Machine risk assessment guide, tips and advice

This online guide to machine risk assessment provides useful tips and advice for machine builders and users of existing equipment. By Jon Severn, editor.

Machine risk assessments are the key to machinery safety, paving the way for risk reduction measures that are both effective and economical. Here in the UK, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) states that it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure "so far as is reasonable practicable" (SFAIRP) the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees - which implies that the cost of safeguarding should be commensurate with the risks. This is not the same elsewhere, and this important phrase in British health and safety law was recently challenged by the European Commission, which claimed that the use of the phrase did not implement the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC. However, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) dismissed the European Commission's case and ordered it to pay the UK Government's costs. There is an HSE press release about this case and an article here that explains What does 'as low as reasonably practicable' mean?.

Machine Risk Assessment definition

In EN ISO 12100:2010, risk assessment is defined as overall process comprising a risk analysis and a risk evaluation. These terms are, themselves, defined as:

  • risk: combination of the probability of occurrence of harm and the severity of that harm
  • risk analysis: combination of the specification of the limits of the machine, hazard identification and risk estimation
  • risk evaluation: judgement, on the basis of risk analysis, of whether the risk reduction objectives have been achieved has details of a number of companies that offer software-based utilities for performing risk assessments, as well as companies that can carry out risk assessments on a contract basis. These tend to be based on the requirements of BS EN ISO 12100:2010, Safety of machinery. General principles for design. Risk assessment and risk reduction (see below for more information about machinery risk assessment standards).

Machine risk assessment software

Using a software-based tool is likely to be quicker, easier and less susceptible to human error than working through a risk assessment from scratch - though care must be taken to ensure that all hazards are identified and all risks assessed when the software is presenting the user with generic checklists.

Procter Machine Guarding has a free Risk Assessment Calculator that is based on BS EN ISO 12100:2010. Built on a spreadsheet, the user-friendly Risk Assessment Calculator uses checklists and look-up tables to enable risk assessments to be carried out on almost any static machinery. For each identified hazard, the user enters the data and selects values for:

  • Likelihood of Occurrence
  • Frequency of Exposure
  • Degree of Possible Harm
  • Number of Persons at Risk

A Hazard Rating Number (HRN) and Risk Level are calculated automatically, so the user can see where further action may be necessary; the displayed HRN values enable users to set priorities when not all issues can be addressed immediately.

Another useful software package is available from IBF Automatisierungs und Sicherheitstechnik, known as IBF Safexpert. This software is currently (29 June 2016) at version 8.3, but you can read a review of IBF Safexpert 5.4 on IBF Safexpert was developed for CE marking and incorporates an EN ISO 12100 risk assessment procedure (previously EN ISO 14121-1).

For engineers using the Sistema software for EN ISO 13849-1 Performance Level Calculations, Docufy Machine Safety is a useful tool for machinery risk assessments and CE marking (Docufy is also useful for those not working with Sistema). Docufy provides a structured approach to risk assessments, plus it has other benefits such as a facility for storing data about standards and Directives, and, importantly, Docufy can be integrated with Sistema.

Another software tool that can be used for machinery risk assessments is Raswin, from Solidsafe in Spain. In fact this package is described as being suitable for managing the entire lifecycle, including functional specifications, design, validation, verification and management of safety projects.

Launched in late 2017, DesignSpark Safety is a new software tool that can be downloaded free of charge via the DesignSpark Community website. This is described as an embedded software tool that comes with associated support materials to provide designers with a risk score for their planned product development. DesignSpark Safety can aid the provision of CE Marking documentation, as well as helping in the reduction of potential hazards and ensuring compliance with ISO 12100.

Machine risk assessment guides and books

If you just want written guidance, tips and advice on machine risk assessments, there is a chapter in the Sick publication Six Steps to a Safe Machine. For more information, see Sick's free guide to machinery safety - a review. Similarly, the Practical Guide to Machinery Safety, published by TUV SUD Product Service (formerly Laidler Associates), contains a section devoted to risk assessment and hazard analysis. The Schneider Electric Safe Machinery Handbook also has a chapter on risk assessment.

Another useful resource is the book published by BSI, Risk management of machinery and work equipment. As well as considering issues relating directly to the design, manufacture and use of machinery, this guide also covers corporate risk management.

Safebook 4, the latest edition of Rockwell Automation's book subtitled Principles of Machine Safety: Legislation, Theory and Practice, also includes a chapter on risk assessment.

Machine risk assessment advice, consultancy and training

For those who would prefer to seek advice and guidance from consultants, the following companies offer machinery safety and/or risk assessment services:

Training is also available from many of the above organisations, plus risk assessment training courses are run by the HSL (Health and Safety Laboratory), which is an agency of the UK's HSE (Health and Safety Executive), and the PPMA (Processing & Packaging Machinery Association) runs Machinery Risk Assessment Seminars.

Machinery risk assessment standards

The current standard relating to machine risk assessments is ISO 12100:2010, the equivalents of which are EN ISO 12100:2010 in Europe and BS EN ISO 12100:2010 in the UK. Several years ago EN 1050 (BS EN 1050 in the UK) was the risk assessment standard for machinery, but that was superseded by, first, EN ISO 14121-1 (BS EN ISO 14121-1 in the UK), then EN ISO 12100:2010 (BS EN ISO 12100:2010 in the UK). This current standard is harmonised to the Machinery Directive, which means that complying with it is not a legal requirement but will normally be sufficient to meet the applicable Essential Health and Safety Requirements of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC (the standard is said to provide a 'presumption of conformity' with the EHSRs). Note that the Machinery Directive only applies in Europe, and the current standard is identical to ISO 12100:2010, which is an international standard, so machine builders exporting to other countries should be able to use this standard and be confident of meeting their obligations regarding machinery risk assessments. For more information about machine risk assessment standards, see these articles: EN ISO 12100:2010 combines EN ISO 12100 and EN ISO 14121-1 and The differences between EN 1050 and EN ISO 14121-1.

Additional news and information will be added to this online machinery risk assessment guide as it becomes available.

Jon Severn, Editor,

Suite 118
80 Churchill Square
Kings Hill, West Malling
ME19 4YU

+ 44 (0)1732 926117

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