Getting serious about machine safety in 2022

By Craig Carlyle, director at Maintenance Transformations

A wave of prosecutions related to guarding and the safe use of machinery are an eyeopener to the complacency of business in keeping their workers safe. From the Wellington pastry worker degloving his hand in a pastry maker to the female sawmill worker killed when she was dragged into machinery, the reality is that our statistics have not improved despite the best intentions of MBIE and WorkSafe.

According to WorkSafe there are too many workers whose safety is compromised by having to operate inadequately guarded machinery.

“The need to guard machinery is a legal requirement and one of the easiest ways to ensure your workers’ safety. It’s not new and businesses must ensure these simple protective devices are installed, and operated, on their machinery.

“If a machine doesn’t have adequate guarding, then it shouldn’t be used. It’s that simple.”

Safe use of machinery (guarding) requirements have been in place since last century, however recent fines underline the intent to get serious. A $200,000-$300,000 fine is now the starting point for most prosecutions.

WorkSafe simplified the AS/NZS 4024 requirements with its own Best Practice Guide, but this alone is not enough. Competency and confidence training is required so that businesses can incorporate machine safety into their normal operations. It is simply not good enough to ignore safety when making capital purchases, or to hand the guarding issues off to tradesmen without considering the management responsibilities, or to assign staff to machinery without considering their competency. Training in the application of WorkSafe’s Best Practice Guide for the Safe Use of Machinery is available and this is an ideal starting point to understanding how to keep workers safe and where everyone in the organisation fits into a complete solution.

So, what can you do if you use machinery in your business? There are several basic steps you can take to ensure your workers and your business are not at risk:

  1. Arrange a scoping machinery safety audit. This will confirm your level of compliance, or alternatively provide a roadmap for improvement. External audits often uncover obvious faults that existing personnel are blind to.
  1. Train staff members in the safe use of machinery best practice guidelines. Train a cross section of employees, not just your engineers, to embed the awareness, competence and confidence across your organisation, and help the business understand the overarching responsibilities.
  1. Check your own systems; do we have safe systems of work? Do we do guarding checks? Do we train our staff on hazards or risks that could hurt them? Do we record that training and systemise the training to remind us in the future?

Whatever suits your business, hiding your head in the sand is no longer a viable option for 2022.

Craig Carlyle is director at Maintenance Transformations. His expertise lies in the practical application of maintenance and health and safety management systems in the workplace. He is also a life member of the Maintenance Engineering Society of NZ.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.