The Importance Of Maintaining Machinery Safety

Industry News By Sarah

Of all the areas of health and safety that require managers and all responsible staff to take extra care, the use of machinery is at the top of the list.

Maintenance is, of course, essential anyway. Nobody wants a machine that breaks down and stops doing its job. But sometimes it is possible for a device to carry out its primary function of processing materials or making items while still lacking certain elements that will help maintain safety.

By taking a health and safety class, all in a position of responsibility can learn the core principles of ensuring safety in the workplace which, if applied thoroughly and consistently, will greatly reduce the chances of an accident and, by extension, the risk of a prosecution for failing to follow the law.

The first piece of legislation that should always be taken into account is the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, which places a responsibility on employers to carry out risk assessments and take all reasonable steps to make a workplace as safe as is reasonably possible. This will include training staff as well as maintaining equipment to keep it safe.

Employee safety is covered by section 2 and the safety of others is covered by section 3, this relating to anyone else likely to be in the vicinity. That will normally be more applicable to work taking place in a public place, such as building maintenance on a busy street, rather than in a workplace with machinery that a non-employee will not normally visit.

However, there are further pieces of legislation with which you will need to familiarise yourself, as shown in a recent case when the Health and Safety Executive prosecuted a firm over an incident that led to a staff member losing a finger.

The incident occurred at a shipping services company in Montrose, in which the injured party had been using an improvised push stick while cutting wood into pieces known as packers when his gloved hand was caught in the machinery and sliced open by the rotating blade. Crucially, no blade guard was in place.

Such failings fell foul of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. It should be noted that this is a UK-wide law, not one specific to Scotland. These regulations specifically stipulate that work equipment should be kept safe, well-maintained, used only for its intended purpose, and that staff are given full training before they use it.

Rix Shipping (Scotland) Limited was fined £16,000 with £1,200 costs for contraventions of sections 11(1) and 11(2) of the act.

Sadly, failings like these occur all too often among HSE prosecutions, showing that it can be very easy and tempting for companies to be lax in dealing with these important matters. But the consequences can be literally life-changing for those who are injured and may also be for those owning affected firms; large fines can ruin a firm if money is tight.

That last point is important to consider if a company is short of cash, as cutting corners on safety costs is always tempting but can have terrible consequences. However, it makes no difference whether money is a consideration or not in a failure to make equipment safe and train people to use it properly. The failure itself is enough to prompt a prosecution.

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