Machine safety for small business: assess your safeguarding in 4 easy steps

Oct 06, 2016

machine safetyIt's just 2.5 minutes in length, but WSPS' video Assess Your Safeguarding in Four Easy Steps provides crucial information on how to keep your employees safe from machine hazards.

While injuries involving machines are not the most common, "they tend to be very traumatic," says WSPS machine safety specialist Michael Wilson. Case in point: just last month a 23-year-old temporary worker was killed after being crushed by machinery. The Ministry of Labour issued six work orders, one of which involved safeguarding hazards.

Here are four key steps captured in the video that you and your machine operators can undertake together.

4 steps to assessing hazards

Based on his experience, Michael says workplaces of any size often miss one or more of the steps when assessing their machine guarding. Each step is important because they work hand in hand to create a safe working environment.

1. Consider all hazards associated with a given machine. While mechanical hazards are important, don't overlook others, says Wilson. "For example, using a table saw could result in cuts and amputations, but also hearing loss, splinters, airborne sawdust, kickback if material catches on the blade, and so on."

When it comes to mechanical hazards, "think MAC," suggests Michael.

  • Is there Motion?
  • Is there Access?
  • Is there a Consequence?

If you can confirm all three, the machine needs safeguarding.

2. Use risk to guide your safeguarding decisions. "Once you've identified the hazards, assess the level of risk," says Michael. Knowing the level of risk will help you prioritize prevention efforts.

Risk considers the severity and likelihood of exposure to a given hazard, which will vary depending on the task. "For example, a machine operator may face a different scenario than maintenance staff."

Michael explains that typically the machine operator is doing something predictable - loading parts, closing the door, letting the machine finish a cycle - that process is usually well safeguarded. But maintenance workers might be doing something unique, like replacing a part on a machine that is still hot. They could burn themselves if they don't recognize the hazard.

"Once the task and hazard combination is determined," says Michael, "estimating the risk can help you determine risk reduction measures, which can include safeguarding."

3. Ensure safeguarding is effective. "In some cases, safeguarding disappears or is bypassed due to poor design or lack of consideration for how a task is performed." A properly selected safeguard will allow the operator to complete a task safely.

Check a different machine whenever you walk through. Assess the safeguards with the AUTO test. "Could someone reach Around, Under, Through or Over the safeguard and still access the hazard?" Also use the AUTO test when installing safeguards. "Before your barrier, light curtain or area scanner is in place, consider the AUTO test."

4. Use consensus standards to design your solution. "Standards go beyond the legislation. They talk about risk assessment and provide ideas on how to guard and reduce risk. CSA has standards to help guide safeguarding with power presses, robots and general safeguarding. ANSI and ISO also have equipment-specific standards."

How WSPS can help