In the March/April edition of Safeguard magazine we pose three questions based on stories in the magazine. One of them is this:
some companies are reluctant to take a serious look at machinery safety because they fear the scale of what might be uncovered. How does that tally with your experience?
Feel free to respond here on the Forum, or privately
via a Survey Monkey form.
An edited selection of responses will be published in the May/June edition, but with no names attached. One randomly selected person will receive a prize, namely a copy of the book
One Percent Safer
, compiled and edited by Dr Andrew Sharman.
My interest in machinery safety involves cabin overpressure & filtration, protecting worker health in contaminated environments, and yes there is a scale problem with most PCBUs that look into using our solution. If I made a list of customers here you'd see the names of larger and more progressive firms that can evaluate the risk and return around the health of their skilled operators.
To help smaller firms take what Barry calls a "serious look" we've introduced a leasing package for our products, but still it's an uphill battle. As for fearing "the scale of what might be uncovered" we're planning to also make available state-of-the-art particulate monitoring equipment for use on-site, as a lease option. The solutions don't cost much.
Any PCBU who is afraid of safer options should maybe reconsider their career choices?
One of my areas of work with the University of Auckland was to sort out machine guarding. There was a fair amount of initial resistance from some users who were happy using non compliant but robust equipment. After a good amount of engagement, older machines were either retired or disposed of, upgraded (only for special stuff used in research) or replaced with fewer, more efficient and easier to use machines. In addition, much of the work to manufacture specialist items is carried out by a few very experienced operators as opposed to students ( who now mainly provide drawings, etc) all in all a great success.
Some machine shops are disgraceful. Dirty filthy things with little apparent care for the work environment or the machine. So it is quite obvious there will be some employers who won't look at safety because its just not in their DNA.
On the other hand there are other employers where you could eat your lunch off their machine shop floor and safety is just part of their overall approach to the business and machines.
Often the issues with machinery is that the original purchase is capital intensive. So people hang onto them for as long as possible. Bringing them up to current safety expectations / standards is also expensive so it, in part became a cost issue.
Cost can be a major issue, with business costs increasing every year and customer expectations on price also adding pressure along with international competition. Margins get squeezed and something has to give. So I suspect there are also some employers who would like to take their safety more seriously but the cost of upgrading safety, when put aside the ongoing viability of a business and all the responsibilities to staff etc that entails is a major consideration.
However, if we like it or not increases in Minimum Wage have a good flow on affect to machinery. As it becomes more expensive to hire a machine operator a replacement piece of kit, with modern safety features and greater efficiency becomes more attractive. To the point now that you can retire two machines and operators and replace with one machine and operator - often with an operator needing even less skill.
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