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Guarding Against Temporary Hazards

17/09/2013

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Since the introduction of the Health & Safety at Work Act over 25 years ago and, more recently, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and the Supply of Machinery Regulations, there will be few users and builders of machinery who are ignorant of the need to guard machinery. Guards often perform multiple functions, including protecting operators and maintenance personnel from mechanical hazards, ejected parts, harmful fluids, radiation and noise. The quality of the guard design can significantly affect not only the standard of protection offered but also the productivity of the machinery; poorly designed guards invariably restrict output.

machine guardingAll new machinery sold in the EC must carry a CE mark. For this, the machine must be fitted with guarding that complies with the new harmonised standards that cover the design of guards, safety distances, interlocks and other factors that influence machinery safety. All existing machinery must be risk-assessed and, where necessary, the guarding must be upgraded to eliminate or reduce the hazards identified.

Jeremy Procter, Managing Director of Procter Machine Guarding, comments: “What many users and builders of machinery do not always fully appreciate is that they are equally responsible for guarding machinery during periods of machine building, testing, commissioning, maintenance, modification or decommissioning.”

He continues: “At these times it is often necessary to remove some or all of the guarding so as to gain adequate access. If the machinery is to be operated, even at a reduced speed or in jog mode, there is a need to protect personnel in the vicinity of the machine who are not directly involved in the work being carried out. In some cases, such as machinery with sharp blades, significant hazards can exist whether or not the machine is isolated from the power supply.”

Procter Machine Guarding provides temporary guarding that can be quickly and easily erected around virtually any hazard, then removed just as quickly when it is no longer required. The Procter system comprises freestanding panels and gates that are compact, lightweight and portable so that they can be easily stored, transported and erected by one person, but rugged enough that they will provide the necessary protection and can be reused time and again.

Each freestanding panel consists of a rigid tubular framework with welded mesh infill, together with hooks on one end and sockets on the opposite end so that each panel can be linked to its neighbour. Long straight runs of panels can be assembled with the broad-based foot on each panel ensuring stability, or the panels can be linked together at any angle to form an enclosure. Once the panels are in place, they are secured to each other with heavy-duty cable ties.

Standard panels are 1200 mm wide and are available in either 1400 mm or 2000 mm tall. Although the usual colour is a high-visibility yellow, panels in alternative colours can be produced to order.

Gate modules provide access to the enclosed area and are of similar construction to the panels but with a hinged gate 1000 mm wide. A padlock facility is provided to ensure that only authorised personnel can access the hazardous area, or more sophisticated access control methods can be employed if necessary.

In addition to the standard panels and gates described above, Procter Machine Guarding can also provide other components and accessories to the customer’s specification. Typical examples include panels of different height or width; panels with clear polycarbonate infill; simple brackets that enable the temporary screen to be built out from a wall; or adapters that allow three or more panels to meet at one point.

Procter temporary guard panels have been successfully used with equipment such as very large machine tools and paper making machinery, where the strict control of personnel access is required during machine build and commissioning at the OEM’s site (see OEM guards project). One user of temporary guarding is the Ford Motor Company, which fenced off areas within its Bridgend plant while machinery was under construction. Guarding is often the last part of a production line to be installed, yet commissioning has to start as early as possible; temporary guarding is often the only practical solution to providing a safe working environment.

Jeremy Procter highlights another situation where temporary screens could prove invaluable: “If the HSE has found some existing guarding to be inadequate, installing temporary guarding could be preferable to shutting down the machinery. With temporary guarding in place, production could continue while a permanent solution is designed and installed – which is a massive benefit to the plant operator.”

A significant proportion of machinery-related accidents occur during installation, commissioning, maintenance or modification. For example, between 1993 and 1999 there were 122 fatal accidents at machinery, of which 50 percent were associated with maintenance. It is therefore essential to take appropriate steps to limit access to authorised personnel only. Temporary screens are a simple, quick, cost-effective solution that provides improved safety but without hindering the work taking place.

For more information about the temporary screen system from Procter Machine Guarding, please contact Procter Machine Safety.

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