Design Engineering

Machine safety: electrical, mechanical, essential


General DPN

Machine guarding and machine safety is critical to the health of workers and to the health of Canadian manufacturing enterprises.

Death is certainly the worst outcome when workers aren’t properly protected from the machines they operate, maintain or come into contact with, sometimes only by “accident.”

Vickers-Warnick (, a motion control and automation product industrial distributor based in southern Ontario, certainly understands the stakes involved.

That’s why it presents Machine Guarding and Machine Safety seminars with expert speakers to preach the importance of proper risk assessment, upfront engineering, and communication between everyone who comes in touch with a machine or automated work cell.


At a recent seminar at the IAPA Centre for Health & Safety Innovation, close to 75 safety personnel from industry listened to machine guarding experts and learned about:
• current and applicable CSA, OSHA, ANSI, AMT, RIA, UL and NFPA (fire protection) safety codes and related government legislation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
• what is an Ontario PreStart Health and Safety Review and when exemptions can be applied;
• how AS-Interface technology reduces installation costs while increasing safety and machine system performance; and,
• how current electronic, mechanical and controls technologies can be applied and integrated in an application for the best safety solutions. Industrial automation and safety products from Ametek/Gemco, Darlex, Leuze Electronic, Pepperl + Fuchs, Ross Controls, Schmersal, Schneider Electric were included.

{mospagebreak}John Murphy, corporate manager of Fluid Power & Safety at Vickers-Warnick, recommends the CSA standards for the guarding of robots, punch presses, and other machinery. He detailed how the hand speed constant for reaction time of 63 ips applies to people and devices such as programmable controls, palm buttons, light curtains, safety mats and servomotors. “Ergonomics is also becoming more and more important,” he added.

Risk assessment is a job for all parties in a factory, since an operator might notice one thing and an engineer might notice another. Murphy noted that if you have 75 people in a room, you’ll 75 different “acceptable” levels of risk assessment.

Things to monitor when creating machine guarding are “can personnel be injured if they go over, under, through or behind” the protective measures? Murphy implored: “Ask yourself, ‘would I let my kids operate that machine?’”
Machine guarding risk assessment also becomes a tool for communication, for planning, for people involvement and for training, he explained.

Murphy also leads the company’s Guarding and Assessment Program (GAAP), which is designed to guide manufacturers through a seven-step system that includes an initial (free) consultation, safety assessment, stop time measurement, presentation of solutions, installation, Prestart Health and Safety Review and maintenance audits.
Understanding government legislation on health & safety is extremely important, says professional engineer and Ontario Pre-Start Health & Safety Review specialist Franco Tomei (

Tomei cautions that purchasing machinery on price considerations alone is risky as it can mean safety elements are removed from the machinery, elements that can be more costly to engineer back in.

“Demand a declaration of conformance from the manufacturer or installer,” Tomei recommended.



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