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Machine Guarding Risk Assessment and Solutions

  1. First things first: How serious is the issue of unguarded hazardous machinery, and what are some of the top workplace accidents/injuries?

A lack of machine guarding is consistently on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations report. In reference to OSHA’s CFR 1910.212, there were 1,969 machine guarding violations in 2018 (down slightly from 2,109 violations in 2017), resulting in over $7M in fines each year. The actual price tag for an injury is much higher than simply the OSHA citation, because indirect costs must be taken into account, such as damaged facilities or equipment, medical expenses, lawsuits, lost productivity and replacement personnel.

In 2018, 87% of the total number of OSHA machine guarding violations were classified as “Serious,” meaning “one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.”  In addition, 1% of the total OSHA machine guarding violations were reported as “Willful,” meaning “committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and requirements.”

These accidents can cause extremely severe, potentially life-changing injuries to employees or even death. It is estimated that less than half the machines in the U.S. are properly guarded, and workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions and most profoundly, more than 800 deaths per year.

  1. What are some possible solutions to address these concerns?

For companies that are interested in identifying the machine hazards in their facility, the critical first step is to conduct a risk assessment. In the U.S., risk assessments are recommended by ANSI B11.0, ANSI B11.19, ANSI/RIA R15.06, NFPA 79 and more.  The risk assessment is recommended for companies that are new to safeguarding; or companies that are deploying new, older or refurbished machinery; or those that recently relocated metal-working machines or automation cells that need hazard identification and risk scoring.  During the risk assessment, a safeguarding specialist identifies tasks and associated hazards on your machinery and scores the risks using the ANSI B11.0-2015 safety standard methods.

  1. Aside from products, you offer other tools, like seminars and risk assessments. Is this a good starting point for companies looking to increase their workplace safety?

machine guardingAt Rockford Systems, our aim is to enhance the long-term health and quality of life of workers in high-risk occupations, while improving the bottom line of the organizations we serve. We offer a wide variety of free resources to help companies reduce risk, increase compliance, lower costs and improve productivity. These resources range from training and education, YouTube webinars, published articles, blog posts and case studies.

For consumers or smaller companies, we also sell over 10,000 safeguarding products on our web site and provide installation instruction manuals that assist customers with their machine guarding projects. We also offer free phone and technical support to all customers purchasing our products.

For mid-sized and larger companies that may have hundreds or thousands of machines across various locations and who need a more in-depth and consultative approach to machine guarding, we offer risk assessments, machine safeguarding assessments, project management, stop-time measurement services, customized/engineered solutions, lockout services, quality installation and post-sale support.

  1. How do your products and solutions ensure companies are OSHA and ANSI compliant?

If Rockford Systems safeguards a company’s machines, we leave the site with those machines guarded to applicable OSHA, ANSI, NFPA and RIA standards. However, no guarding company can ever “guarantee” compliance, as factors come into play that are outside of our control, such as operators bypassing their safeguarding, poor machine and guarding equipment maintenance, personnel changes, machines moving to new locations, etc.  For those situations, Rockford Systems offers a service, called Ongoing Compliance Validation, whereby we come back at specified periods of time, usually annually, and do a visual inspection to verify that the guarding is still functioning as it was intended.

  1. What is a machine’s stop-time measurement and why does that matter?

OSHA regulations and ANSI standards requires that a machine’s stop time be measured to determine how long it takes a machine to stop after a stop signal is given. Stop-time measurement readings are taken on individual machines to determine the minimum safety distance required for placement of the machine’s operating controls or safeguarding devices. This is critical when using presence sensing devices like light curtains, pressure mats, laser scanners, etc.

Location of a safety component, whether hard guarding or electronic, is based upon the machine’s stopping time. Simply stated, a safety component should be placed far enough away from the risk area that it is not possible to reach the hazard before the machine has stopped. Safety devices are then installed using the minimum safe distance. This OSHA Safety Distance Guide Slide Chart can assist. ( .

Stop-time measurement should be performed on an annual basis (or sooner) in order to insure that the machine stop time has not changed. Machine maintenance, brake wear, machine alterations and other factors can extend the machine’s stopping time. If the machine stops slower than it once did, then the current safety components will need to be adjusted to continue providing the correct level of safety. For these and other reasons, it is important to perform an annual stop-time analysis.

Rockford Systems provides stop-time measurement services on various reciprocating (stroking or cycling) machines, such as mechanical or hydraulic press and press brakes. We also provide these stop-time measurements on machines that rotate such as lathes, mills and drills.

  1. Because the issue of money is always so important, how can a customer measure the return on investment (ROI) of purchasing machine safety solutions, such as shields and guarding?

Insurance studies indicate machine safeguarding provides an excellent opportunity for businesses to reduce bottom-line operating costs by eliminating both the direct and indirect costs of accidents. According to the 2018 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, serious, non-fatal workplace injuries amounted to nearly $60 billion in direct U.S. worker compensation costs. This translates into more than $1 billion a week spent by businesses on injuries. Another study, this one conducted by Colorado State University, set the total direct and indirect cost of workplace injuries at $128 billion. For its part, the National Safety Council (NSC) set the total cost to society of occupational injuries and deaths at $151.1 billion.

So how does an organization evaluate the machine guarding return on investment (ROI)?

First off, what are the direct costs of an accident? These refer to out-of-pocket expenses, like hospital and medical bills, but may also include the loss of a worker’s time because of the accident, the lost productivity by the machine involved in the accident being idled or requiring repairs, as well as the other machines further down the production line being shut down. Direct costs continue to cascade throughout the company with overtime required to make up the lost productivity or new workers who need to be hired and trained.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that cost per medically consulted injury, counting wage losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses and other direct employer costs, to be $32,000. This varies greatly by cause and nature of the injury, and which part of the body is impacted. For example, the average cost per worker compensation claims involving an amputation runs $95,204, while a crushing accident is $57,519. These two sorts of injuries are mentioned here because they are both very common in machinery-related accidents. The NSC also reports that an employee death resulting from an accident costs the company on average $1.2 million. Total medical cost to society annually from occupational injuries and deaths is $33.8 billion.

Analysis reveals that the actual total cost of an accident ranges from four to ten times the direct cost stated by an insurance company once indirect costs are factored in. Indirect costs can include such things as workplace disruptions, loss of productivity, and increased insurance premiums. And of course, there are litigation and lawyer fees. Here, the sky is the limit. Lawsuits resulting from employee injuries or death, especially those involving a lack of machine safeguarding, often result in multi-million dollar settlements or verdicts. Investments targeted for company growth may need to be diverted to cover the costs of these settlements, putting the future of the company in jeopardy.

While it is not calculated as an indirect cost, a poor safety record can make the difference between a company winning or losing bids, especially with government contracts. A plant with a singularly bad reputation for safety may also find itself unable to attract qualified workers or may have to pay wages well above market value to do so. Also, if the machine is locked out for investigation or until the safeguarding deficiency is abated, the company may need to outsource the work at a much higher cost. It’s also possible that the work is so specialized that it’s impossible to outsource and therefore the company loses the business.

A poll by Liberty Mutual Group insurance showed that the majority of executives surveyed (61%) reported that for every one dollar spent on safety, three dollars is saved.

Of course, if a company could be guaranteed a huge return on their safety investment, more than half the machines in the U.S. today would not be operating unprotected. Convincing upper management to commit tens of thousands of dollars on machine safeguarding when a return may not be seen for years can be a hard sell. In this situation, safety professionals can stress that although cost savings are a motivator, safety’s biggest ROI comes in the form of human capital. Money savings from fewer injuries, increased productivity, and higher morale are all additional benefits.

  1. What industries do you serve?

Our machine safeguarding division serves all industries that have metal working in their operations, such as agriculture, automotive, aerospace, food and beverage, furniture, manufacturing, transportation and more. We also work closely with many insurance companies, educational institutions and safety consultants.

Recently, Rockford Systems announced that it had created a new Combustion Safety division that provides turnkey solutions for organizations that use thermal processes in their operations. This expansion enables Rockford Systems to provide new and complimentary value-added safety solutions and enables traditional safeguarding customers the ability to grow their industrial safety focus with a trusted and reliable partner. For more information:

  1. What can you say to those who claim safeguarding hinders productivity?

A widespread misconception in the industry is that safeguarding hinders employees from making production quotas. However, an Aberdeen Group research study (“Integrated Safety Systems: Ensuring Safety and Operational Productivity”) concluded that companies that have taken steps to invest in safeguarding not only improve plant safety, but realize superior operational performance and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The 20% of best-in-class companies that had the highest OEE also had the lowest safety incident rate. The top companies typically had an OEE on average of 90% and an injury incident rate of 0.05%, while the bottom 20% of companies had an OEE of 76% and an injury frequency rate of 3%, which is 60 times higher. Top manufacturers were also able to achieve a 2% unscheduled asset downtime rate, vs. a 14% percent rate for the laggard group in the study.

What makes these statistics possible is modern safeguarding tools. Some of these options are awareness and barrier guards, light curtains, two-hand controls and laser AOPD. First, however, a word or two about retrofitting. When retrofitting older machines, installers must take great caution to ensure that the new technology does not decrease the safety of the machine or add new hazards. Sometimes an older machine simply cannot be brought up to today’s standards. At that point, the installer must evaluate the situation and ensure the full machine installation becomes safer overall than its original state with the new safeguarding. If not, he needs to step back and consider the options. ANSI B11.3-2012 gives direction on this topic.

  1. What’s your piece of advice for the company that isn’t safeguarding?

Machines can be very dangerous to operate; they are much more so without proper safeguarding equipment. When safeguarding equipment is engineered, installed and operated correctly, it provides positive, business-enhancing benefits, while mitigating risks and reducing insurance and energy costs. Metal fabricators also should recognize the payback of reducing costs associated with accidents, medical expenses and regulatory noncompliance. WMHS

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