NIOSH Leads Evaluation of Machine Safety Guideline

About 155 people die every year on the job from being caught in, crushed by or otherwise fatally injured from hazardous contact with heavy industrial machinery. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is taking the lead in a project to evaluate the effectiveness of an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) voluntary guideline to prevent such injuries.

NIOSH is teaming up in the project with diverse business, labor and insurance industry partners.

The ANSI guideline, ANSI B11 TR3, describes a strategic process for employers to use in assessing the risk of such injuries in their workplaces. By performing such an assessment, companies can determine where best to focus efforts to reduce those risks. The ANSI guideline tailors the concepts of an international voluntary standard, ISO 14121, to the U.S. workplace. The new procedure is expected to be particularly effective for reducing risks during machine maintenance tasks.

The NIOSH-led study will compare operations involving two similar machines within several companies. In one setting, the ANSI TR3 process will be adopted. The matched operation will continue to follow traditional safety practices. Where the ANSI TR3 process is implemented, existing safety controls, machine guards, and other safety devices, practices, and programs are assessed beforehand.

Results of the study which will be covered on www.occupationalhazards.com, will help employers assess the effectiveness of the ANSI guideline in practice, and will help them decide whether to invest in new procedures with assurance that the changes are likely to improve safety in their workplaces.

As a first step, NIOSH held a training workshop with companies that are participating in the study. The workshop helped participants understand the TR3 process and computer software that was provided, and helped them practice using the software.

Next, NIOSH will work with participants to apply the ANSI TR3 process to one of their machines. One year later, safety data and conditions again will be assessed for the machine to which the TR3 process was applied, and for the comparison machine where traditional practices continued to be followed. NIOSH will publish the results and make them widely available to employers, employees, safety professionals and other partners.

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