Guards are fitted on machinery as a control measure to prevent the risk of accident or injury caused by contact with moving parts.
Yet according to an HSE survey, a significant minority think that guarding slows down production (9%), do not think that guarding is to prevent unsafe operation (12%) and take no action if staff do not work safely with machinery (6%).
The operation of dangerous work equipment requires the use of machine guards and other safety devices, as specified under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Machine guarding is covered by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). Regulation 11 states that measures must be taken which ‘prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar,’ or ‘stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone’.
It is worth noting that this requirement under health and safety law is to do what is ‘practicable’ – not ‘reasonably practicable’ – to comply. This means that unlike many of the employer’s duties under health and safety law, there can be no argument about the time, cost or inconvenience it takes to make sure guards are used.
The only justification can be whether there is no technical solution to protect workers from the dangerous machinery in question.
One of the most common areas of risk with the use of machinery is human intervention by the operator:
- if guards have not been properly reinstated following cleaning or maintenance
- as a result of overconfidence and/or
- negligence, where an operator thinks he can work faster or better without the guard in place
It is imperative that employers monitor work with dangerous machine parts closely and at regular intervals. It is essential to carry out regular inspections to ensure the safe operation of guards and safety devices and ensure that operators are provided with all the information, instruction, training and supervision that is necessary.
INDG291 Simple Guide to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (HSE Books, 1999) ISBN: 0 7176 2429 3.