Safety a Shared Responsibility, Profitable Too

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 @ 04:08 PM gHale

By Nicholas Sheble
“Safety is a core system function, a key differentiator between manufacturing competitors and a profit center,” said George Schuster during his presentation on “Modern Safety Thinking” this week.

“Improved productivity and reduced costs associated with injuries are the direct results of implementing the machine directive and modern safety standards into a safe design philosophy,” Schuster said during Rockwell Automation’s second webinar of its functional safety series.

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Modern safety thinking is a culture, a process, and a design philosophy. It involves a systematic approach with an attention to making every link as strong as the next. It is a continuum.

Schuster, a senior industry consultant at Rockwell, discussed the safety design continuum and key milestones; the strategic importance of following a safe design process; how to design safety into a machine and not onto a machine; and the strategic approaches to passive, configurable and lockable safety systems.

Functional safety addresses the safeguarding portion of the risk reduction process. When you implement integrated safety by designing systems so safety and environmental considerations are fundamental elements of doing work, you include functional safety measures as part of the safety system.

Schuster spoke about the functional safety life cycle, which has five steps.
• Risk assessment or hazard analysis
• Safety system requirements
• Safety system implementation
• Safety system validation
• Maintaining and improving the safety system

Functional safety is part of the safety life cycle because it is involved in steps 2, 3, and 4.

During Schuster’s question and answer session with webinar participants, he said “In the United States, we litigate safety and so the onus is on the equipment user to insure its safety and safe operation. In Europe and Canada, we legislate safety so the manufacturer of the machine must meet the standards.”

This is not to say that if one buys a European made robot it’s guaranteed to be right because machine builders may very well construct their machines according to the geography of the purchaser.

Schuster told one questioner that he sees the most important standards for machine as being ISO 13849, IEC 62061, and IEC 61511. Identify these and learn more on functional safety standards.

You can see this webinar on functional safety and other webinars free on the Rockwell website. However, you must register first.

Click here for Rockwell’s safety resource center.

Nicholas Sheble ( is an engineering writer and technical editor in Raleigh, NC.

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