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February 23, 2015

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Understanding the basics of machinery guarding

By Paul Tacey

In 2013/14, 13 of 89 fatal injuries reported in the UK involved contact with moving machinery.

Employers have legal obligations under:

  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998
  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Other relevant legislation includes The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 which apply to suppliers (not users) and The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

Due to the risks associated with operating machinery, the courts place a higher duty of care on employers. If there is a risk of foreseeable injury, has the employer taken reasonable steps to minimise and/or reduce the risk of injury? Such reasonable steps are considered in the hierarchy of machinery guarding.

The hierarchy of machinery guarding

In order to decide on the most appropriate guarding for different parts of the machine, it is essential to undertake and document a formal risk assessment to establish risk.

A machinery risk assessment will typically involve identifying significant hazards and for each one, evaluating the likelihood of occurrence, frequency of exposure, degree of possible harm and number of persons at risk. Having identified which risks need to be reduced, suitable safeguards can be considered. It is then essential that the risks are reviewed to establish whether controls have, indeed, sufficiently reduced the risks.

Your control strategy should follow the Hierarchy of Machinery Guarding as follows:

  • Fixed enclosed guards;
  • Other guards or protection devices such as interlocked guards and pressure-sensitive mats;
  • Protection appliances such as jigs, holders and push-sticks; and
  • The provision of information, instruction, training and supervision

Fixed guards should remain in place at all times, except when they need to be removed by authorised and competent persons for the purpose of maintenance. Interlocked guards and devices such as pressure-sensitive mats and safety light curtains should be considered where fixed guards would not be practicable because they would hinder normal operation of the machine.

It’s worth noting that just because machinery carries the CE mark, this is no indication that the machine is safe or compliant with UK regulations. Employers must carry out a thorough risk assessment.

Effective health and safety is usually delivered by an integrated package of measures that take account of the hardware (guarding), the systems (for intervention, such as lock off and isolation) and the human factors (understanding what goes on and how to maximise compliance). These measures are interdependent and should be treated as such in the assessment and management of risk.

Paul Tacey is senior risk manager at QBE

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