The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has now commenced on-site inspections of hand-fed platen presses in the UK, which is a further incentive for users of this high-risk type of machinery to ensure they are adequately safe. Following extensive consultation with industry, users and suppliers, the HSE has also published an Information Sheet to help users manage this process.
Pilz explains that the HSE is urging users of hand-fed platen (die cutting) machines in the UK to follow revised operating and safeguarding guidance to reduce the risk of serious crush injuries and even death. To help users manage this upgrade process, the HSE has published an Information Sheet, which is freely downloadable from its website at www.hse.gov.uk/printing/alert.htm [Printing Information Sheet No 18, PIS18]. The Information Sheet is aimed at all employers, supervisors and managers who are responsible for the safe operation of hand-fed platen presses. It specifically addresses the risks associated with whole-body access between the platens of larger machines and use of the dwell mode. It also sets out a number of other key issues relevant to machines of all sizes, such as: using the most suitable machines; use of the dwell and continuous mode; existing standards; additional safeguarding requirements if dwell and continuous modes are retained; making the machine safe when accessing the danger area between the platens; training; daily checks; and machine inspection.
Tim Small, a specialist manufacturing safety inspector at the HSE, states: "Hand-fed platens are high-risk machines. Our investigations show that workers can and do climb between the platens on many machines. The risk is particularly high when the platen is being used in dwell [semi-automatic] mode. In this situation, operators are not protected by the current guarding arrangements.
"HSE are carrying out visits to users to check that firms are taking action to comply with our Information Sheet. We will consider using our enforcement powers where we find particularly poor standards or where firms have not started to take any action to improve standards."
Safety of hand-fed platen presses
Some users of hand-fed platen presses have already implemented suitable safety systems that have been approved by the HSE. In November 2009, for example, Pilz Automation Technology and SCA Display UK worked together to improve the safety of a hand-fed platen press at SCA's Shenstone plant.
Pilz wrote a functional specification for the press, then engineered a system based on the functional safety requirements. Utilising an array of light beams and a safety controller, the press is now brought to a safe stop if there is a violation of the hazard zones while the press is closing. The press cannot be restarted until the press cam switch has been operated, signalling that the press is at the 'home' position. Pilz supplied all of the hardware, including the light beam array and safety controller, as well as writing all the software code.
To download a free copy of the Information Sheet, go to www.hse.gov.uk/printing/alert.htm or telephone +44 (0)845 345 0055 for more information.