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Safety - key considerations for compliance and increased productivity

Safety - key considerations for compliance and increased productivity The safety experts at Rockwell Automation look at the implications of the new EN 13849-1 standard, and explore the competitive advantages of Integrated Safety technology.

The importance of providing a safe working environment would not be argued by many in Europe, yet many find it an area full of subtleties, complications, mitigations and, in our experience, a fair amount of confusion.

It would be easy to over complicate the need for a targeted approach to safety and to obscure the solutions available with debate about the often contesting demands of remaining competitive, compliant and safe. It would also be easy to forget that the changing safety legislature environment can help make it easier for companies to comply with the new standards and remain competitive in the future. If attention is paid to three key areas, namely:
  • Compliance
  • How does the conversion to new legislation EN ISO 13849-1 and EN/IEC 62061 affect my company?
  • The competitive advantages of Integrated Safety technology

The three overlap in many areas and combine to form the core knowledge that can help companies achieve the seemingly difficult balance between compliance and productivity. In fact, those companies that are able to take a progressive attitude to safety can expect to see improved productivity as a result.

Compliance
Compliance is not simply about the change in legislation with the introduction of ISO13894-1, though changes detailed below will need to be incorporated to your overall compliance requirements. Other important steps to and proofs of compliance are requisite for machine builders and OEMs. End users, system integrators and OEMs are required to meet either the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1992) and Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) under the new machinery directive. OEMs in the main must also ensure that they complete CE certification for any products made for sale within the EEC. Inspecting, maintaining and re-inspecting equipment must be documented and various proofs of compliance produced upon demand.

The way different regulations overlap means that showing conformity to one set of regulations may cover other relevant regulations. In this regard the Central European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and its electrotechnical counterpart CENELEC advise that making equipment conform to their harmonised European Standard simplifies the task. These standards are not compulsory but strongly recommended as seeking conformity by other means can be very complex.

Conversion to EN ISO 13849-1
From December the 31st 2011 companies must ensure that they conform to the newer standard EN ISO 13849-1 or, for more advanced safety-control systems technologies EN/IEC 62061. The newer standards will from then be the only ones accepted as conforming to the new European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.

There is a difference in the interpretation of what is defined as a safety related systems on machinery in the new legislation which results in a new way for companies to assess and report back on their equipment. The main requirements and differences can be listed in basic form as follows:
  • The architecture of the system. Essentially this captures what we have become used to as the Categories
  • Reliability data is required for the constituent parts of the system
  • The Diagnostic Coverage [DC] of the system is required. This effectively represents the amount of fault monitoring in the system
  • Protection against common cause failure
  • Protection against systematic faults
  • Where relevant, specific requirements for software

The 'categories' that were previously used to have been replaced by a more effective system of Performance Level (PL) and Safety Integration Level (SIL). There is also an important independent tool that can help companies to understand which components are compatible with the necessary level of safety for their machines. SISTEMA (Safety Integrity Software Tool for the Evaluation of Machine Applications), helps to simplify calculation of the attained Performance Level of the safety related parts of a machine's control system in the context of EN ISO 13849-1. SISTEMA allows users to input their existing equipment and the software will model the machine and provide the user with the optional components to meet the required safety standard from the library of components uploaded by Component manufacturers which have reached and been certified to specific Performance Level classification.

Competitive advantages
For some time now technology in automation has been leading towards better integration and control, with improved diagnostics and management programmes. Such improvements help expand the potential of previously discrete, individual machines and have helped manufacturers and machine builders to make their machines more adaptable and more able to compete in the modern market.

Machines today are expected to perform an increasing variety of tasks with minimal change-over time. They communicate and take instruction through increasingly complex and 'intelligent' control systems which are able to adapt in real-time to pre-set values or management decisions based upon the improved feedback from the equipment or environment. Better software and management tools allow for modelling of best practises and changing product runs and functionality quickly.

It is fair to say that this means that the safety aspects in modern automation have to work in a more flexible, dynamic environment. The best solution to this is to integrate the safety into the processes that the machine is expected to complete - to design it into the machine. This is the way integrated safety solutions work; and the compliance environment has changed in recent years to reflect this and allow for future integration of technology as it comes to market by setting clear Performance Levels for whole machines and Safety Integrity Levels for components.

The time for companies that have not yet assessed their machines to conform to the new standard has run out. There are tools and guides that can help, SISTEMA in particular. Selecting a reputable safety solutions partner is another tried and tested method and can help achieve compliance and improve efficiency and productivity. We are finding many of our clients are able to improve productivity using integrated safety technology that conforms to the new standards and all compliance expectations.
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