As an employer, you must ensure that all work equipment doesn't pose health & safety risks in your workplace.
All employers are responsible for ensuring machinery safety and reducing exposure to any hazard caused by the machines in their workplace. This is clearly set out by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
The ability to carry out such an assessment is a key skill required by the essential health & safety law. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties, criminal prosecution, and even imprisonment.
In this guide, we'll look at what a machine risk assessment is, the general principles, and the legal requirements for employers.
What is a machinery risk assessment?
A machinery risk assessment identifies and helps to reduce the risk of hazards when your workers are using heavy machines.
Woodworking machines, mobile working tools, and power presses are examples of machinery that may pose a hazard and need risk evaluation.
It's helpful to know the type of equipment covered by PUWER and the duty holder in order to successfully carry out a machinery risk assessment.
What does PUWER stand for?
PUWER is the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The regulations require that equipment provided for use at work is:
- Suitable for the intended use.
- Safe to use, well maintained, and regularly inspected.
- Used only by people who have received training.
- Accompanied by suitable safety measures.
The purpose is to maintain employee safety while using machinery and other work equipment.
What equipment is covered by PUWER?
Under PUWER, work equipment refers to any machinery, appliance, apparatus, or tools used in your business. These include:
- Hand tools.
- Fixed machines.
- Computers and display screen equipment.
- Lifting machines.
Machinery built in accordance with a transposed Harmonised Standard is deemed to meet the essential requirements specified by that standard. These are standards developed by a recognised European Standards Organization, such as CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI.
If there are no transferred Harmonised Standards, producers may work to any existing national standard or code of practice.
Who are the duty holders?
The following people or groups of people have obligations assigned to them under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations:
- Self-employed people.
- People in charge of appliances.
When completing a machine risk assessment, duty holders must make sure they detect significant risks associated with the mentioned types of work.
In risk estimation, there are always some risks that may appear insignificant at first glance, but they are capable of inflicting harm.
Why is machinery safety important?
Machinery safety is important because moving machinery can cause injuries in a variety of ways.
Machine risk assessments are done to reduce the harm of the equipment and provide protection as much as possible.
That being said, always ensure that your workers follow the guidelines below correctly:
- Check that the machine is well maintained and ready to use.
- Use the machine correctly and in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Don't use a machine that has a danger sign on it.
- Don't wear hanging chains, loose clothing, long back hair, or rings unless the machinery safety assessment confirms this is safe.
- Colleagues who are using machinery should not be distracted.
Risk management failures and non-compliance with PUWER regulations carry severe fines. These penalties may consist of hefty fines, criminal prosecution, or even imprisonment.
The PUWER regulations don't apply to materials used by the general public, such as gas pumps or air pumps at filling stations.
Furthermore, the machinery safety regulations are not applicable to the military forces either.
Also, the legal requirements for risk estimation don't apply to tools or appliances used by domestic workers in private homes.
However, if the worker is self-employed or hired by a contractor who provides the tools, the tool is covered by the regulations.
How to carry out machinery risk assessments
Before starting the risk evaluation, it's helpful to go through the determination of the machine limits.
This means that the machine's characteristics and performance should be identified first. Consider the machine as part of a larger process that includes people, the environment, and the products.
After that, for conducting a machinery risk assessment, the HSE's five steps to risk assessment can be implemented as a simple and effective process:
- Identify the potential hazards.
- Identify who might be harmed and how.
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.
- Record your findings and implement them.
- Review your assessment and update if necessary.
Identify the potential hazards
At this stage, it's important to thoroughly examine the existing hazards. The information and instructions given by the machine manufacturer or provider will be necessary for hazard identification.
This should include a description of residual risks and how they are mitigated. The HSE advises users to take a critical look at the machinery after reviewing the relevant information.
In doing so, the user should make use of any in-house expert's insight. Keep in mind that the instructions must include not just the intended use of the machinery, but also any reasonably foreseeable misuse.
According to the machinery directive, a manufacturer's liability may be affected if the "reasonably foreseeable misuse" is not carefully described. This is operating a machine in a way that was not intended by the manufacturer but that may come about as a result of easily predicted human behaviour. This is manageable if you supply training services to your workers.
Hazard identification will include the following:
- Identifying dangerous parts.
- Assessing if the machine can be used without protection.
- Detecting physical hazards.
- Detecting hazards to human health.
During the machine risk assessment, you should evaluate both standard and non-standard scenarios. Examples are scheduled maintenance and reactive maintenance.
Determine who might be harmed and how
In the process of assessing who could be harmed, consider both operators and people in immediate proximity. Since one operator may not see the other operator in the danger zone at first, an encounter between two operators may elevate the hazard.
Maintenance personnel could also be at harm. They should be addressed, whether in-house or contracted. This is because safety information is sometimes withheld from contractors.
When conducting the risk assessment, keep in mind to consider factors such as your workers' language skills.
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Schedule one of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations requires a hierarchy of control measures to be implemented. This should be kept in mind when developing control measures to resolve the present hazards posed by machinery operation.
According to this, risks should be reduced to the greatest degree possible by implementing prioritised preventative measures.
If the user has issues about the safety of the machinery, they should contact the manufacturer or supplier.
Record your findings and implement them
If you have five or more employees, you must record your risk assessments.
A proper risk assessment should demonstrate that you have:
- Thoroughly examined your work environment.
- Discovered who may be hurt by your machinery.
- Identified serious dangers. For example, machinery with sharp points.
- A risk reduction action plan in place.
Review your risk assessment and update if necessary
It's vital to note that risk assessments must be up to date. Being proactive and adaptable to change can help you avoid unnecessary injury.
It all comes down to adapting to developments in order to supply the most effective and appropriate safety requirements for your workplace.
If you include risk assessment in your routine daily work, you are less likely to face health & safety issues.
If machinery safety requirements are not met, then the safety-related parts of the control system must be upgraded.
We advise you to contact an expert or seek training if you need further information or are having trouble meeting the standards.
Get expert advice on machinery safety with Peninsula
If your business uses machinery or you supply it to others, you are required to manage the potential dangers.
We provide services to help you develop machinery risk assessments based on legal principles and adapted to your machines' specific requirements.
The risk evaluation process will be tailored to your business, considering all the factors that affect your risk estimation. If you have any concerns or need further information on machinery safety assessments, we will guide you throughout the process.
Peninsula offers 24/7 Health & Safety advice on machinery safety which is available 365 days a year. Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4376 and book a free consultation with one of our Health & Safety consultants.