Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis, operating efficiencies and cost savings, as well as all relevant safety standards, such as those from NFPA, ANSI, RIA, IEC, ISO and OSHA.
About J.B. Titus

Machine Safety - Am I Responsible?

Case examples cross my desk almost weekly asking, “am I responsible” or liable for for machine safety? These questions come from end users, OEMs, systems integrators, and suppliers. Initially, OSHA provides an answer, but beyond that...

February 11, 2011


J.B. TitusAm I responsible for machine safety? How would you answer this question?

     In the U.S. we have to initially answer this question from the regulatory (OSHA) perspective. Therefore, we have the OSHA General Care and Duty clause OSHA that requires “each employer shall furnish to each of his employees, employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees”. In addition, consensus standards over the past decade have been consistently adding clarification to end user and supplier responsibilities for machine safety. Additionally, there are scores of local regulations, state regulations, and company policy’s that also influence the regulation side.

     With all of this “clarification," why does the confusion of who’s responsible seem to never go away?

     In my opinion, one reason is the liability side of the equation. Case examples cross my desk almost weekly asking, “am I responsible”? These questions come from end users, OEM’s, systems integrators, and suppliers. The scenarios range from an end user who contracted for an older machine retrofit adding an automated feeder system over eight years ago to another end user who moved a machine to another State where it was re-installed without touching any controls or electrical on the machine.

     The advice in all of these situations begins with and is not limited to:

  • Always check all applicable OSHA regulations, local codes & regulations, international standards,and domestic consensus standards
  • Check all terms and conditions in purchase agreements and contracts
  • Check all company policy’s involved in the project
  • And, this is just the beginning......

     There is no way to thoroughly and properly cover this topic in a short blog because the answer is most often different in every case. However, what is consistent is the simple fact that due diligence will always be the order for the day. There are far too many variables on the liability side for a simple and quick answer. Possibly the clearest example of this involves the discussion over “touching the machine.” Many interpretations of touching the machine means that having done so “you” are obligated to bring the machine to current code. So, by moving a machine are you obligated to bring the control system and machine guarding to compliance with current standards and regulations?

     Does anyone have a very clear answer?

     Does anyone have a definition for “touching the machine”?   

     In my opinion, these factors and many more collectively indicate that machine safety is everyone’s responsibility. What’s your opinion? Leave a comment below.

     DANGER - This energy source has been locked out - proper machine safety methods save life and limb, says the Control Engineering Machine Safety blog.INTEGRATED SAFETY COULD BE YOUR OPPORTUNITY – CONSIDER IT!

     Submit your ideas, experiences, and challenges on this subject in the comments section below. Click on the following text if you don't see a comments box, then scroll down: Machine Safety – Am I Responsible?

Related articles:  

Machine Safety and Who’s Responsible?

Machine Safety And Your Safety Culture

Updating Minds About Machine Guarding

Contact: www.jbtitus.com for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.



For more than 30 years, J.B. Titus has advised a wide range of clients on machine functional safety solutions, including Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, General Motors, Disney, Rockwell Automation, Bridgestone Firestone, and Samsung Heavy Industries. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Oklahoma University in industrial management and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University in marketing and finance. He is a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers and is OSHA-certified in machine guarding. Titus is also TUV-certified as a Functional Safety Expert and serves on several American National Standards Institute, National Fire Protection Association, and National Electrical Manufacturers Association national safety and health standards committees. Reach him at jb(at)jbtitus.com and via www.jbtitus.com.