Build safety into design

Agriculture continues to be one of the more dangerous industries in Great Britain and agricultural machinery continues to be involved in most of its serious injuries. Fatal accidents are common and other accidents often result in operators being permanently disabled.

Manufacturers of machines can help prevent accidents by designing safety into machines and incorporating guards and other safety devices into their designs.

This page is written primarily for manufacturers and suppliers of agricultural machinery. The information and advice in it can also be used as a source of reference for educational establishments which train agricultural machinery designers and engineers, and for those machinery owners and agricultural engineers who maintain or modify agricultural machinery.

Design safety into machines

To design safety into machines, you need to:

  • meet the essential health and safety requirements of the Machinery Directive
  • use established engineering principles
  • use, wherever possible, safe mechanisms and components
  • provide safe and reliable control systems
  • position moving parts where people cannot reach them
  • construct moving parts to guard against ejection hazards
  • design machines to avoid the need for access for adjustment, routine maintenance or cleaning in danger zones.

Build in: Safeguards designed as fully integrated parts of machines are usually more robust, more reliable and easier to use than safeguards added later. You need to choose the appropriate safeguard for the working method, for example:

  • fixed guards may be appropriate where only occasional access is required; while
  • interlocking guards provide more reliable safeguarding where frequent access is needed for setting or maintenance.

Assist machine operations: Think about all intended uses of the machine during design, so that you can design safeguards that assist machine operations. This encourages people to use them properly. For example, a side guard on a machine pick-up can guide material into the pick-up reel.

Build to last: If you design robust and reliable machines they are less likely to be misused and be damaged.

Prevent blockages: Mechanisms that help avoid blockages, for example reversible drives or manually operated mechanisms, can:

  • help operators to overcome blocking problems
  • eliminate the need for people to reach into danger zones.

Find out more

  • BS EN ISO 12100-1: Safety of machinery. Basic concepts, general principles for design. Basic terminology, methodology
  • BS EN ISO 13849-1 – Safety of machinery – Safety related parts of control systems
  • BS EN ISO 13857 Safety of machinery. Safety distances to prevent hazard zones being reached by upper and lower limbs
  • BS EN 349 Minimum gaps to avoid crushing parts of the human body.
  • How to obtain copies of British, European and International standards.

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