KANBrief 4/12

Safety by co-operation: procurement of machinery at Ford Werke GmbH in Germany

Ford is continually stepping up the consideration given to safety requirements during the procurement of machinery and technical equipment. This necessitates close co-operation between the functions of production planning, which takes place at European level, purchasing and occupational safety and health, and the manufacturer/supplier. The most important instrument in this context is the joint conducting of risk assessment.

To ensure that the applicable safety requirements are observed when new machinery – which in Ford's case predominantly involves custom machines – is purchased, it is important for functions and responsibilities to be laid down and communicated clearly. A further challenge arises when existing machinery or production installations are modified and placed in service again in accordance with the Machinery Directive.

Ford employs a product development system (Global Product Development System, GPDS) worldwide in which the dates and requirements for all critical milestones are defined. This includes the procurement of machinery. Invitations to tender are generally issued at European or international level. The Machinery Directive and the standards supporting it are particularly relevant to this process. Requirements resulting from the directive are supplemented and/or commented and communicated to the machinery manufacturers in contractual agreements. They include the requirement for the machinery supplier to present the risk assessment to the user (Ford) at the design stage.

Dialogue at an early stage prevents the defeating of safety equipment

Time and again, the "reasonably foreseeable misuse" of a machine is a source of major disagreement between manufacturers and users. The two sides may have widely differing expectations regarding the safety equipment for the minimization of misuse. Designers often pay insufficient attention to experience of occupational safety and health gained in the field, instead attaching priority to strict application of the standards. This approach may however favour the defeating of safety equipment, since it is often not appreciated that standards are only one means by which hazards may be minimized. Other, equally valid measures are possible only if manufacturers and users consider them at a sufficiently early stage. It is important for the risk assessment to be reviewed jointly in order for the experience of users, for example regarding safe troubleshooting, clearance of faults and maintenance in a complex manufacturing plant, to be given adequate consideration during the design phase.

Risk assessment: tailor-made or off the shelf?

Sadly, our repeated observation is that not all manufacturers regard risk assessment as a useful "tool" for the design of their machinery. We also take a sceptical view of the "standard risk assessments" available on the market, since they offer only ready-made solutions that fail to exploit the experience gathered with previous machines. Such solutions place quantity over quality, often merely accompanied by the instruction that the necessary personal protective equipment must be worn, but with no evident will to develop technical solutions as a matter of priority in accordance with the ranking of prevention measures.

A good risk assessment is an ongoing process that begins at the design stage and which, for custom machinery, may extend through to the commissioning of a turnkey production line. The manufacturer's and operator's planning engineers, supported by their respective OSH professionals, should be involved in this process, as should the future maintenance personnel.

Once the machine has been completed, the process of handover from the manufacturer to the operator should be carefully controlled in order to ensure the smoothest possible transition from technical to organizational occupational safety and health. This includes a formal safety inspection by the OSH professional in conjunction with the machine manufacturer prior to commissioning. The inspection includes review of the measures resulting from the risk assessment.

Andreas Kazmierczak akazmie3@ford.com