worldsteel and its members have identified moving machinery as one of the five most common causes of serious incidents. This year’s Steel Safety Day focuses on moving machinery to raise awareness of the cause and prevent incidents.
The steel industry uses large and powerful machinery, and depending on their nature, the machines can be the source of multiple hazards and risks. These may be related to chemical, electrical or mechanical energy. It is, therefore, crucial to consider the nature of these hazards and the way the machine functions.
Our focus on moving machinery covers mainly static machines with moving parts, such as conveyors, product handling equipment, moving parts embedded within steel manufacturing and finishing processes, and lifting equipment.
Risks and controls
To manage the risks associated with moving machinery, we strongly encourage the implementation of the Hierarchy of controls:
The best way to manage a hazard is to eliminate or remove it. Machinery hazards can be eliminated through good design. We encourage our members to implement inherently safe design, as potential risk reduction is greater and more cost-effective during the early design stages.
When hazards cannot be eliminated, engineering controls or preventive technical solutions can be applied. These solutions are, in general, protective devices that are part of a safety function, e.g. safety interlocks, fixed or movable guards, light curtains, two-hand controls, etc.
Administrative controls are systems for managing hazards via safety rules or permits to work. These aspects are essential to ensure that machines are only used by workers who are competent. With the best will in the world, things will sometimes go wrong. In these situations, good operators and systems will prove their ability to absorb, learn, and adapt against any abnormal situation without producing serious injuries.
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be the last control to be considered. In reality, there is only so much PPE can do. It is more often used to protect against environmental risks such as hearing protection for noise or eye protection from dust than against risk presented by the machine itself.
Risk assessment and incident investigation
The importance of risk management for machines and the application of the hierarchy of controls is clear; however, there is a strong need to keep risk assessments current. Many machines in our industry have been in use for a very long time. It is imperative that risk assessments are updated to take account of new standards, the whole life cycle of the machine, a better understanding of risk (for example, ergonomics and human error), and assessment methods.
worldsteel encourages all steel producers to elaborate effective risk assessments for machinery using recognised standards, for example, ISO 14120 as it applies to guarding or ISO 12100 for risk assessment and risk reduction.
The difference between a minor injury and a serious incident with moving machinery can be small; so it is imperative to identify the precursors of incidents that do occur. Incident investigation should focus on finding these precursors and systematically fixing them.
worldsteel members take safety and health seriously, and they must never let down their guard. Raising awareness on the causes of serious incidents is one step towards a healthy and accident-free work environment. However, processes need to be applied and controls ensured rigorously.