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Machines can be hazardous by virtue of their mechanical, electrical, thermal, hydraulic or pneumatic energy, or via their movement or position. Machine design attempts to prevent operator exposure to these hazards, but as access to the machine is often necessary, hazards may remain.

Managing hazards

Where a machine is not made absolutely safe by design, the operator must take care to avoid hazard exposure. This will require training, development of skill, or supervision in how to manage machine hazards. However the general principles of machine safety are as follows:

  • A machine may not be used where the operator cannot effectively manage its hazardous characteristics or where it presents a hazard to others.
  • Guards provided must always be in place when operating a machine, and machine parts properly secured and maintained.
  • Machine operation must always be within specification.
  • If a defect is identified or suspected, the machine may not be used until rectified or otherwise made safe.
  • Operators must be fully conversant with machine operation and likely hazards. In particular, the operator must know the location and operation of the emergency stop. This must be clearly marked and routinely tested.
  • An unobstructed working space of at least 1.0 m is recommended around a machine. Non-slip floor treatments should applied where necessary.
  • Machine controls and hazard points must be clearly labelled where appropriate and the machinery must be well illuminated. There must be no obstruction, spillage, waste or other feature present that would obstruct or impair its safe operation.
  • Where machine operation presents a hazard to others in the vicinity, they must be adequately warned and protected.
  • Where there is any possibility of entanglement in moving parts, suitable close fitting clothing must be worn, and ties or long hair restrained. Jewellery can be caught in moving parts.
  • Where there is a hazard of contact with machine parts, products, or emissions appropriate protective clothing must be worn, such as overalls, aprons, gloves, safety boots, eye protection, respirators and barrier cream. Rings must not be worn.
  • Hearing protection is required for exposures > 85 dB(A) over an 8 hour working day, but as a general rule, should be used where any discomfort is experienced.
  • Safety goggles/glasses or face shields must be used where there is a risk of injury from flying objects, particularly when using pressurised systems or rapidly rotating machinery.
  • Machinery must be stopped for loading, unloading, cleaning, adjusting and maintenance operations.
  • Any machine must be isolated prior to maintenance work involving intimate exposure to machine hazards. Isolation must include electrical, mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic systems, and any stored energy must be released prior to working. The person in contact with the machine must be adequately trained and experienced and have absolute control over its operation. This may be through lock-outs or similar methods to ensure accidental or inadvertent start-up does not occur.
  • Hazards associated with machine feedstocks, lubricants, products, waste products and emissions must be considered, and managed effectively.
  • Fire fighting appliances must be held in the vicinity of any operating machine.
  • Combustible materials must not be stored or allowed to accumulate in the vicinity of hot machine parts or emissions.

Emergency procedures

Ensure machinery is fitted with a clearly visible and accessible emergency stop control.

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