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Machinery Safety Standards – The What and Why

The high-level goal of the numerous machinery safety standards is to reduce injuries associated with machinery interaction. An additional advantage of applying these standards is the effective identification of hazards and analysis of risk, which can have far-reaching impacts and extensive benefits.


What Are They

Machinery safety standards are industry consensus standards published by standard development organizations both internationally and within the United States. There is a vast volume of published content for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), machinery users, and integrators to follow when designing, integrating, or using machinery.


The prominent machinery safety standard development organization in the U.S. is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B11. The ANSI B11 series consists of approximately thirty documents that focus on machinery and machine tool safety, defining safety requirements for machine manufacturers (suppliers), integrators, and users. The ANSI B11 documents mirror the ISO “type A-B-C” established in ANSI/ISO 12100:2012 (Safety Of Machinery - General Principles For Design - Risk Assessment And Risk Reduction), which categorize the standards into three types:

  • Type A – basic safety standards, providing foundational concepts and design principles applicable to a broad spectrum of machinery;

  • Type B – generic safety standards, expounding upon key requirements for the implementation of safety devices and safeguards applicable across a range of machinery;

  • Type C – machine safety standards, defining detailed safety requirements for specific types of machinery


A facility looking to be compliant would first start by applying the Type A standard – ANSI B11.0 and ISO 12100 in the U.S. and internationally, respectively. These comprehensive standards provide a method for risk assessment to quantify the unmitigated risk level for the hazardous scenarios associated with the machine. The Type B standard next establishes appropriate safeguards (e.g., interlocks, area scanners, light curtains, etc.) to effectively achieve an acceptable level of risk for all hazardous scenarios. Lastly, a Type C standard needs to be applied based on the specific type of machinery the organization is manufacturing or operating, in order to meet safety benchmarks that have been developed categorically.


Although multiple standards may apply to each specific application and may vary based on operational locations across the world, users can likely find a relevant industry consensus standard to provide a framework for machinery safety due to the large availability of standards developed by the many standards development organizations.


OSHA Compliance

Machine manufacturers in the U.S. are required to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, health and safety laws. Industry consensus machinery safety standards are a recognition of common safety benchmarks and can be used to demonstrate compliance with the OSHA machinery safety requirements of 29 CFR 1910.212 and the General Duty Clause. OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires an employer to furnish to its employees "employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Since machine hazards are “recognized” in industry consensus standards, OSHA expects facilities to conform to machinery safety standards to keep their place of employment free from “recognized hazards” and demonstrate compliance with OSHA requirements. This holds true as long as the industry consensus standard is as strict or stricter than the regulation, which is often the case.


Specifically, OSHA has promulgated standards within 1910 Subpart O - Machinery and Machine Guarding, which includes sundry standards applicable to specific types of machinery. ANSI and ASME standards are referenced in addition to numerous other published resources to assist the OEM or machinery user in providing a workplace free from recognized hazards that could potentially cause death or serious physical harm to employees.


Compliance with the machinery safety standards is not the only method to comply with OSHA requirements, yet it is both a recognized and approachable method that conforms with OSHA expectations. The machinery safety standards were written by experienced individuals from diverse professional backgrounds to make compliance with OSHA regulations more approachable for manufacturers.


Benefits of Applying Machinery Safety Standards

The most important benefit of applying machinery safety standards is a reduction of injuries. The standards provide an actionable framework for machine users and manufacturers to reduce the risk of injury through the implementation of safeguards and safe machine design. The standards development organizations publish knowledge at the forefront of safety design and technology, which helps to realize value specific to a wide range of applications. Thanks to this, machinery designers, integrators, and users do not need to reinvent the wheel, saving time and demonstrating business justification while achieving an acceptable level of risk.


Applying machinery safety standards is also an opportunity to recognize value apart from safety. If the risk assessment process is conducted early in the design phase, it can be leveraged to integrate controls, automation, and interlocked safeguards into the machinery at an early stage. In general, an opportunity is posed to make cost-effective modifications and implement safe design with a tremendous potential to drive innovation.


Furthermore, efficiencies are realized through the implementation of the machinery safety standards such as minimizing downtime and increasing reliability. The standards prescribe safeguarded access for maintenance and inspection activities that significantly decrease machine downtime since the entire machine does not need to be taken offline to interact with it. Work tasks can be safely performed in a protected space while saving time from lockout/tagout activity. An efficient maintenance and inspection ability also maximizes machinery reliability by increasing the preventative maintenance frequency due to the ease of accessing machinery during operation. Plant downtime due to employee injury and/or investigation may further be avoided, along with the associated liability expenses and burdens.


There are also softer benefits such as improvements in employee engagement and productivity associated with employment with minimal injuries. When employees feel valued and protected in their workplace, they become more productive, leading to a better workplace and improved safety culture. Minimizing injuries can have cascading effects such as reduced stress, increased creativity, increased employee retention, and greater morale.

Conformity with machinery safety standards has tremendous benefits such as reducing injury and liability, leveraging early key design changes, minimizing downtime, increasing machinery reliability, quality, and improving productivity. The machinery safety standards positively recompense designers, integrators and users along with providing a framework for achieving OSHA compliance.

 

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