Potentially dangerous machines are used in many industries to facilitate important work. When human beings work in close quarters with such equipment, great care has to be taken to keep things as safe as possible.
There are a variety of tools and techniques that can be used to make particular machines safer for people to work with and around. The most successful and effective of these reflect four basic, well-established principles.
The Machine Safety Situation Has Been Improving
Fatalities caused by industrial machines have been trending steadily downward for quite a few years. One particularly significant reason for this is that awareness of what it takes to remain safe around machines has been spreading all the while.
Resources like the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s “Basics of Machine Safeguarding” make it clear that keeping people safe from machines can be accomplished by respecting a handful of crucial ideas. Although they can be labeled in a variety of ways, these four principles of machine safeguarding are often described as:
· Isolation. Effective safeguards need to be able to isolate human beings from whichever parts of machines might harm them. A properly designed safety door like the one described at Dynatect.com can rule out many threats by decisively enforcing isolation. When workers are completely and unalterably isolated from potentially hazardous areas and systems, even severe breaches of safety guidelines can occur without anyone being injured. Isolation can be thought of as the most foundational of the four basic machine safety principles.
· Accommodation. A machine safeguard that substantially interferes with the intended purpose of the equipment in question will never be acceptable. Safeguards need to be designed to accommodate the usual, desired function of machines if they are to be useful in practice. This does not need to mean supporting every conceivable usage pattern, however. Instead, safeguards have to be designed to accommodate whichever applications of a machine are most important in particular situations.
· Security. Even machine safeguards which do an excellent job of accommodating real-world usages will sometimes attract the attention of those who would rather disable them. Machine safeguards have to incorporate security features that make them difficult or impossible to defeat under normal and even extraordinary circumstances. A safeguard which is overly easy to disable can end up being useless just when it is needed the most.
· Freedom from compromises. It is entirely possible to design machine safeguards which eliminate certain dangers while giving rise to others. With very few exceptions, this should never be considered adequate. In addition to the direct threat that such a safeguard will pose to people, it can encourage the view that safety-related compromises are acceptable. Even where the dangers that are introduced seem insignificant in comparison to those that have been guarded against, another approach should be sought.
Working Toward the Injury- and Fatality-Free Machinery of the Future
Respect for these four fundamentally important principles has helped make many machines and workplaces safer for human beings. Even if the goal can never be achieved in reality, aiming to make machine-inflicted injuries impossible has proved to be a highly effective approach. As a result, today’s workers are far safer than was typical of the recent past and those of the future will be even more so.