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Machinery safety

It has long been established that precautions should be taken to protect the dangerous parts of machinery.  Standards of guarding which are expected are also well established.  That machinery is being used in a research or teaching environment can never be a reason for not taking precautions and for not guarding dangerous parts of machinery. 

Neither can it be argued that 'skilled operators' do not need their machines to be suitably guarded.  Appropriate guarding standards for workshop machines have been known and documented for decades and must always be implemented and used. All machines should be the subject of a risk assessment to identify the potential hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of the safeguards provided.

The following checklist shows some of the issues that should be covered when making such an assessment.
• How could people be hurt? For example, from sharp edges, traps, rotating parts, cleaning, maintenance.
• How obvious are the hazards?
• Under what circumstances will  access be needed to the dangerous parts of a machine?  Consider both normal operation of the machinery and 'abnormal' circumstances - e.g. maintenance, repair, attending to blockages. 
• How often might this be needed? How close to the dangerous parts do people need to get? And how long does the process take?
• Is the machinery running or isolated at the time? Are there likely to be any other particular hazards at the time?
• How easy is it to approach the danger area?
• How far is access restricted by guarding or position?
• To what extent can access be gained by removing or defeating safeguards?
• Do the operators have the skills and motivation to take the full precautions that are necessary to avoid risk or injury?
• Is human error likely to create a danger?
• How can the risks be minimised?
• What controls are used to ensure that precautions are maintained?