Two thirds of all accidents in engineering workshops occur during the movement of people, goods and equipment. Accidents can happen to operators using automatic, manual and CNC machines. CNC stands for computer numerical control. These machines are programmed by computers to control feed rate, speed and coordination etc. These machines are very useful and are mostly used in the manufacturing of plastics and metals. However, they still need human operators interacting with them and so pose a risk to one’s health. Accidents can occur during the loading or unloading of components, the taking measuring, feeding etc. There is more operator interaction with manually operated machines. Machine movements include cutting, shearing and sawing etc. Automatic machines that pose a risk are presses, milling machines, drilling machines, grinding machines and guillotines. Hands and fingers are most frequently injured, however, knocks to the eyes, disentanglements of clothing leading to injuries, lacerations and broken bones can all happen.

To help prevent accidents with manually operated machines, fixed guards should be used to unload and load components to the tool working edge.  For both automatic and CNC machines, all dangerous body movements (not just interaction with tools) should be guarded against with guards in place and PPE in use. To safeguard against noise, noise enclosures or controlling noise at source should be adapted. For some one-off tasks, the machine and guard may have to be adjusted continually and be under close observation. With all risky processes, interlocking should be in place so that the power to dangerous machine parts is removed when interlocking guards are open or the movements are limited to safe increments or speeds. Enclosing guards should be used to contain hazardous emissions such as metalworking fluids, mists and fume vapour. Where there is a change in a machine function from manual to automatic or vice versa, new risks may be introduced; the operator needs to be apt at making sure the new risk control settings are in place during each new operation.

Under the law, the provision and use of work equipment regulations 1998 place duties on employers and the self-employed to ensure proper training for operators, information on the dangers, proper lighting, ventilation and a PPE system is in place. Warning labels, control systems, protection for the operator (i.e guard rails etc.) and the safe automatic shutdown of machines in emergency are all part of these regulations. Regular inspection and the necessary maintenance should be carried out where there is a risk of injury that may occur from the incorrect installation of the equipment and the deterioration of the work equipment over time. Records should be kept of all fittings done, maintenance and inspection dates. All new machinery procured should have the ‘CE’ mark and have conformity with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations. According to Section 6 of The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, machinery should be constructed so that it is safe and without risks to health and has accompanying instruction information.


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