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January 27, 2011

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New guidance for print and packaging industries on machinery risks

The paper, print and packaging industries are being urged to follow revised guidance from the HSE on the use of hand-fed platen (die-cutting) machines to reduce the risk of serious crush injuries, and even death.

The Executive produced the new Printing Information Sheet (PIS) 18 following two fatalities in the UK in 2007/08 and a further three deaths in other countries since 2007.

Although it says current guarding requirements have been effective in controlling the risk of operators suffering crush injuries to their hands and forearms, the HSE is concerned that as the machines have become larger, operators could be putting their lives at risk climbing on to the lower platen.

As well as showing options for improving the safeguarding, the PIS addresses a range of other issues, including training, isolation procedures, daily checks and periodic inspections. These measures will bring platens into line with other high-risk machines such as guillotines, according to the HSE, which is also writing to known users of these machines, alerting them to the risks. Inspectors are currently visiting users to find out how they are responding to the new guidance, and will take enforcement action where they encounter particularly poor standards.

Tim Small, a specialist manufacturing safety inspector at HSE, said: “Hand-fed platens are high-risk machines.  Our investigations show that workers can and do climb between the platens on many machines.  The risk is particularly high when the platen is being used in dwell (semi-automatic) mode. In this situation, operators are not protected by the current guarding arrangements.”

The PIS was produced in consultation with industry, users and suppliers. Machinery safety specialist Pilz Automation Technology recently helped SCA Display UK improve the safety of a hand-fed platen press at SCA’s plant in Shenstone. Pilz wrote a functional specification for the press, then engineered a solution based on these functional safety requirements (pictured).

Using an array of light beams and a safety controller, says Pilz, the press is now brought to a safe stop if there is a violation of the danger zones while the press is closing. The press cannot be restarted until the press cam switch has been operated, signalling that the press is at the ‘home’ position.

Printing Information Sheet 18 – Safety requirements for using hand-fed platen (die-cutting) machines – is available on the HSE website. Click here to download.

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