Every employer has a duty to ensure their workplace is a safe place for its employees. In the case of any workplace which contains any industrial machinery, the importance is even more acute, as the chance of injury or death is typically far greater due to the nature of activity within a manufacturing or construction environment in particular.
While protective industrial guarding is there to reduce the chance of injury when using any applicable machinery, it can only do its job if it has been installed correctly, is maintained correctly and of course, is used correctly.
In addition, manufacturing is changing fast with automation and robots handling repetitive and sometimes dangerous tasks in place of human labour. With these changes in the warehouse as well as on the factory floor, it’s vital your machines are safe to use.
While it is essential to carry out an independent risk assessment of your workplace in line with HSE guidelines, here are some of the top factors that need to be considered when ensuring any protective industrial guarding is up to standard.
What Is A Risk Assessment?
At its core, risk assessment is about making workplaces safer. It looks to consider every possible way in which a person including employees or site visitors may be harmed due to exposure to any element within the workplace.
In summary, a risk assessment will seek to identify:
- Any aspect that may cause injury, illness or death within the business premises
- How likely it is that harm may occur and if so how serious the potential injury could be
- What actions need to be taken to eliminate or at least reduce the risks of injury, illness or death
Within protective industrial guarding specifically, any machinery has the potential to cause injury or death.
In 2021, the HSE reported that 14 people were killed in the UK due to contact with moving machinery, adding “The Manufacturing and the Transportation and storage sector have a rate of fatal injury around 1.5 and 2 times the average rate across all industries respectively.”
Therefore, a risk assessment will need to consider all those who set up the machine, operate the machine, maintain the machine or come in close contact with the machine (including site visitors).
Types Of Industrial Protective Machine Guarding
- Adjustable guards
- Fixed guards
- Interlocked guards
- Self-adjusting guards
Consider The Specific Risk Of Each Machine
Just as the types of industrial guarding will differ depending on the machine in question, so too will the possible risks associated with that machine, based on how it operates.
The first step is to consider how the machine could cause injury or death based on factors such as noise levels, vision damage, sharp edges, pulling motions, electrocution, burns, scalds, crush injuries or entrapment.
Aside from covering all the health and safety basics with your team, the risks that each type of machine presents must be made clear to all those who come into contact with any machinery.
Identify How The Risks Can Be Reduced Or Eliminated
Once good health and safety practices have been established through training and assessment, it’s time to focus on protective industrial guarding specifically. By law, the supplier of any industrial guards must also inform the user of any potential risks.
The dedicated health and safety officer needs to ensure that any required guards are present, fitted correctly and in good working order. This includes checking for faults, and that all applicable parts are CE marked and have been supplied with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English.
Consideration also needs to be paid in ensuring that the right machine has been selected for an appropriate application. Employees must not be exposed to risk due to a mismatch in output requirements.
Prevent Access To Dangerous Parts
The presence of industrial guards alone is no guarantee that enough is being done to prevent injury or death in the workplace.
For instance, the material of fixed guards is also crucial. Although plastic is see through and cheap to use, it is easily susceptible to damage. Likewise, when mesh is used, the holes must not be big enough to allow access to moving parts or for debris to fly through.
In any case, where a fixed guard isn’t practical, another type of guard such as an interlocking guard or automatic guard needs to be used. Where a guard cannot offer full protection, jigs, holders or push sticks may offer enhanced protection where applicable.
Protective Industrial Guarding UK – Metreel Material Handling
It is clear that machine guarding is there to do a very important job which is to protect employees or site visitors from harm from machinery. Sadly, when machine guarding is not used either at all or improperly, the risk of injury or death is far more likely. That’s why there can be no compromise on safety, and the correct use of protective industrial guarding is the first of many steps that all employers need to not only take but enforce throughout all operations.
Need any more help in relation to protective industrial guarding? Or want to know how to make your manufacturing operations safer and more efficient? Metreel is a leading manufacturer of material handling in the UK.
Based in Derbyshire, we operate not just across the East Midlands but on a global scale. So, if you are in search of the perfect material handling solutions for your business, or if you have any questions about protective industrial guarding in general, you’re in the right place.