You must assess all the machines in your facility for safety compliance and guarding. You have a very limited budget. Where do you begin?

The obvious thought would be to start with the most dangerous machines, but how do you determine that? You need a risk assessment.

If you have 100 or more machines to evaluate, a full risk assessment could cost in the neighborhood of $35,000, take multiple weeks to complete the onsite assessment and another four weeks to receive the documented report. Once you receive the report, you will have to read each machine’s results, and you still may not know which machines are the most dangerous and where to start taking action.

Budget, time and prioritization are common challenges for most plant or safety managers with respect to machine safeguarding. The solution might be a relatively new service called a high-level assessment, sometimes referred to as a "safety check."

Less Time, Less Cost, Clear Direction

What is the difference between a a high-level assessment and a full machine guarding assessment? With a high-level assessment, a machine safety expert reviews each machine in your facility for existing guarding, compliance to appropriate standards and identification of where a more thorough risk assessment and/or corrective action might be needed. A full risk assessment consists of a number of different elements that can take additional time.

In a full risk assessment, the limits of the machine are determined, the various tasks and persons performing each of those tasks are documented and the risks associated with each task are ascertained. Each task hazard is weighted for severity of injury, frequency of exposure and possibility of avoidance. These three factors are combined to determine a risk level for the hazard.

In some cases, this risk level result is the scope of the report. In a more comprehensive assessment, the risk level is related to the appropriate level of control architecture required, and a proposed guarding solution for each machine is provided. Depending on the provider, risk assessments can include more or less detail on these various elements, so it is important to know exactly what will be included in the final report.

Unlike a full risk assessment, where a single machine may be evaluated over a period of several hours or even days for a complex cell, a high level assessment usually only takes minutes per machine to determine if the existing guarding is compliant and if any additional work needs to be done. Usually the assessor briefly will talk with the machine operator to uncover any idiosyncrasies of the particular work being done on the machine that might require special consideration.