Excerpt of article by E Technologies Functional Safety Engineer Tony Schalk for Plant Services Magazine
Sophisticated companies know that safety is a journey, not a destination. It is a part of their strategic and ongoing growth. As more and more companies look to implement safety programs, questions about budget, time, effort, and feasibility come into play. Larger companies may already employ a safety engineer or even a safety team, with well-established metrics and objectives each year. If you don’t fall into that category, don’t be discouraged. The most important thing you can do on any journey is to start. To begin your safety journey, you start with a risk assessment.
In the United States, when an accident originates from machinery, the owner of the machine is responsible for safety, not just the manufacturer of the machine. This means that if something happens, it’s technically your responsibility. If that doesn’t scare you, it should.
The beauty of the risk assessment is that it is your education on what could happen with the machinery in your facility. What you choose to do with your newfound knowledge is up to you; however, in the immortal words of G.I. Joe, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”
There are a few caveats. Although companies could self-perform their risk assessments, it isn’t a job that just anyone in your plant can do. A TÜV certification is needed, as well as an understanding of ISO 13849 or IEC 62061 standards. Anyone could pick up the standard and follow the process, but it’s hard to implement a standard and its many details if you’re new to safety. This is where having a safety professional can be very beneficial for efficiency’s sake. He or she can walk into a situation and quickly identify what needs to be done, based on experience and a well-versed understanding of the standards.
Whether you’re responsible for starting your facility’s safety journey and will be self-performing these tasks, or just trying to understand what to expect with this process as you look for and work with a safety professional, here is a breakdown for you.