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May 18, 2016

With the evolution of European directives and safety regulations in different countries, the safe operation of machinery has become an important concern across all industries. The best way to ensure user safety is to implement risk assessment and reduction during the equipment’s design phase, as recommended by ISO 12100. The design must adhere to appropriate standards and current best practices to ensure that equipment will protect the user’s safety and health.

Here are the most relevant principles to keep in mind during the design phase:

1- Incorporate risk reduction methods with respect for the hierarchy of their effectiveness

Risk reduction follows a logical path that starts with planning an inherently safe design. For example, reducing the pressure needed to activate a motion that does not require high pressure to begin with helps to protect the operator without incorporating additional protective measures. Then, the next logical step along the safe-design pathway is to consider which safety devices are most appropriate for the application.

2- Select the appropriate safety devices 

Safety devices such as switches, relays, programmable controllers, presence-sensors and others must be chosen according to the risk they are intended to reduce: The greater the risk, the greater the performance that is required of a device. Reliability and diagnostic coverage are two important parameters of a safety device’s performance. Choosing high-performance devices avoids diminishing or losing a machine’s safety function during its life cycle.

3- Inform users of residual risk

Even if the goal of safe design is zero risk, achieving that objective is impossible. Despite implementing measures that reduce risk to an acceptable level, human error leading to misuse of machinery may cause injury. Therefore, the user must be informed of actions to take or avoid. The user’s manual, visual or audible signals and pictograms all help the user to be aware of risk. These aids also can be used by a manufacturer as part of employee safety training.

4- Stay alert for new safety standards

It is important to stay abreast of new standards for equipment safety because best practices are constantly evolving.

Author : Atmane Laradi - Standards & Safety Advisor 

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