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Holistic approach to machine safety

Holistic approach to machine safety On New Year's Eve as we said farewell to 2011 and the standard EN 954-1, we welcomed in the "Machinery Safety Alliance" - a new collaboration between Festo, Fortress Interlocks, Pilz Automation Technology, Troax, UK Engineering, and Werma, each providing expertise from its own field to help machine builders and users make sense of safety, and to safeguard their productivity.

With the withdrawal of EN 954-1 (which up until the end of 2011 provided presumption of conformity to the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC), EN ISO 13849 now becomes the most widely used standard for the design, verification and validation of safety related parts of control systems. EN ISO 13849-1 clearly states that electromechanical, non-electrical (for example hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical), complex electronic (programmable) and combinations of all the aforementioned technologies are within its scope. Any component within the realms of these technologies can play a part in safety with the proviso that reliability data (in the form of a B10d, MTTFd or PFH) can be found for it.

In addition to components which contribute to functional safety, other components essential in machinery safety include guards (such as perimeter fences, sliding and hinge gates) and signalling devices (such as beacons and sounders).

Collectively, as suppliers of safe pneumatics, trapped key, key exchange, solenoid locks, interlock switches, safety relays, safety PLCs, non-contact switches, RFID switches, light curtains, safe 3D vision, safe automation, safe motion, guard systems, signalling components and systems, the members of the Machinery Safety Alliance have committed to providing shared knowledge of these technologies in accordance with what will become the de facto functional safety standard and other relevant standards.

Collective expertise
"No single vendor or even integrator has all of these collective technologies, attendant technical support, manufacturing and application experience under one roof," says David Collier of Pilz Automation. "UK industry needs an organisation which can make this collective know-how more readily accessible. Machine safety compliance has opened up to more technologies with the slow introduction of EN ISO 13849, and there is still a learning curve for builders, users and even some component suppliers to go through with it. Added to this it takes a great deal of experience and engineering insight to strike a balance between safety compliance, ergonomics, productivity, resistance to manipulation (overriding) and cost."

He continues: "As a group, our mission is to make sense of safety and to safeguard UK productivity by providing practical and up-to-date knowledge of the legislation, the best selection of available technologies, the best application advice for these technologies, all the reliability data as required, a collective experience spanning virtually all of industry, opportunities for training, consultation, engineering service and a single place to be contacted."

The Machinery Safety Alliance activities begin in 2012 with the launch of a new web portal and a series of seminars at various venues around the UK. The focus of the seminars will be upon the real-world application of various technologies, and the application of EN ISO 13849-1 as well as other safety-relevant standards (such as EN 13857 for safe distances and EN 60204-1 for the electrical equipment of machines).
Users visiting the website will be able to register and book places at the seminars, which are promised to be held at venues of special interest to engineers. They will also be able to reach the respective Alliance members, keep up-to-date with news, access and download technical articles.

"We really think we can be stronger than the sum of our parts, and help to boost understanding of machinery safety in the UK," says Collier. "Not only do we offer diverse technology expertise, but a wide range of experience across all industry sectors including automated production lines, automotive, aerospace, building materials, electronics, food and beverage, paper and board production and conversion, power generation and distribution, recycling, steel/aluminium production and forming, and applications such as packaging, material handling, palletising, machine tools, as well as process industries in accordance with IEC 61508 and EN 61511."
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