Industrial automated machines are typically designed and built to solve a problem related to improving quality, streamlining processes, or minimizing scrap rates. In any machine design, safety needs to be part of the equation and not left up to chance forcing the customer to accept the shifted responsibility of safety.
There is a wide array of automated machines designed and built that would require compliance driven safety devices. These machines consist of, but not limited to, single and multi-station assembly machines, custom inspection and test equipment, modular paint and spray booths, conveyor systems, robotic work cells, stamping and engraving equipment, motion and drive systems, and chemical dispensing machines.
Building automated equipment can range from simple to complex systems consisting of mechanically operated, electrically controlled, fluid power logic, or a combination of any of those control types. Each system can present a different type or a combination of hazards consisting of pinch points, crush points, shear points, wrap points, cut points, pull-in points, thrown objects, and stored energy. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and by shifting the responsibility of safety due to complacency can result in injury or death as a result of reactive human nature.
OEMs that understand the value of safety will include these features in their designs. However, sometimes they feel like their hands are tied trying to do the right thing because the customer is not willing to take on what they consider to be an extra expense. The desire to get an order cannot trump a customer’s decision to sidestep any safety measures. The machine builder must stand firm on this decision for the greater good of the customer and their assets preventing injury, death, litigation, penalties, settlements, increased worker’s comp rates, lost time wages, and life-long pain from deprioritizing the value of safety.
A misconception of machine safety is that is slows the process down and hinders the reason for building the new equipment. This perception develops reluctancy of including this piece in the design thinking it will diminish the positive results when presented to the customer. There is a wide array of machine guarding options that include physical machine guarding, safety switches, safety light curtains, safety laser scanners, safety mats, as well as numerous techniques of cutting-edge safety integrated systems. With all of these start-of-the-art options available, the machine builder has the ability to integrate safety that fits with the machine functionality, create a controls reliable system, and provide a machine to the customer that meets or exceeds the compliance regulations of OSHA.
When safety is not included and a challenge presents itself, the results have proven catastrophic. Reluctancy to accept the responsibility due to the costly liabilities will cause people to point fingers, aka “the industrial coat of arms”. Safety is a critical piece of the puzzle when building custom machines and should be factored in at the time of the build. It is vital to choose the right company for your automated equipment builds to ensure a full package, including machine safety as part of the recipe, that meets or exceeds customer needs.
Authored and self-published by Shawn Mantel, Owner / Operator at PowerSafe Automation
Shawn Mantel is the owner and author of the @powersafeautomation blog posts, where he helps to educate and spark ideas with workers on how to improve workplace safety through turnkey safety guarding solutions.
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