Machine Safeguarding Increases Productivity

More Efficient Manufacturing

Safety does not have to come at the expense of productivity. Machine safeguarding can help increase overall efficiency. When you take the time to build a culture of safety, your success will show in reduced workers compensation costs and a prevailing attitude of commitment towards safety first.

Horizon Solutions was aware one of our customers had been assessed a relatively large OSHA fine. Our team reached out and offered help. The customer had robotic cells that needed to be better protected, but they were not sure how to balance the costs to get the improvements that were required.

At this point, the customer faced a challenge that was not unique to them: “Where do we start?”  As with many customers, there was not a dedicated “Safety Professional.”  Sometimes, there is a corporate safety professional based in another facility. Other times, it is a team effort of a local plant manager, an engineer, and others. For this particular customer, many of the employees were assigned to safety. The task of making a change was given to their safety committee and one lead engineer who gladly accepted our help when we reached out.

Risk Assessments are the Foundation of Safety

The team at Horizon Solutions explained our risk assessments, machine safeguarding, and overall machine safety capabilities. Over a nine-month period, we became a valued partner in educating the lead engineer in the process of risk assessment and risk mitigation.  He had many locations to work on, but had a plan of attack, and successfully implemented the required changes.  All while interfacing with our team and his committee.

Sometimes it does take time to build an enduring culture of safety, but that is always our goal. So where does one start?  Risk Assessments are the foundation on which to start.  It is an onsite review of machines, equipment, controls, and processes to understand the current risk level. A Risk Assessment can be conducted by a trained professional or facility personnel can be educated in the process and do it themselves. The process typically involves checklist findings based on standards compliance.

Functional Safety

When it comes to machine safety, there are many ways to mitigate risk while keeping production throughput high.  The term for this is functional safety. In fact, it is proven that many companies with very tight safety controls have higher uptime rates than other non-safety minded facilities. This is because the entire machine is analyzed in the assessment process, rather than just placing barriers at each hazard. Looking at the machine as a system ensures all modes of operation are considered; functionality is not compromised and production rates remain high.

Functional safety can feature a variety of safety systems: laser scanners, configurable safety relays, light curtains, and a host of associated connectivity solutions. These systems all integrate into the overall electrical control system. In the world of Machine Safety, there is also “hard guarding” to complement the electrical safety control system. Example of what we mean by “hard guarding.”

A year removed from dealing with OSHA fines, this customer is now fully engaged in building a culture of safety within their organization. They have installed efficient and effective safety systems based on data-driven risk management findings. We work closely with their team to address all types of safety questions, and we are proud and happy to help keep them safe!

For more web-based information on machine safety go to machinesafetysolutions.com you’ll find many useful resources:

  • Pre-engineered safety functions for common safety applications (downloadable)
  • Safety Automation Builder, a free software tool to help simplify machine safety design and validation
  • Controls Architecture examples
  • A Safety Maturity Index

And don’t forget, we’re a resource. Contact a Safety Specialist with any of your machine safety questions.

How has your company succeeded in building an enduring culture of safety? What challenges have you faced along the way?

About the author

Tom Hopkins
Tom Hopkins

Tom is an Automation Specialist based in Maine. His dedicated specialties include sensors, machine safety, and industrial controls. Tom has spent 20+ years in the world of industrial automation and machine safety, with roles focused on pneumatics and fluid power in addition to electrical controls and safety. Tom recently completed advanced Functional Safety training and can add “Certified TUV Technician #319/15” to his long listing of qualifications.