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Explaining the Difference Between Machine Guarding Standard ISO 14120 and EN 953, The Standard It Replaces

Jeremy Procter, a member of standards committees ISO/TC 199/WG 6 (Safety distances and ergonomic aspects) and BSI MCE/3 (Safeguarding of machinery), and Managing Director of Procter Machine Guarding explains how ISO 14120, the international standard for machine guards, differs from the standard it replaces, EN 953.  

Heller 4500 Machine Guards

Heller 4500 Machine Guards

It is anticipated that by the end of 2014 the international standard ISO 14120:2014 (and BS EN ISO 14120:2014 in the UK), Safety of machinery – Guards – General requirements for the design, construction and selection of fixed and movable guards will supersede and replace the Harmonised European standard EN 953:1997+A1 (and BS EN 953:1997+A1 in the UK).  Soon after the new standard has been published, it is expected to be Harmonised as a European Standard (EN ISO 14120) and published in the Official Journal (OJ) of the European Union.  It will, therefore, provide a presumption of conformity with certain Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.  Whereas EN 953 was a European Standards, ISO 14120 is an International Standard (the UK equivalent from BSI will be BS EN ISO 14120), so machine builders exporting outside the European Union are likely to benefit by only having to design builders exporting outside the European Union are likely to benefit by only having to design and manufacture in compliance with one main guarding standard.  This present article highlights the key differences between the new and old standards and the implications for machine builders, but there are also other minor changes that could be significant for some machine builders.  It should be borne in mind that machine builders are responsible for ensuring that they comply with current standards unless they have a very good reason for not doing so.

Although it is a relatively small point, it should be noted that the standard’s title has changed.  Whereas EN 953 was titled Safety of machinery – Guards – General requirements for the design and construction of fixed and movable guards, the new ISO 14120 is titled Safety of machinery – Guards – General requirement for the design, construction and selection of fixed and movable guards.  The inference is that the standard is equally applicable when selecting standard guards or guard components – for example when assembling a perimeter guard by using elements from a modular guarding system.

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    Most of ISO 14120 will feel familiar for engineers used to working with EN 953.  The majority of clauses are similar, though the old clause 7, Additional design and construction consideration, has been removed, with its contents being incorporated within clauses 5, General requirements for the design and construction of guards.  The next two clauses, Verification of the safety requirements for guards and Information for use, have been renumbered from 8 to 7 and 9 to 8, respectively.

    In contrast, the annexes have been heavily revised.  The EN 953 Annex A, Guidelines to assist in the selection of guards against hazards generated by moving parts, has been removed, as has Annex B, Guidelines for the selection of guards according to the number and location of hazards.  ISO 14120 benefits from three new annexes, all of which are informative only: Annex A, Examples of retained fastenings (which is, in fact, little more than the illustration previously found in EN 953 sub-clause 7.2); Annex B, Examples of test methods; and the untitled Annex C, which contain information relating to the testing of guards.


    The introduction to ISO 14120 has been redrafted, giving a better explanation of Type-A, Type-B and Type-C standards, and stating that ISO 14120 is a Type-B2 standard (EN 953 only referred to itself as a Type-B standard).  Whereas EN 953 makes it clear that the designer shall manage risks by identifying risks, assessing those risks and reducing risks by design before considering safeguards, ISO 14120 makes no reference to risk management in the Introduction, except to say that guards provide a risk reduction for both protection against unintended across and against ejected parts and substances, and those guards can also protect against other hazards such as noise, fire, biological hazards and radiation.  Note, however, that clause 4, Risk assessment, remains virtually unchanged.

    1. Scope

    As with the standard’s title, the scope in ISO 14120 refers to the selection of guards in addition to their design and construction.

    2. Normative references

    With the most recent amendment to EN 953 being published in 2009, it is not surprising that the normative references have changed significantly.  The following European standards were all referenced in EN 953 but are not in ISO 14120 (NB they are all still current Harmonised standards and, therefore, continue to provide a presumption of conformity with certain Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC):

    • EN 349, Safety of machinery.  Minimum gaps to avoid crushing of parts of the human body
    • EN 626-1, Safety of machinery.  Reduction of risks to health from Hazardous substances emitted by machinery.  Principles and specifications for machinery manufacturers. *
    • EN 1127-1, Explosive atmospheres.  Explosion prevention and protection.  Basic concepts and methodology **
    • EN 1672-2, Food processing machinery.  Basic concepts.  Hygiene requirements ***

    * Although EN 626-1 is still current (BS EN 626-1:1994+A1:2008 in the UK), one of the normative references in ISO 14120 is ISO 14123-1, Safety of machinery – Reduction of risks to health from hazardous substances emitted by machinery – Part 1: Principles and specifications for machinery manufacturers.  ISO 14123-1:1998 is current but a new version is in development.  

    ** EN 1127-1 is not included in the normative references but it is included in the Bibliography in ISO 14120.

    *** Although EN 1672-2 is still current (BS EN 1672-2:2005+A1:2009 in the UK), one of the normative references is ISO 14120 is ISO 14159, Safety of machinery.  Hygiene requirements for the design of machinery.  ISO 14159:2002 is current and is not due for review until 2017).

    One other notable change to the normative references in ISO 14120 is the addition of the following, for which there was no equivalent in EN 953:
    ISO 13855, Safety of machinery.  Positioning of safeguards with respect to the approach speeds of parts of the human body (NB the European equivalent EN ISO 13855:2010 is Harmonised to the Machinery Directive).

    3. Terms and Definitions

    Throughout this clause, there are minor changes to the text, but the following is worth highlighting:

    Control guard – this was defined as a type of movable guard in EN 953 (3.3.3) but its definition has been moved to 3.5.1 in ISO 14120 so it is now classed as a type of interlocking guard.

    4. Risk Assessment

    There are no substantive changes to this clause.

    5. General requirements for the design and construction of guards

    5.1.2, Access to danger zones, lists examples of reasons for access to hazard zones.  Whereas EN 953 included ‘process observation’ in the list, ISO 14120 does not list this, the inference being that guarding should be designed to provide sufficient process visibility.

    5.1.3, Containment of ejected parts and other impacts, has been rewritten and now states that guards shall, as far as practicable, be designed to withstand impacts from parts of machinery and impacts from the operator, as well as impacts from ejection of parts (for example, the workpiece or broken tooling).  Note that EN 953 did refer to impacts from parts of the machinery and from the operator in subclauses 5.5.2, Impact resistance.

    5.1.7 has been extended; whereas in EN 953 this clause was Explosions, in ISO 14120 it is Potentially explosive atmospheres.  As well as referring to the guarding containing or relieving an explosion within the machine, the standard now also states that the guard shall not be an ignition source.  There is also a note about guards designed to protect against fire and a reference to ISO 19353.

    5.3, Guard design and construction aspects have been expanded to incorporate the subclauses previously found within EN 953 subclause 5.4, Guard construction aspects.  The new subclauses are therefore: 5.3.7, Sharp edges, etc; 5.3.8, Integrity of joints; 5.3.9, Removal of fixed guards; 5.3.10, Mounting of removable fixed guards; 5.3.11, Adjustable guards; 5.3.12, Movable guards; 5.3.13, Closed position of movable guards; and 5.3.14, Interlocking guards with a start function (control guards).

    Of these, 5.3.9, Removal of fixed guards, has been expanded beyond what was in EN 953 (5.4.3, Removal only by tool).  In particular, ISO 14120 makes it clear that quick-release fasteners such as quarter-turn screws shall not be used to secure fixed guards from outside the guarded area (though there is nothing in the standard to prohibit the use of such fasteners if they are accessed from inside the guards).

    In 5.3.11, Adjustable guards, there is a new requirement: automatically adjustable guards shall, as far as practicable, be designed to prevent the automatic adjustment being defeated – though there is a note stating that it will not be possible in all cases to prevent automatically adjustable guards from being defeated, bypassed or rendered non-operational in an easy way.

    5.3.14, Interlocking guards with a start function (control guards) (in EN 953 the equivalent subclauses was 5.4.9, Control guards), contains only two indented points compared with five in the old standard.  However, the points that are not included here are covered by ISO 12100:2010, subclause, the requirements of which must be met in addition to the two points made in ISO 14120 subclause 5.3.14.

    5.13, Guards with electrically conductive parts, is a new subclause for which there was no equivalent in EN 953.  This subclause states that where guards are made of an electrically conductive material used in electrically powered machines, they may need to be considered as ‘extraneous conductive parts of the machine’ according to IEC 60204-1:2005 clause 8.  Guard designers will, therefore, need to have knowledge of the machine being guarded and refer to IEC 60204-1:2005 to decide whether or not the guards need to be included in the protective bonding circuit.

    5.18, Climbing, is a new clause in subclause 5 but is the equivalent of 7.1 in EN 953.

    5.19, Retained fastenings, is a new subclause in clause 5 but is the equivalent of 7.2 in EN 953.  However, the new text includes an explanation of when the requirement to use retained fastenings does not necessarily apply, such as guards that are only likely to be removed when the machinery is completely overhauled, is subject to major repairs or is dismantled for transfer to another site.  In addition, ISO 14120 states that the requirement to use retained fastenings may not be applicable if the manufacturer’s instructions specify that the repairs requiring removal of the casings are only to be carried out in a specialist repair shop and the fastenings, as far as practicable, shall only to removable by use of a tool (and remember that ‘tool’ is defined in subclause 3.7 as ‘implement such as a key or wrench designed to open and close a fastener’).  The final point to note about subclause 5.19 is that whereas the equivalent subclause 7.2 in EN 953 included an illustration of an example of a retained fastening, there is no illustration in ISO 14120 clause 5.19, though there is a new (informative only) illustrated Annex A, Examples of retained fastenings.

    5.20, Vibration resistance, is a new subclause in clause 5 but is the equivalent of 7.3 in EN 953.

    5.21, Warning signs, is a new clause in subclause 5 but is the equivalent of 7.4 in EN 953.

    5.22, Colour, is a new subclause in clause 5 that expands on the equivalent subclause 7.5 in EN 953.

    5.23, Appearance, is a new subclause in clause 5 but is similar to 7.6, Aesthetics, in EN 953.  However, the new subclause 5.23 is more explicit, stating that guards shall be designed so that they do not add adverse physiological and psychological effects.

    6. Selection of types of guards

    In subclause 6.1, General, there is an important new addition to the indented points: one of the most important selection criteria is now ‘the foreseeable misuse and defeat of the guards’.  Although foreseeable misuse ought to be covered in the formal risk assessment, adding this requirement to ISO 14120 serves as a useful reminder to machine guard designers and specifiers.

    Subclause 6.3, Selection of guard according to the number and size of the hazards, has been redrafted and is now much clearer.  There is no longer a prioritised list of guards, though the redrafted clause does indicate the top priority by means of this opening statement: ‘Where practicable hazards shall be guarded by enclosing guards’.  Because the prioritised list has been dispensed with, so has the corresponding Annex B from EN 953, Guidelines for the selection of guards according to the number of location of hazards. 

    Subclause 6.4, Selection of guards according to the nature and frequency of access required also includes changes.  In subclause 6.4.1, General, there is now a reference to ISO 12100 for requirements and guidelines on the selection of guards.  Because subclause 6.4 has been redrafted, the EN 953 Annex A, Guidelines to assist in the selection of guards against hazards generated by moving parts, has not been carried over to ISO 14120.

    There are two important changes in subclause ( in EN 953), Where access is required only for machine setting, process correction or maintenance:

    • first, EN 953 states that movable guards should be used if the frequency of access is ‘high (e.g. more than once per shift)’ but now ISO 14120 defines ‘high’ as ‘e.g. more than once per week’;
    • second, in EN 953 fixed guards should only be used ‘if the foreseeable frequency of access is low, its replacement is easy, and its removal and replacement are carried out under a safe system of work’, with no definition provided for ‘low’, so users were left to assume that ‘low’ is any frequency that falls outside the scope of ‘high’.  In contrast, ISO 14120 defines ‘low’ as ‘e.g. less than once per week’.

    There is an ambiguity here that raises the question of whether fixed or movable guards should be used if access is required once per week (not more, not less), as this is a foreseeable situation (maintenance, calibration, checking/adjustment might all be scheduled to take place weekly).  It could be argued that the machine designer should err on the side of safety and specify movable guards rather than fixed guards that are removed and replaced under a safe system of work.  On the other hand, the designer may be tempted to save costs by installing fixed guards that do not require hinges or linear bearings, or the interlock, wiring and additional inputs on the safety-related control system.

    The other issue here is that under EN 953 the frequency of access was considered to be high if access was required more than once per shift; In contrast, ISO 14120 redefines ‘high’ as once per week, which could result in many more machines meeting this criterion and therefore having to be equipped with movable rather than fixed guards.  The implications for design and manufacturing costs could be considerable.

    7. Verification of the safety requirements for guards

    The first point to note in subclause 7.1, General (equivalent to 8.1 in EN 953) is that the standard now states ‘The aspects of guard design and construction shall be subject to verification by examination, inspection, testing or calculation’; in contrast, EN 953 referred only to ‘Certain aspects of guard design and construction’, so manufacturers must now verify all aspects.

    In addition, there is a new note saying some test methods mentioned in the informative annexes B and C contain optional requirements but, unless a Type=C standard specifies these requirements for certain machines, there is no need to comply with these optional requirements in order to claim compliance with this standard.  In ISO 14120, Annex B is Example of test method and Annex C gives more information about test methods, equipment and reporting of test results.

    The remainder of ISO 14120 clause 7 has been heavily revised compared with EN 953 clause 8.  Whereas EN 953 contained short clauses relating to the verification of impact strength, safety distance, containment, noise, guard operating forces and visibility, ISO 14120 provides a non-exhaustive list of five methods by which verification and validation can be satisfied:

    • Visual inspection
    • Practical tests
    • Measurement
    • Observation during operation
    • Review of task-based risk assessment; Review of specifications, layout and documentation

    What follows is a substantial table listing the more than 60 safety requirements and/or measures for guards that are given in clause 5 and that require validation, together with cross-references to the relevant subclauses; a column is provided for each of the verification and/or validation methods and crosses indicate which methods are appropriate.  Users can select one of the indicated methods and use it to evaluate whether the requirement has been adequately met by the design and construction of the guard.

    This requirement for a more formalised validation/verification process is likely to have cost implication due to the time that will be required.

    8. Information for Use

    The subclauses include small changes to the text.  Subclauses 8.3, Installation, has been expanded to give examples of the information to be provided in relation to fixings for guards.  Subclauses 8.6, Inspection and maintenance, now includes a statement that ‘deformed or damaged parts shall be repaired or replaced if the damage has a negative influence on safety’.

    Annex A, Examples of retained fastenings

    As mentioned above, the illustrated examples of retained fastenings are now provided in an informative annexe, rather than being included within the body of the standard.

    Annex B, Example of test method

    This is a new informative annexe that gives guidance on testing guards for their performance in terms of containing parts of the machine (including the workpiece, fluids and fumes) within the guarded zone, rather than preventing persons from accessing dangerous parts of the machine.  Annex B gives information about the mechanical testing of guards, and guidance for testing guard materials that may be subject to impact from high-velocity projectiles.

    Annex C

    Annex C is a new informative annexe (with no title) relating to testing of guards.  The test methods described in Annex C are applicable only to guards where an impact hazard exists, whether that impact comes from inside or outside the guarded area.  This annexe applies to both guard materials and complete guards (such as perimeter fencing) and comprises two sections:

    C.1 General information about test methods testing construction of fixed and interlocked movable guards
    C.2 Pendulum test

    Most of the text and all of the illustrations in Annex C relate to the pendulum test.


    Numerous changes have been made to the bibliography (International and European standards, either published or in preparation, which can be helpful in the design and commissioning of guards).  In general, the standards that were listed in the EN 953 bibliography that has not been carried across ISO 14120 include those covering vibration, the integral lighting of machines, degrees of protection for enclosures, and acoustics.  In contrast, the standards listed in the ISO 14120 bibliography that were not listed in EN 953 cover ergonomics, minimum gaps to avoid crushing of parts of the human body, prevention of unexpected startup, hygiene requirements, fire prevention and protection, explosion prevention and protection, and screens for protection when using welding and lasers.

    In Conclusion

    Engineers familiar with EN 953 will find it easy to adapt to using ISO 14120 because the two are very similar in terms of content, even though some subclauses has been moved.  Nevertheless, there are significant changes as outlined above, the results of which could be more use of movable guards instead of fixed guards (hence higher costs) and a more onerous validation/verification procedure to be followed.  Also, where some fixed guards had previously been held in place by quick-release fasteners if those fixed guards are not now redesigned as movable guards, the choice of fasteners may have to be reconsidered.  There could be a transition period during which EN 953 remains valid even after ISO 14120 has been published and Harmonised to the Machinery Directive, but machine guard designers are strongly advised to check their designs now in case they have to be modified to comply with the ISO 14120.

    Procter Machine Guarding is the UK’s leading machinery guarding specialist.  The company has published numerous guides and White Papers relating to machine guarding and machinery safety standards, all of which can be downloaded free of charge.  Alternatively, contact Procter Machine Guarding to discuss specific machine guarding requirements by telephoning us or emailing [email protected].

    Useful resources

    All can be downloaded from www.machinesafety.co.uk/free-downloads or email [email protected]

    Machinery Guards White Paper 3 – Differences Between BS EN 953 and BS EN ISO 14120
    Explaining what changes have been introduced in BS EN ISO 14120, which replaces and supersedes BS EN 953.

    Machinery Guards White Paper 7 – BS EN ISO 14122
    Note that the standard is sometimes incorrectly referred to as, for example, BS 14122, EN 14122 or BS EN 14122, but the correct usage in the UK is BS EN ISO 14122.

    Machinery Guards White Paper 8 – Acoustic Enclosures
    The Machinery Directive lays down requirements not just for machinery but also for safety components. Annex V contains an indicative list of safety components and this includes noise/vibration reduction systems.

    Free Risk Assessment Calculator
    Based on the requirements of BS EN ISO 12100 and designed to be simple to use.

    Free Safety Distance Calculator
    Establishes machine guard safety distances and heights in accordance with BS EN ISO 13857.

    Free Guide to the New Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC
    To help companies comply with the Directive that came into force on 29 December 2009.

    Free White Paper: Machinery Directive and Fixings for Fixed Guards
    Explaining the amended requirements for Guard Fixings under the new Machinery Directive.

    Free White Paper: CE Marking of Machine Guards
    Explaining the requirements relating to CE marking of guards under the Machinery Directive.

    Free White Paper: EN 349, Minimum Gaps to Avoid Crushing
    Explaining the requirements of the standard for minimum gaps to prevent crushing.

    Free White Paper: Conveyor Guarding
    Explaining the hazards associated with conveyors, regulations and standards, and how to safeguard conveyors without adversely affecting productivity.

    Free White Paper: The 2014 Edition of PD 5304
    Explaining the changes in the new edition of BSI’s Guidance on safe use of machinery.

    Free Guide to Work Shop Safety
    A guide to guarding small machine tools typically used in workshops.

    Free Machine Accident Investigation Kit
    To help companies meet their statutory obligations and prevent future accidents.

    Free Ergonomics Guidance
    European Commission publication Guidance on the application of the essential health and safety requirements on ergonomics.
    Download: http://eceuropa.eu/growth/sectors/mechanical-engineering/machinery/index_ex.htm