All machinery involves risks of one sort or another. Employers whose workers use machines have a statutory duty to protect them against accidents. Self-employed people who use equipment that could pose a danger to members of the public are subject to the same legal requirements, and self-employed people in their own premises would be foolish to ignore the need to manage risks. One vital aspect of risk management is the inspection and testing of equipment.
The starting point for all safety schedules is the risk assessment. With any piece of equipment, it is necessary to compile a list of the things that could pose a hazard (this will usually be included in the manufacturer’s literature), the likelihood of the hazard occurring, and the steps that will be taken to minimize the risk. The schedule of inspection and testing will form a central part of that risk-reduction process.
What Should be Inspected?
The risk assessment should list the things that need inspecting. All new equipment will come with the manufacturer’s recommendations, although second-hand machinery may not have that. The particular items that need inspection depend on the risks they pose.
For instance, electrical machinery must be regularly tested for effective insulation. Mobile plants need to be inspected to ensure the optimum field of vision for the operator. Ladders need to be checked for strength and stability.
The function of all safety devices is critical, and you must pay particular attention to these.
How Often Should Equipment be Inspected?
You must set up an appropriate schedule of testing for each piece of equipment. This will normally include:
- A visual inspection before each use (e.g. electric cables are not frayed).
- A frequent check on safety critical features (e.g. safety cut-outs operate effectively).
- Servicing according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
It is a legal requirement to keep a record of each inspection (apart from the daily one). A checklist can help to ensure that the checks are complete.
As well as testing and inspecting at intervals, you can sometimes make use of technology that constantly monitors the integrity of the equipment. For instance, strain gauges from RS can be attached to parts that are subject to strain. These would indicate if the part is reacting abnormally and needs attention.
Who Should Do the Testing?
The law requires that testing and inspection should be carried out by a suitably qualified person. In most routine cases that would mean a trained operator or supervisor. In more thorough periodic servicing, it is more likely to be a mechanic trained in the manufacturer’s procedures.
Ultimately the responsibilities for frequent inspections, tests, and maintenance, lie with the owner of the business.
Health and Safety – Everyone’s Friend
Health and safety can sometimes seem like an obstacle that gets in the way of doing real work. However, anyone who has experienced an accident at work will bear witness to its importance. Ironically, regular inspection and testing only likely to seem like unnecessary burdens because they are so effective in preventing those experiences.