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An integrated approach to machinery safety

In this third of a series of articles looking at the challenges surrounding machine building, Dan Rossek and Richard Wilkins examine how safety can be an enabler for increased productivity and reduced total cost of ownership.

There are few issues in machine design that are more emotively loaded than safety, and it is a subject that becomes increasingly complex with every passing year. Not only is it perceived as impacting negatively on productivity, but requirements are becoming ever more stringent and the numbers of people affected are increasing. Previously the safety of the operator during normal production was the primary – if not the sole – focus of the machine safety system; however, it is now equally important to consider those tasked with maintaining, upgrading and repairing the machine throughout its entire life-cycle. In short, safety now has a major impact on the total cost of ownership of the machine.

A traditional machine development project might start with the mechanical design, move on to the control systems design, and fi nish with the safety system. Some of the safety technologies employed might be more sophisticated, but conceptually this approach has moved forward very little from a complete isolation of the entire power source of the machine.

This can often cause problems of its own such as introducing new hazards to the machine, no longer having the capability of monitoring the moving parts of the machine, unnecessary loss of production time or increased wastage.

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