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Making the working environment safer

Making the working environment safer

Much is said about protecting the assets of the manufacturing sector, those assets being principally the means of production and the people engaged in the production activities. Simon Adams of Werma looks at the importance of visual and audible warning devices and the role they can play in the maintenance of a safe working environment.

The Machinery Safety Directive EN ISO 13849-1 contains a vast amount of information and lays down many requirements for machine builders and operators – all designed to ensure that the means of production in any manufacturing enterprise are installed correctly and operated in a safe manner. The Directive places an obligation on both machinery designer and operator to ensure that equipment is fitted with adequate safeguards to protect machine operators, and any other staff working in the vicinity of such production machinery, from accidental injury.

So, how do industrial beacons and sounders fit in with all this? With the caveat that only if the signal device being designed into a machine has a defined and specific safety purpose, the new Directive stipulates that the design engineer must include a safety value for the device in his risk analysis. (In many machines a signal device is only there to indicate if the machine is switched on or off or is running and this would not be considered as “specific to safety”). 

In other words, the designer is obliged to find and use a device which has been tested and certified to achieve an acceptable MTTDF (mean time to dangerous failure) value for the machine. It would be an unfortunate irony if the very device which is supposed to warn of a machine failure had itself failed and was unable to report that critical status change. Reputable device suppliers are easily able to provide these values.

Werma, for example, now offers these safety values for more than 100 signalling devices, ranging from signal towers to visual, audible or combined signal devices in various sizes and designs. The German technical testing authority, TUV has tested and certified these signal devices with exceptional results; in particular, all products achieve the best MTTDF (mean time to dangerous failure) value of greater than 100 years. MTTDF specifies the nominal operational duration until device failure, in accordance with the EN ISO 13849-1 safety standard.

Signal devices are also suitable for use in non safety-orientated signal and warning systems, in accordance with the Machinery Directive, and meet the requirements of all relevant regulations. But how can these devices be used to provide simple but effective protection for both machine and operator?

Optical and audible signal devices and accessories can provide a solution to those machine safety monitoring problems where the key requirement is to offer local visual and audible warning to workers and supervisors that a machine is not running as it should.

Where cabling is an issue, the latest wireless systems can offer a solution. For example, the wireless machine and workstation monitoring system WIN from Werma provides a simple retrofit solution to provide a comprehensive monitoring system detailing the operation status of a machine or piece of equipment. Wireless transmitter units are fitted to a signal tower and transmit the status chance of the machine wirelessly to software installed on a network server or client PC allowing staff to see immediately if a machine requires intervention to allow production to continue.

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