Machine Safety and Wireless Devices

Conventional machine safety has been challenged for the last 10 years with new technology and standards. Safety automation has led the new technology pack while NFPA 79 took the lead on the standards side. Both combined in 2002 to introduce safety PLCs, safety fieldbus, and e-stops on a safety rated bus. The latest challenge to conventional safety is wireless (aka cableless) innovation impacting devices, fieldbus technology, and machine control applications. Are we ready?

06/16/2011


JB Titus, CFSEConventional machine safety has been challenged for the last ten years with new technology and standards. Safety automation has led the new technology pack while NFPA 79 took the lead on the standards side. Both combined in 2002 to introduce safety PLCs, safety fieldbus, and e-stops on a safety rated bus. The latest challenge to conventional safety is wireless (aka cableless) innovation impacting devices, fieldbus technology, and machine control applications. Are we ready?

     Innovation of technology most often drives the changes to industrial standards. Therefore, I can think of several new technologies evolving into machine control and machine safety.

- Wireless fieldbus technology

- Wireless/cableless operator control panels

- Wireless sensors

- Wireless remote I/O

- Wireless remote control

- WirelessHART, and

- Wireless switches… to name a few.

    Who has any idea how these technologies will directly or indirectly impact machine safety?

     Some of the industry standards have already changed or updated their language to allow and in some cases provide specific required steps that “shall” be followed when applying these technologies for safety applications. Some of these technologies are even safety rated by NRTLs (Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories) like TUV or UL to various SIL and/or Performance Levels.

     In my opinion, the direct impacts on machine safety should be less worrisome because we deal with direct impacts every day on the shop floor. It’s the indirect impacts that most often surprise everyone and almost every surprise is dangerous. The book says to identify all hazards via a risk assessment and to mitigate the hazards to acceptable levels.

     So, is the risk assessment considered as key to the proper application of these technologies?

     Let’s hear your ideas?

     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 and Wireless Devices.

     Did you see the Safety Integration Webcast?

     Related articles:

Designing In Machine Guarding   

Fieldbus Foundation brings more information through HSE with Wireless and Remote I/O

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