Risk assessment is a process that manufacturers of machinery use to evaluate their equipment for potential health and safety hazards before a hazard can cause an accident or incident. Many end users now require risk assessments as part of the procurement process, wanting to make sure they have taken all steps necessary to reduce potential harmful accidents. Blades, gears, grinders, conveyors, robots, etc., all can potentially pose risk to operators and maintenance personal. Noise levels and electrical hazards can be problematic as well.
Beyond regular operation of the machinery, safety hazards also do occur when operators and maintenance personnel have to stop the machine for changeovers, to clear jams, or to clean or perform routine maintenance.
Manuals for training, warning labels, guards, alarms and E-stops are all critical, but even with this risk reduction measures sometimes accidents still occur. In the event a litigation case results, the OEM and end user can be called on in court to prove they were aware of the risks, and instituted reasonable measures to protect against any harm. Having a documented risk assessment can be extremely valuable in such cases.
Risk assessment is required for compliance to the ANSI/PMMI B155.1-2016 standard and for compliance with the EU machinery directive 2006/42/EC. PMMI has expanded the scope of the PMMI risk assessment training program to include the important issues that generate the most questions from PMMI members.
Attendees came for many reasons. “I’m new to risk assessment and I want to become more involved in safety,” said one OEM. “Customers are requesting it and I want to make sure we’re going down the right path”
One project engineer from a food packaging machinery OEM came to get a better understanding of risk assessment so he could explain it to his customers.
Many come just to make sure they are doing everything the right way.
An EE manager from a global OEM said, “we want to learn how to harmonize safety requirements around the world, and to understand how different customer specs may influence safety efforts.”
Trainers Fred Hayes and Bruce Main led the two-day workshop that touched on global standards, risk assessment basics, legal implications of risk assessment, control systems, etc. But the hands-on portion where attendees can use the Packsafe/designSafe® software is where the rubber meets the road.
Now in its eighth version, the software guides users to identify various types of hazards, to assess the risks and to develop appropriate risk reduction measures to reduce risk to an acceptable level. The risk assessment process is already baked into the decision trees. But all choices are editable to fit your particular operation if need be.
Participants are able to work on their own projects in the class and walk through a risk assessment. You can actually watch as attendees progress from newbies to having a solid understanding of the ins and outs of risk assessment.
“Some users can get lost in the weeds,” said instructor Fred Hayes. “The software actually issues a warning if your risk assessment starts to get too ponderous.”
PMMI also offers in-house risk assessment training for companies that want more of their people to get up to speed on the current requirements. “In house training is where the real issues come out and can be freely discussed. It usually gets really interesting, and is quite effective in getting to practical solutions,” quipped instructor Main.
While some may approach risk assessment as an exercise to “check off the box,” Hayes says those OEMs who embrace the process design and build better machines.