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Ergonomics and the new Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC

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This article outlines the ergonomic requirements in the new Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, lists the relevant Harmonised Standards and provides a link to the ErgoMach website from where useful Information Sheets can be downloaded.

Ergonomics was covered, somewhat briefly, in the old Machinery Directive 98/37/EC in Annex I, section 1.1.2 d, as follows: "Under the intended conditions of use, the discomfort, fatigue and psychological stress faced by the operator must be reduced to the minimum possible taking ergonomic principles into account." In the new Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, this sentence remains in Annex I (Essential health and safety requirements), section 1.1.6, but with the addition of "and physical" [stress] and five indents giving examples of the types of ergonomic principles to be taken into account (note that this list is not exhaustive):

  • allowing for the variability of the operator's physical dimensions, strength and stamina
  • providing enough space for movements of the parts of the operator's body
  • avoiding a machine-determined work rate
  • avoiding monitoring that requires lengthy concentration
  • adapting the man/machinery interface to the foreseeable characteristics of the operators

In addition, ergonomics should be addressed under many of the other essential health and safety requirements (EHSRs) applicable to all machinery types - such as 1.1.4 (Lighting), 1.1.7 (Operating positions), 1.1.8 (Seating), 1.2.2 (Control devices), 1.5.8 (Noise), 1.5.9 (Vibration), 1.6.2 (Access to operating positions and servicing points), 1.7 (Information) and others - plus numerous supplementary EHSRs relating to specific machine types (a full list is provided in the official guidance).

The 2nd Guide to Application of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC (ie the official guidance) is helpful in that it points out the requirements relating to ergonomics and the Machinery Directive, but it does little to advise on steps to be taken when designing machinery. As usual, a good starting point is the Harmonised Standards, compliance with which gives a presumption of conformity to the relevant EHSRs. At the time of writing the following ergonomics-related standards are listed as being Harmonised to the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.

Machinery Directive Harmonised Standards for ergonomics:

NumberTitle
EN 547-1:1996+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Human body measurements - Part 1: Principles for determining the dimensions required for openings for whole body access into machinery
EN 547-2:1996+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Human body measurements - Part 2: Principles for determining the dimensions required for access openings
EN 547-3:1996+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Human body measurements - Part 3: Anthropometric data
EN 614-1:2006+A1:2009Safety of machinery - Ergonomic design principles - Part 1: Terminology and general principles
EN 614-2:2000+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Ergonomic design principles - Part 2: Interactions between the design of machinery and work tasks
EN 842:1996+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Visual danger signals - General requirements, design and testing
EN 894-1:1997+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Ergonomics requirements for the design of displays and control actuators - Part 1: General principles for human interactions with displays and control actuators
EN 894-2:1997+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Ergonomics requirements for the design of displays and control actuators - Part 2: Displays
EN 894-3:2000+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Ergonomics requirements for the design of displays and control actuators - Part 3: Control actuators
EN 894-4:2010Safety of machinery - Ergonomics requirements for the design of displays and control actuators - Part 4: Location and arrangement of displays and control actuators
EN 981:1996+A1:2008Safety of machinery - System of auditory and visual danger and information signals
EN 1005-1:2001+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Human physical performance - Part 1: Terms and definitions
EN 1005-2:2003+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Human physical performance - Part 2: Manual handling of machinery and component parts of machinery
EN 1005-3:2002+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Human physical performance - Part 3: Recommended force limits for machinery operation
EN 1005-4:2005+A1:2008Safety of machinery - Human physical performance - Part 4: Evaluation of working postures and movements in relation to machinery
EN ISO 7731:2008Ergonomics - Danger signals for public and work areas - Auditory danger signals (ISO 7731:2003)
EN ISO 13732-1:2008Ergonomics of the thermal environment - Methods for the assessment of human responses to contact with surfaces - Part 1: Hot surfaces (ISO 13732-1:2006)
EN ISO 13732-3:2008Ergonomics of the thermal environment - Methods for the assessment of human responses to contact with surfaces - Part 3: Cold surfaces (ISO 13732-3:2005)
EN ISO 14738:2008Safety of machinery - Anthropometric requirements for the design of workstations at machinery (ISO 14738:2002, including Cor 1:2003 and Cor 2:2005)
EN ISO 15536-1:2008Ergonomics - Computer manikins and body templates - Part 1: General requirements (ISO 15536-1:2005)

More guidance on compliance with the Machinery Directive has been developed by ErgoMach, a group of European experts on ergonomics and machinery. This group not only contributed to the official guidance mentioned above, but has also prepared a series of Information Sheets that can be downloaded as PDF files from the ErgoMach website. These Information Sheets cover the following topics:

  • Discomfort
  • Operators variability
  • Physical strains
  • Psychological stress
  • Space of movement
  • Fatigue
  • Man machine interface

The Information Sheets present information in sections headed Basics, Important practical issues, Remarks, Detailed explanation, Recommendations (which in most cases lists relevant standards), and Examples (with illustrations showing good and bad practice).

If you were to ask an ergonomist, they would probably tell you that you need a specialist ergonomist to advise on machine design, ergonomics and the new Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. However, for machines that have only minimal human interaction, paying for the services of an ergonomist might be hard to justify (but remember that you need to consider the ergonomic requirements of all phases of the machine's lifecycle, such as installation and maintenance, and not just normal operation). Machine builders intending to tackle the ergonomics aspects of their designs themselves will find the ErgoMach Information Sheets very helpful. If you do wish to consult an ergonomist, there is a 'Find an accredited consultancy' page on the website for the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (IEHF).

 
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