Norbord is the UK's leading manufacturer of wood-based panel products, with a substantial particleboard facility at South Molton, Devon. The company has been working closely with the Consultancy Division of Pilz Automation Technology to undertake an extensive assessment of the South Molton plant's machinery safety, followed by more detailed investigations and some remedial work.
Initially Norbord's own engineers had surveyed the plant and identified areas where they suspected equipment might not fully meet the requirements of PUWER 98 (the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations).
Norbord has used Pilz products - mainly safety relays - on its machinery for many years, and has grown to trust the advice given by Pilz. Consequently the Norbord engineers readily accepted the recommendation for additional work and asked for Pilz consultants to undertake a complete Plant Assessment, giving an initial high-level overview of the issues on site. A report was produced that highlighted items of equipment that needed attention, and ranked them, on a risk basis, so that Norbord could formulate an action plan.
Justin Smyth, the Senior Project Engineer at Norbord, was very pleased with the consultants' report: "In contrast with what we have received historically, the Pilz report was clear, concise and user-friendly. It had just the right level of technical detail so that we could see exactly what subsections of the standards the equipment was failing to meet, and the report told us what we needed to do to rectify the situation."
On the strength of that first report, Pilz has continued working with Norbord on an ongoing basis. One piece of work was a detailed assessment of a second-hand edge bander, and others have involved more detailed risk assessments of equipment identified as needing attention.
There is a wide range of work equipment and automation in use at Norbord, with EN 954-1 risk categories of 1, 2 and 3. Areas of concern highlighted by Pilz have covered, for example, machinery guarding and compliant electrical interlocking.
One particular machine on which Norbord requested assistance from Pilz was being fitted with a safety light curtain. Norbord had estimated a stop time and then worked out how far from the hazardous machinery to install the light curtain in accordance with the requirements of BS EN 999:1999 (Safety of machinery, The positioning of protective equipment in respect of approach speeds of parts of the human body). Unfortunately this location for the light curtain was so far away that it would have been unworkable.
Pilz came on site with specialist equipment for measuring the actual stop performance of the machinery, and this showed that the time from the moment the light curtain was breached to the point at which the machinery became stationary was around 500ms. Using this figure to calculate the safety distance enabled the light curtains to be positioned significantly closer to the machinery, which made the installation feasible.
Justin Smyth concludes: "Because we have limited experience in such a specialist field, it is very helpful to have the consultants readily available. It also means that we can focus on our key strengths and ensuring production is achieved on schedule - while remaining fully confident that machinery safety is being properly attended to. Most of all, though, we like the Pilz reports that tell us exactly what we need to know and what we need to do. Benchmarking Pilz against other consultants that we use, on the basis of the quality of the output, the Pilz consultants are definitely good value for money."