Back to School: A Machinery Safety Refresher

Sunshine, easy commutes and alfresco dining, just some of the many joys the summer break can offer. And yet the heat is subsiding, the mornings are getting darker and that glorious trip abroad all but a distant memory – it must be time to go back to school.

Well, perhaps not school, although the return to work after a lengthy break can often feel like the first week of a new school term. Anxious jitters begin to creep in as you prepare to face the endless stream of un-read emails sitting in your inbox and a mountain of paperwork resting on your desk.

Indeed, with a workload big enough for you to crawl under, it might seem like cutting corners to fast track production or avoid tedious meetings might seem like the only option. Yet this approach is likely to cost you significantly more in the long run – particularly from a health and safety point of view.

In particular, safety around machinery isn’t something which can be neglected. Even when workplaces are made as safe as possible, risks can still remain, which is why Machinery Safety is enshrined in UK health and safety law.

Those who own or manage engineering and manufacturing firms are therefore responsible for ensuring machine and equipment safety. This includes machine safety training for operatives, as well as for their managers. So, to help kick-start the first few weeks back at work, we’ve put together a small refresher for Machinery Safety to keep you on the straight and narrow:

Choosing the right equipment

It’s often helpful for users to select their own safety equipment rather than managers, as this ensures that equipment fits properly and is not too heavy. If various pieces of PPE are required, then it’s also important that these fit together, as not to disturb one from the other.

Before choosing safety equipment though, it’s important to consider whether it’s suitable for the job, whether it offers the right level of protection and what training and maintenance is required. Products should always be marked as being compliant with the relevant legislations, usually denoted with a CE marking.

Storing and maintaining safety equipment

Safety equipment needs storing correctly when not in use. It needs keeping clean and in good condition, with nominated individuals having responsibility for regularly checking equipment safety. If equipment parts such as filters need replacing, they should always meet the same safety standards as the originals.

Using machine guards

Machine guards provide protection from hazards by providing a covering, shielding workers and preventing them from touching, or getting caught in moving parts. Using machine guards also protects from sparks, flying debris and splashing chemicals.

Machine safety devices

Safety devices don’t use physical barriers, instead protecting workers by either stopping a machine or restricting machine operators’ movements if they get too close to a hazardous area. They tend to be employed in situations where adjustable, or self-adjusting guards might get in the way.

Most protect a worker’s entire body by quickly shutting down the machinery when tripped. Others only protect the hands, either by keeping a machine from starting if a hand is in the wrong place or restricting the machine operator’s hand and arm movements.


The nature of some industries means that even when every care is taken to protect employees from harm, there’s always a safety risk. As well as providing the right safety equipment to help minimize risks, employees need training to ensure that they always use safety equipment correctly in the workplace.

Training should discuss whether any equipment will interfere with the job and if so whether there is alternative equipment available. Training should also stress that however small a job is, if personal protective equipment is required, it must be worn at all times which employers are legally obliged to provide.

If you’d like to learn more about our Machinery Safety or the suite of training course which RoSPA provides, please call us on 0121 248 2233, email or visit our website.


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