stopThere has been a growing requirement for advanced machinery safety strategies over the last number of years partly due to the increasing use of complex automation systems. It is fair to say however that additional regulatory requirements have played a greater part in changes in work practices around the use, maintenance, and operation of machinery. It is imperative that you, as an employer, realise what your responsibilities are under the current Irish legislation and EU Directives in place and also that you ensure that your employees go home in one piece at the end of their days’ work.
Irish Legislation relating to machinery safety has evolved rapidly over recent years. Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulation 2007 Chapter 2-Use of Work Equipment, as an employer you are required to ensure “any work equipment provided for use by employees at a place of work complies, as appropriate, with the provisions of any relevant enactment implementing any relevant Directive of the European Communities relating to work equipment with respect to safety and health”.

Practically speaking this requires that you as an employer must ensure that:

  • your machinery is designed, provided and maintained so as to be safe and without risk to health
  •  the use of any machinery is covered by a risk assessment
  • your equipment is complying with regulatory Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs)
  • all of your relevant personnel have the knowledge required to make informed decisions on machinery safety.

Be aware! A CE Mark doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe

The Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC requires that a CE mark be affixed to the machinery and the supplier is required to issue a Declaration of Conformance. It is important for employers (the users) to note however that CE marking is self-certification by the manufacturer. In other words the manufactures say it meets the Machinery Directive. Independent machinery studies and accidents have highlighted the problems of reliance on CE Marking only. It is important to note that machinery or assemblies to be incorporated into other machinery may not be CE Certified. In this case a Certificate of Incorporation will be issued by the manufacturer rather than a CE Certificate. The whole machine once assembled will then need to be CE Certified. Keep in mind the company assembling the equipment, the end users or employer themselves may be classified as manufacturers under the Directive.

Determining if you as the end user/employer are liable?

Your first concern when you are purchasing or building machinery should be to determine exactly who is going to take responsibility for the CE marking. This could be the main contractor, you the end user or an outside organisation. This point should be determined at the start of the contract and not after equipment is installed or running. Unfortunately, it is usually you as the end user that bears the brunt of any prosecution, should things go wrong. It is much easier for health and safety authorities to prosecute end users under Irish legislation than it is to prosecute manufacturers, especially those from outside of the EU. Under Irish legislation you as the end user should check that equipment supplied with CE marking actually meets the requirements. Keep in mind that the EU Machinery Directive is a “new approach’ Directive, which means that it lays down Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs), with which the manufacturer should endeavour to comply. The normal way they do this is to list the EHSRs with comments explaining how the machinery meets the requirement. The Directives are supported by European Normative Standards Click here to visit the National Standards Authority of Ireland’s standards.

Don’t just check that the CE mark is there. What you need to do

You should do an audit of the equipment and make sure that an attempt has been made to ensure the CE marking is correctly applied. You also need to check that the CE Certificate and the Technical File required by the Machinery Directive actually exists for the machine and that it contains the correct information including the EHSRs and an explanation of how the machine complies with them. In addition to the technical information the file should also contain design and use risk assessments and any other relevant studies carried out to determine the safety of the machinery.

Carrying out sufficient machinery safety risk assessment

Ultimately you the employer “the User” are responsible for ensuring a safe workplace, safe systems of work and safe plant & equipment. So depending on Machinery CE Certification ONLY is a dangerous strategy. As an employer under the General Application Regulations you need to ensure that you carry-out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the HAZARDS posed by the machine. Alternatively you could appoint a Certified Machinery Safety Expert (CMSE) to carry out the assessment.

Machinery Hazards can be broken typically in to 2 groups;

1. Mechanical Hazards (entanglement, crush injury, impact injury, shearing, severing, stabbing, cuts etc) and
2. Non-mechanical Hazards (electricity, hydraulics, pneumatics, temperature, noise, fire, explosion, vibration, radiation etc.)

The flow-charts below describes the machinery risk assessment process;

Mach Safe Flow 1

  • Determine the machine limits and purpose
  • Identify the hazards (mechanical and non-mechanical)
  • What is the Risk estimation and evaluation? Taking in to consideration likelihood of occurrence (frequency of exposure, probability of occurrence and possibility of avoiding injury) and severity
  • Implement controls both Technical (e.g. Hazard elimination, Guarding, Safety interlocks, Safety controls) and Organisational ( e.g. Information, instruction, training, permit to work, preventative maintenance) to ensure the machine is safe at all times:
  • Normal use
  • Abnormal use
  • Maintenance and cleaning

Risk Reduction Guide

Mac Safe flow 2
• Document risk assessment process and keep under review.

Buying a new machine- your H&S checklist

  • Determine who has the responsibility for the CE marking, especially if it is a complex assembly of machines.
  • Request the CE Certificate. Are all relevant machinery standards and other EU Directives referenced on the CE Certificate?
  • Request the Technical File. Do not expect the supplier to just give you a copy as there may be intellectual property issues.
  • Ensure that the Essential Health and Safety Requirement report and risk assessments are reviewed.
  • Ensure that there is a report detailing compliance of the machine safety control system with safety standards.
  • Request a copy of the functional safety software files especially if you need to modify the machine.

Tips for machinery safe systems at work

  • Choose the right machine for the job
  • Carry out a machinery risk assessment (by a competent person)
  • Ensure every static machine has been installed properly and is stable
  • Implement maintenance programs based on manufactures/ industry guidelines
  • Do not put machines where customers or visitors may be exposed to risk
  • Check that the machine has all safeguards fitted. By law the supplier must provide the right safeguards and inform you of any risks that users need to be aware of
  • Ensure machines can be properly switched off before taking any action to adjust the machine
  • Have emergency stop controls within easy reach
  • Ensure the work area around the machine is kept well lit, clean and tidy and free from obstructions or slips and trips hazards
  • Ensure all users and supervisors are properly trained and records are kept up to date
  • Never let unauthorised, unqualified or untrained people use machinery.
  • Ensure employees are wearing the appropriate protective clothing and equipment required
  • Ensure machines are CE marked and supplied with a Declaration of Conformity
  • Create a machine technical file and ensure this is maintained as the life of the machine progresses.
  • Keep a record of all programmable changes and maintenance and check they have been made properly

Ensuring you and your employees have the knowledge required to make informed decisions on machinery safety.

Occupli Consulting is a leading provider of Machinery Safety Support to many clients nationally. Our specialists provide practical advice, machinery risk assessments, competent person, training and machinery solutions to support your particular needs. Our team work to legislative requirements and benchmark against industry best practice. We can assist you in ensuring compliance with the Machinery (General Applications) Regulations.

Occupli Training now offers an IOSH approved two day course designed to provide you and your employees with the legislative and practical knowledge and skills required for the safe use of equipment and machinery in your workplace. Upon successful completion of the course you will receive your IOSH Certification on Machinery Safety. This will allow you to return to your workplace ready to implement your new machinery safety skills and knowledge.