The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a new warning about performing maintenance operations on live machinery. This comes in the wake of a prosecution that was brought after an employee's hand was drawn into a machine, breaking two of his fingers. The employer was fined £2000 and ordered to pay £3500 costs after pleading guilty to a charge under Regulation 22 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98).
Regulation 22 states that:
"Every employer shall take appropriate measures to ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted that, so far as is reasonably practicable, maintenance operations which involve a risk to health or safety can be carried out while the work equipment is shut down, or in other cases -
"(a) maintenance operations can be carried out without exposing the person carrying them out to a risk to his health or safety; or
"(b) appropriate measures can be taken for the protection of any person carrying out maintenance operations which involve a risk to his health or safety."
In the incident in question, an employee was repairing a frame-making machine used in the manufacture of doors. The employee was diagnosing a fault on the live machine when his fingers were dragged into the machine, resulting in two of them being broken.
Although the machine had a function to mechanically isolate the machine and enable faultfinding to be carried out safely, this had not been used. The HSE investigated the incident and served an Improvement Notice on the employer, requiring it to ensure that its machinery is used safely.
This incident clearly illustrates that the presence of safety equipment is not always, in itself, sufficient to ensure the safety of employees. The HSE is therefore reminding employers that they are responsible for ensuring that safe operating procedures are in place for all their employees.
In an ideal world every employee would follow safe operating procedures 'to the letter', but sometimes employers find that a minority of operatives ignore the rules. Stewart Robinson, the Services Manager at Pilz Automation Technology, says of this:
"Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act states that employees must not endanger themselves, or others, by their acts or omissions. In addition, they must co-operate with their employers, as long as this co-operation does not lead to an increased risk to health and safety, or is an illegal act, so that the employer can comply with their statutory duties, thereby making the responsibility for safety a joint effort between employer and employee.
"It therefore follows that, should any employee be found to be failing to follow safe operating procedures, and they have been provided with the necessary information, training and adequate supervision, disciplinary action should follow."
Nevertheless, where practicable, it is better practice to install safeguards that cannot be bypassed, rather than rely on operating procedures. For companies that are interested in exploring the possibilities here, Pilz can assist on two fronts. First, consultants can perform independent assessments on all machinery within a plant, more detailed PUWER assessments, or in-depth risk assessments on individual machines or items of work equipment. In all cases, written reports are provided, enabling the client to decide on the most appropriate course of action.
Second, Pilz can supply a variety of machinery safety hardware. This ranges from tongue-operated guard switches and tamper-proof, coded, non-contact safety switches, through to PNOZmulti configurable safety controllers for performing relatively complex logic based on various safety inputs, plus safety light curtains and the SafetyEYE vision-based safety monitoring system.
If required, Pilz can provide engineering support for upgrading machinery safety, or work with end users and/or system integrators to ensure that the equipment is made sufficiently safe without being over-engineered.
Please contact Pilz to request more information about machinery safety consultancy and hardware.
Information and guidance on the safe use of work equipment can be found on the HSE website.