Safety topics - Machine interventions

Accident analysis has shown that the one of the biggest cause of injury in the paper and corrugated sectors is contact with moving machinery.   Accidents have happened not only when machinery is being operated under normal operating conditions, but also during machine interventions. Examples of when injuries have happened are as follows:

  • Trouble shooting eg clearing blockages or machinery malfunctions
  • During general machine maintenance
  • During normal operation
  • Using machinery following modification and adequate guarding not being replaced

Contributory factors involved in machinery accidents include:

  • Inadequate guarding
  • Tasks being carried out that have been inadequately risk assessed – this also includes not designing tasks that allow for human factors issues
  • Failing to properly isolate machinery before intervening
  • Failing to identify where people may reasonably expected to be and taking the necessary precautions eg  providing access platforms and failing to guard machinery in that area

What can be done?

There are a few steps you can take to manage the risks of intervening in machinery to help ensure your employees are not injured.

  • Risk assessment – You should carryout a risk assessment of machinery in your workplace.  If you employ more than 4 employees you will need to write your risk assessment down.  The risk assessment doesn't have to be lengthy or complicated but it should consider how the machine is used and how you may have to intervene in the machine.  The assessment should also consider human factors – ie "how can the task be designed to allow a person to carryout the task safely" rather than "how can we fit the person to the task".  The risk assessment should identify what control measures need to be put in place to protect people in the workplace.  You should ensure that any actions that have been identified to protect workers are actioned.  eg putting additional guards in, access platforms, safety procedures etc.  More information on risk assessment can be found on the risk assessment pages You will also find a number of risk case studies here that show worked examples of carrying out a risk assessment.  Once a risk assessment has been completed it is important to review it periodically and after other events such as machinery modification or changes in production procedures.
  • Involve the workforce – When assessing machinery whether it is for general operation machine intervention tasks you should involve your workforce in this process.  They will have invaluable information about tasks they carry out, where they need to access machines and they will also be able to provide useful insight into what control measures are practical.  For more information on worker involvement then visit the worker involvement pages.
  • Provide the correct equipment – Having carried out your risk assessment you will have identified what you need to do to manage the risks.  This could include providing guarding where there is a hazard, or if a task is involved then proper isolation and lock off may be required.  Whatever control measures are selected then you should ensure the correct equipment is provided for the task eg departmental/ individual padlocks, robust guards to the correct standard etc.
  • Train staff – Once you have carried out your risk assessments, provide guarding where necessary and agreed on the procedures that should be followed to intervene with machinery, you then need to train your staff.  You will need to decide the best way to deliver the training for your workplace and decide how best to arrange it to cover all the staff who need to know about the procedures – including supervisors who will be expected to supervise staff.
  • Supervise staff – An important part of managing health and safety and machine intervention safety is to supervise your staff.  Once you have worked with your staff to agree suitable working procedures and have trained them on what they need to do it is important to supervise them to ensure the procedures are followed. Supervision will help identify any additional training needs and also identify weaknesses in your procedures that don't work.
  • Review your control measures and procedures – It is important once you have implemented your controls for machinery safety that you periodically review them. This could include walk-rounds to ensure guards are still in place and are preventing access to dangerous parts or discussing procedures with workers to ensure they are adequate and workable.  The frequency you review your control measures and procedures will need to be decided by you.  For new control measures you may choose to review them frequently to ensure they are working as planned.  Once you have reviewed your control measures and procedures you should be sure to address any issues that arise.

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Updated: 2024-02-09