Who Performs an Industrial Machine Risk Assessment?
Facilities must create a risk assessment team made up of top-level experts in their fields and then must ensure that the team has proper training according to the regulating bodies.
A risk assessment (RA) for a machine is an effective safety procedure for ensuring a safe working environment. A successful RA depends on many factors, including the team performing the RA. The team is mandated to inspect all machine’s functions, output, and performance. A top-level representative supports the RA team to facilitate resource availability or to grant permission where required.
For a successful RA, the team must qualify in performing RA. Members should understand the basics of RA and its purpose and scope. They must be capable enough to point out any slight problem that other department persons may miss.
Figure 1. Team members should be subject-matter experts in their respective fields.
The team can characterize the identified risks according to their severity and can recommend safety procedures. After RA activity, the team monitors the effectiveness of proposed actions. The RA team then changes or approves the recommended action after feedback from departmental persons.
Who Performs Risk Assessments?
A team consisting of experts in their fields perform risk assessments. The team members must know the primary machine workings and overall production process. Expert understanding of regulations per regulatory bodies is also mandatory.
Let’s look at some essential profiles that comprise an ideal RA team: a control engineer, mechanical engineer, and production and safety personnel.
Nowadays, machine safety systems are controlled and applied through instrumentation and automation techniques. Through a network of sensors, the central controller continuously monitors different safety systems, including machine guarding. If the safety is compromised or an open guard condition is detected, it immediately triggers an alarm and stops the machine operation.
The control engineer is responsible for inspecting the automation of machine safety and guarding systems. Control engineers assess the sensors, automation applied across the machine, and ensures no critical safety is left behind.
The sensors must remain satisfactory, working according to their specifications. The associated wiring must be free from any damage and lay safely throughout the machine without posing any electrical danger to the persons around.
The control engineer also provides technical support and advises the RA team when required.
A mechanical engineer is responsible for assessing the risk associated with the machine’s mechanical structure. The engineer ensures enough guarding is applied across all systems and that the guard’s material is strong enough to protect persons from heavy, sharp, and high-speed objects. The machine guard must be firmly attached to its base, and vibration or movement should not break or loosen it.
Production personnel must be present in the RA team because they understand process and product, as they interact with machine operations and processes daily. Their knowledge helps to keep the RA activity in the right direction.
Production personnel understand the safety requirements, which they usually face during production operations. Their advice can also help identify and improve already-placed safety procedures.
Production personnel can include machine operators, area supervisors, or production heads. The persons selected must have thorough knowledge about the processes and machines to inspect and suggest improvements.
RA is executed as a part of the safety department's responsibilities. The company's higher management empowers the safety department to select resources and persons that best suit the job requirement. The safety department is also mandated to stop machine operation or production process if it finds any critical situation.
Figure 2. FANUC emergency stop buttons on control panels. Image used courtesy of MRO Electric
As such, safety personnel are responsible for planning and executing the RA. Often, the safety department leads the team and prepares the inspection procedure. The safety department represents the organization during an audit by regulatory bodies and is responsible for completing all the regulatory body requirements and shortcomings if detected.
Once this team of engineers and personnel has been formed, they must undergo training to adequately perform an RA.
Types of Risk Assessment Training
Personnel training is mandatory for a successful RA. They must be trained to use their knowledge and experience to determine the risk. They must also be able to suggest ways to reduce or permanently eliminate risks.
The type of training required for RA includes risk identification, risk assessment, documentation, and practical.
The trainees must be able to understand basic concepts about risk and hazards. They will learn to evaluate which conditions create risks and how they are converted into hazards using different tools and calculations.
A successful RA includes knowledge and training of different tools and calculations used to determine the severity of hazards.
Documentation is an essential part of RA activity. Not only for the company’s internal use but for presenting to the regulatory bodies. If the facility lacks documentation or does not follow proper guidelines, the regulatory body can penalize them.
During training, it is beneficial to practice the theoretical concepts in a real-world scenario. Practical training is achieved by visiting the machine floor and performing a RA under the trainer.
Figure 3. It is critical for the RA team to have proper practical training. Image used courtesy of vicwag
Risk Assessment Regulators
RA is the responsibility of an individual facility. The corresponding plant is responsible for allocating resources, developing expertise through training programs, completing compliance, and reporting to the regulator. However, the RA is performed according to the guidelines of the regulator with international legal authority.
Below are some regulators facilitating and providing guidelines about RA.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
OSHA was created to ensure safe working conditions for workers in an industrial environment. There are different OSHA clauses providing regulations for different scenarios. OSHA not only enforces regulations but also provides training for understanding and implementing regulations.
As a part of industrial safety, OSHA regulates RA activity. OSHA-accredited organizations implement their recommendations and provide proof through OSHA-approved documentation format. OSHA 3071 Job Hazard Analysis details the standards, procedures, and documentation to implement a successful and effective RA plan.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
ISO provides guidelines about different processes and operations of almost all industries around the world. ISO has made these guidelines approved standards; the ISO or its representative monitors the process. Any plant desiring ISO accreditation must follow these standards.
ISO standard for RA is ISO 14121-1:2007. It identifies possible hazards and categorizes risks by outlining procedures and guidelines. It also helps to reduce the identified risks in a machine. This standard provides guidelines about the documentation to provide proof of RA activity. However, this standard does not provide risks associated with domestic animals, property, and the environment.
OSHA and ISO require RA teams to be trained in risk identification, risk assessment, documentation, and practicals. Team members should include at least one of each of the following: a control engineer, a mechanical engineer, and production and safety personnel. These team members should be considered top-level experts in their respective fields to carry out the proper RA evaluation.