Machine Safety: Benefits of safety assessments, risk assessments
The need to evaluate hazards and apply corrective actions to reduce those hazards began years ago. Over the past 12-plus years this process has been refined, documented in standards and regulations, and it’s now a requirement. A general term defined for this process is “risk assessment.” Below, learn who a risk assessment is for and some best practices for a risk assessment.
The need to evaluate hazards and apply corrective actions to reduce machine safety hazards began years ago. Over the past 12-plus years this process has been refined, documented in standards and regulations, and it's now a requirement. A general term defined for this process is "risk assessment." What is a risk assessment and who benefits?
This International Standard specifies basic terminology, principles and a methodology for achieving safety in the design of machinery. It specifies principles of risk assessment and risk reduction to help designers in achieving this objective. These principles are based on knowledge and experience of the design, use, incidents, accidents and risks associated with machinery. Procedures are described for identifying hazards and estimating and evaluating risks during relevant phases of the machine life cycle, and for the elimination of hazards or the provision of sufficient risk reduction.
Therefore, in my opinion, ISO 12100 lays out a process for conducting and recording a risk assessment and the associated risk reduction measures. These measures are intended to reduce the risk level of each identified hazard to an acceptable level. Furthermore, other machine safety application standards also have normative (required) references to this standard. As such, ISO 12100 becomes a required standard across industry and in fact it has become the accepted global risk assessment standard.
The "designers" referenced in ISO 12100 are described by industry experts as persons designing new machines and retrofits or upgrades to existing machines. The term designers would then apply, as a minimum, to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), engineering firms, systems integrators, or end users. In my opinion, designers implement the requirements for risk assessments according to ISO 12100.
Risk assessment best practices
But, who are risk assessments for?
With all of this process language for properly conducting risk assessments documented and published in machine safety standards (ISO 12100) — can anyone point to similar normative language in a machine safety standard stating who risk assessments are for? I have discovered that risk assessments actually are beneficial in a broader sense to a company's business. As such, here are a few best practices:
- Keep every risk assessment on file.
- Update risk assessments to keep them current.
- Provide a copy to the company legal department.
- Send a copy to the company chief executive officer.
- Provide a copy to the company's insurance department/carrier.