6 Steps to Equipment Safety

July 1, 2009
Protecting employees from machinery hazards can reduce costs and improve productivity, but it's often a complicated process. Here are a few guidelines that can help streamline the effort.

Safeguarding machinery has traditionally been viewed as a nuisance that reduces productivity, but the opposite is often true. When employees feel safer, they are more motivated and therefore more productive. Nevertheless, extensive knowledge is often required to comply with the numerous regulations and standards governing equipment safety.

To make the process a bit simpler for professionals overseeing manufacturing facilities and distribution centers, Minneapolis-based Sick Inc., a provider of sensors for factory, logistics and process automation, recently released a 116-page guide detailing six steps to take to ensure employee safety and productivity. Here is a brief synopsis.

Step 1: Risk assessment. A risk assessment is a sequence of logical steps that permit the systematic analysis and evaluation of risks.

Step 2: Safe design. This means more than the mechanical design of equipment. Employers must consider the interaction between employee and machine and review lock-out/tag-out procedures.

Step 3: Protective measures using engineering controls. Protective devices, such as covers, doors, light curtains and two-hand controls are designed to complement physical guards and barriers not incorporated into the control system.

Step 4: Administrative measures. Examples include signs, lights, horns, procedural training and personal protective equipment (PPE), but administrative measures should be used to supplement, not replace, safe design and engineering controls.

Step 5: Overall validation. Several questions must be asked to determine the adequacy of risk-reduction measures.

Step 6: Operating the machine. Employers must conduct regular safety inspections and maintenance.

To download the full “Guidelines for Safe Machinery,” visit www.sickusa.com/safetyguide.

Safety Is Good for the Bottom Line

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia claimed that U.S. manufacturers, particularly those on the East Coast, logged new production activity, orders and shipments in June.

Michael Coleman, manufacturing practice specialty administrator for the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), says the continuing focus on safety and health programs is partly responsible for the improved business performance of U.S. manufacturers.

“Not only does their bottom line benefit positively, but their company reputation stays intact, employees stay safe and healthy, reducing healthcare, workers' comp, training and turnover costs, not to mention keeping customers, the communities they do business in, vendors and employees happy,” says Coleman. “Safety is good business.”

He adds: “Many companies are doing more with less, but we continue to communicate to employers that workplace safety and health is not an area that should be cut,” he adds. “It will backfire on a business. Workplace safety processes must be in place at all times. They are even more critical during business downturns.”

Time to Revisit Electrical Safety

This year, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) made significant revisions to NFPA 70E, the standard for electrical safety in the workplace. OSHA frequently uses NFPA 70E to measure a facility's general safety compliance.

Among other changes in the 2009 edition is the requirement that employers provide more information on equipment warning labels. Labels must now contain information about personal protective equipment (PPE), for example. Companies must also comply with new training requirements.

Several organizations offer new tools to help material handling professionals comply with the revisions. Summit Training Source, for example, recently developed “Electrical Safety NFPA 70E,” a video that teaches employees how to avoid injuries when working around electrical hazards. The video addresses changes in NFPA 70E, including rules surrounding approach boundaries and PPE.

To purchase the video or watch a preview, visit www.safetyontheweb.com. To read the 2009 edition of NFPA 70E, go to www.nfpa.org.

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