Machine safety... who is responsible?
Those responsible for machine safety has certainly varied over the past several decades. Answers that may come to mind include OSHA, the employer, employees, or even machine and plant system builders. Is the answer to machine safety top down, bottom up, or both?
How would you answer this question – Who’s Responsible for Machine Safety?
Who is responsible for machine safety has certainly varied over the past several decades. Let’s agree right now that the past is the past and the only thing that concerns us now is today and tomorrow. With that said, let’s examine the influences and the answer.
On the influence side we have the regulatory position whereby in the General Care and Duty clause OSHA requires that “each employer shall furnish to each of his employees, employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees”. In addition, there are scores of local regulations, state regulations, national and international general consensus standards, and company policy. This is all top down influence to hazard mitigation.
On the other side, as employees, we have a right and an obligation to acknowledge and require a safe working environment for ourselves and fellow employees. I have seen situations where employees have used their common sense and provided their own “creative” machine guarding solutions to the surprise of local management. Whether you call it self defense or empowerment these solutions to hazard mitigation are bottom up influences.
What I’ve personally witnessed over the past ten years is a “coming together” within companies of the shop floor employees and the executive floor employees. These companies have realized that by teaming the machine knowhow from the shop floor with the engineering and management prowess from the executive floor – an extremely effective force can be created to reduce injuries and improve operating efficiencies at the same time.
One of the drivers to facilitate this evolution has been the risk assessment requirement which brings these resources together and another driver is the innovation in machine safety technology and safety automation. In my opinion, these factors collectively have created a paradigm shift in machine guarding and machine safety such that today the answer to the question is – everybody!
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JB Titus, CFSE
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