation corporate safety engineer. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering,

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Key concepts

  • Machine safety compliance starts with design.
  • Use applicable standards (see table).
  • If you think compliance is expensive, add up noncompliance.

Consider this

Machine safety compliance designed into machines and processes results in higher quality, less downtime and waste, and fewer losses.

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