If hazards associated with machines cannot be eliminated or sufficiently minimised by design, then safeguards are used. Safeguards are designed to protect machine operators from the remaining hazards associated with the machine. However, safeguards are often repeatedly dismantled, bypassed or otherwise rendered inoperable, despite the risk associated with this. Occupational safety experts estimate that safeguards are temporarily or permanently tampered with on a quarter of all machines. This leads to thousands of work related accidents every year that are linked to the defeating of safeguards.
The most common reason for defeating safeguards is due to shortcomings in the machine’s safety concept. If the safety concept is not adapted to allow the machine to be operated with ease, then safeguards are seen as a nuisance. In such cases, the guard makes it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out maintenance work, set up, operate, troubleshoot or clean the machine. This constitutes a strong incentive for people working with such machinery to bypass the safeguard.
Companies that manufacture and operate machinery have a legal duty to ensure that all machinery placed on the market and made available to the public is safe. Machines with a high incentive for defeating are to be considered unsafe and must not be operated due to the increased risk of damage. So the question of whether or not a machine’s safeguards constitute an incentive to tamper with them and, if so, what measures can be taken to reduce this incentive, is therefore relevant to both the machine manufacturers and the companies operating the machines.
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