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Safety of pinspotter/pinsetter machines: technical information

HSE has publically made available this technical information concerning the safety of pinspotter/pinsetter machines since February 2008 (originally via the Ten Pin Bowling Proprietor’s Association), publishing it as part of the Local Authority Circular LAC 47-20 on the website since June 2009. Now that LAC 47-20 has been withdrawn this web page reproduces that technical information, updated where necessary for safety.

The following safety issues should be carefully considered and managed for both existing installed machinery, when site ownership and any machinery within is transferred to another operator, and for the supply of pinspotter/pinsetter machines, whether:

Purchasers of new CE marked pinspotters / pinsetters, or CE marked pinspotter / pinsetter upgrade safety kits should verify that on installation the new or upgraded machinery meet these key safety objectives  in order to satisfy their PUWER Regulation 10  obligation.

In all cases before bringing the machinery into use the centre operator should undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to ensure adequate safety and management arrangements are in place to meet the obligations of Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 towards both employed and non-employed persons , including members of the public.

Access on/off the machine

Safe access on/in to the machines should be provided such that the Work at Height Regulations are met.  In particular steps and walkways should be suitably non slip and of sufficient size / width (taking account of any limitations imposed by existing buildings).  Where space permits angled steps are preferable.  Access routes may need to be cleaned regularly to avoid a build-up of oil (bowling lanes are regularly oiled and oil may spread to the machine steps and walkways).  Adequate fencing / hand railing should be provided and securely fixed to prevent falls which could cause injury.  Where such fencing performs the joint function of preventing access to dangerous parts it should be designed to fulfil both functions without compromise to the other.  Standards that may be used to support common sense design are listed below.

Dangerous moving parts

New and second-hand machinery should come ready fitted with all the necessary safeguards for safety and this information can be used to verify that is the case.

To safeguard dangerous parts, a number of additional safety features may need to be added to existing machines. These should either prevent access to dangerous parts (for example, fixed guards where frequent access is not required) or automatically render the machine safe when access is gained (for example, interlocked moveable guards).  The objective should be to provide a package of measures which obviate the total reliance on following a safe system of work, such as isolation, prior to any intervention, by appropriately preventing access to dangerous parts of the machine while it is running. 

The ways in which the machine can be used or misused should be considered when selecting the most appropriate safeguarding solution.  Access to deal with regular machine blockages, pin miss-feeds, etc should normally be by means of interlocked guards that ensure dangerous parts cease moving.  Safety devices such as interlocking switches should be carefully selected and deployed taking account of human behavioural factors such that they function reliably, don’t get damaged, and cannot be easily defeated or fail to danger.  Circumvention or reaching through safety guards should be prevented if dangerous parts can be accessed.  Machine start-up while anyone is in the danger area should be prevented where possible by suitable and appropriate design of the safety system, eg some users / suppliers have employed multiple reset devices in different locations to allow checks of hidden areas to be made before a restart is initiated.

When designing safeguards, the possibility of access from one machine to another should be considered (e.g. at lane or walkway levels). This may mean that “cells” of machines need to be created with some safeguarding features that are common to all the machines in a cell. Machines at each end of a line of machines may need special consideration because of these access issues. 

Relevant European machinery standards are listed below. For older installations (pre 1995), PD 5304 can be used (this was the British Standard for machinery safety prior to the full introduction of the Machinery Directive in 1995).

Control systems

Where control systems are used to provide safety, for example the safety circuit of an interlocked, moveable guard, they should be designed to have sufficient integrity to ensure the reliable and dependable operation of the safety function. Where existing circuits are modified, it needs to be ensured that existing safety functions are not compromised by the modifications. When programmable systems are used, for example a PLC, the integrity of the software also needs to be considered in addition to the hardware. 

Unless it can be shown that the risks from access (which for many parts of these machines  include the potential for significant or fatal injury) are very low, it is suggested that where possible the safety related control function should meet Category 3 of EN 954-1:1996 (or Pl d of EN ISO 13849-1:2006 or SIL 2 of EN 62061:2005).  For pre 1995 machinery guidance on control systems safety may be found in PD 5304 Guidance on Safe Use of Machinery.

Emergency stops

 The emergency stop function may need supplementing with additional buttons in appropriate locations. Bowling centres should consider whether the emergency stop function should stop all machines, groups or just individual machines.  In an emergency, pressing an emergency stop that stops all machines saves time.  Emergency stop buttons should be positioned within easy reach of the machine attendant, and any third party such as staff arriving in the machinery area.

Access from front-of-house

Because customers need to see the pins and bowling balls entering the machine, managing the risk of access into the machine from the lanes is more difficult.  Coupled with securing the mask (if it is moveable: interlock, padlock or bolt down), a photoelectric beam across the front of the lane may be the best that can be achieved.  The beam should be located at a height suitable to clear the bowled ball and still ensure personnel detection. The beam also needs to be sited far enough down the lane to ensure that the machine stops before anyone can access it. Installations seen with this solution have generally “paired” the machines, but other configurations are possible. 

Photoelectric devices should be designed to BS EN 61496-1. Through beam devices, using a separate transmitter and receiver, should be used rather than retro-reflective devices because the latter are easily defeated. The devices should be carefully positioned to avoid cross talk between neighbouring installations.  Subject to the risk assessment it is suggested that here the safety related control function should meet at least Category 2 of EN 954-1 (PL c of EN ISO 13849-1 or SIL 2 of EN 62061).

Some centres have deployed equipment known as “Lane Minder”. It commonly consists of two sensing devices across the bowling lanes front-of-house, which normally sound a warning for centre staff if the first beam is broken (eg by a member if the public heading down the lane towards the machines), and may if so configured shut them all down if the second beam located further down the lane is broken in sequence with the first. However, in some cases it will be possible to approach the machines by not activating the device (eg by stepping over the beam, or walking around it). As it is understood that this device is not being marketed as a “Safety Component”, and by design / installation does not necessarily have the required level of safety reliability and integrity, it should not be relied on as a substitute to a device designed to BS EN 61496-1. However, if fitted the system can help with managing the public, and may reduce risks at bowling centres where safety photoelectric beam systems have yet to be fitted as part of the safety upgrade strategy.

Ball return mechanisms

At some installations trapping hazards on the ball return consoles have been identified, and the covers may be easily removable. The ball return located in the public area front-of-house should be such that there are no trapping hazards between the cover and the trip switch knock out bar or fixed parts, and that the cover is secured to prevent access to any dangerous parts.

Machine isolation

For maintenance, cleaning and other operations requiring longer term access to the machine, each machine should be provided with means to isolate the power supply. The means for isolation should be easily accessible, identifiable and located where its operation does not expose operators to hazards. It should also be possible to prevent inadvertent re-connection of the supply, for example by locking the means of isolation in the off position. 

Many installations currently use the blue 240V plugs for disconnection and isolation.  Lockable covers for such plugs are used by many centres.   Used in pairs these lockable covers will, subject to cable lengths, prevent reconnection of the mains power to any of pair of machines.


The aim of the measures applied should be to ensure that the significant risks arising from access on/off and into the machine are managed such that where possible danger is removed by stopping hazardous movement or preventing access to dangerous parts, so reducing the sole reliance for safety on training and following safe systems of work.  However, training and systems of work remain an very important part of the overall safety package, and where machines have yet to be fully upgraded essential while all the work necessary for improving safety on all these machines takes place.


Relevant legislation includes:

Relevant Guidance and Standards include:

Please see standards for further information.

Please see pinspotters / pinsetters for further information.

Updated: 2014-09-02