What is a Task-Based Machine Risk Assessment?

Workplace safety is a top priority for industrial manufacturers. One of the best ways to promote manufacturing plant safety is task-based machine risk assessment.

A task-based risk assessment is a proven, methodical tool to identify, assess, and document the hazards of operating machinery.

Through a carefully documented, team-based process, a task-based machine risk assessment will:

  • Identify the groups that interact with a machine;
  • Determine the tasks performed on the machine;
  • Identify the hazards of performing these tasks;
  • Score risks using a risk scoring system, and;
  • If necessary, reduce the risk.

Task-based machine risk assessment yields results that are easy to quantify and prioritize according to their risk score. The scoring system enables the plant personnel to focus on tasks with the most severe hazards to achieve practical risk reduction.

This method also eliminates inconsistent, haphazard approaches to determining the severity of a potential hazard. The scoring system is determined and utilized by the team in the same manner.

In our experience providing industrial safety services to manufacturers in many industries, we often recommend using the risk assessment process as the basis and framework for designing and implementing an effective machine safety program. It is a thoughtful, dynamic and documented process that serves as proof of “due diligence.”

Though there is no way to make every workplace 100% safe, risk reduction can mitigate the hazard to a tolerable level to provide a reasonably safe working environment for all workers.

Why Task-Based Machine Risk Assessment Requires a Team

The preferred methodology for identifying risks is a team concept that includes all stakeholders that interact or have knowledge of interaction with the machine. These stakeholders should include:

  • Operations;
  • Production;
  • Management;
  • Engineering;
  • Sanitation;
  • Maintenance.

It’s important to consider shift work in the group makeup. For example, 3rd shift operators may interface with machines in a different manner than 1st shift operators. This may be due to differences in training, supervision, or the lack of supervision or management presence on a particular shift.

Similarly, each job function will interact with a machine in a different manner.

Since an operator’s interaction with a machine is repetitive under normal circumstances, this usually does not result in an identified hazard. The machine OEM anticipated the normal mode of operation and most likely addressed safety issues in design.

However, when there is a machine fault, the operator may attempt abnormal interaction with the machine that was not anticipated by the original design team. An example would be an equipment jam where the operator attempts to resolve the issue by reaching into the machine. This is a prime candidate for a potential hazard.

How Task-Based Machine Risk Assessment Works

Each task is identified and all interaction with the machine (people, parts, and other machines) are identified in a list format. Both normal and atypical tasks should be listed based on the experience of the personnel and the anticipation of what could occur. Projecting future scenarios is especially important for machinery that is not currently in use or has been recently commissioned.

Once the initial risk is assessed via the risk scoring system selected, it needs to be evaluated. If the risk is at a tolerable level, there are two options: Accept that outcome or attempt to lower the risk even more. This is usually answered very quickly by the group. If it is an easy and low cost fix, then it makes sense to reduce the risk more. If the cost and effort of mitigating the risk further are prohibitive, no more mitigation is required since the risk is already at an acceptable level.

Similarly, if the initial risk analysis yields an unacceptable risk level, then risk mitigation must take place in an iterative manner until the risk is reduced to a tolerable level. The process of risk assessment is shown in the figure below.


How Manufacturers Benefit

There are many indirect benefits to a manufacturer from a risk assessment, such as:

  • Increasing awareness of the hazards to all parties which may lead to avoidance;
  • Reducing the level and rate of injury through mitigation and awareness;
  • Increasing understanding of the operations;
  • Creating an opportunity to re-evaluate process;
  • Using a group effort to eliminate an unusable method of mitigation;
  • Potential for reduced cost of operation and increased productivity;
  • Decreasing overall cost of ownership by reducing costly accidents, OSHA fines, and litigation, and lowering insurance costs;
  • Protecting the company brand by minimizing negative press.

For manufacturers committed to industrial plant safety, task-based machine risk assessment is a vital process. Watch for future posts on this topic.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our risk assessment and industrial safety services, contact Tim Lemoine, PE, Director of Engineering Services, at (419) 897-7200 x 420.

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