Machine Safety in the US – What Drives Safety Behavior?


Machine safety standards abound here in the US.  And of course we also have OSHA regulations which form the basis for Federal enforcement. Book shelves are loaded with books and publications with the single theme of addressing these two sentences. We also have employee injuries & insurance companies, productivity & operating efficiencies, the legal thing, and just plain “Best Practices”….to mention a few.  With all that said and for any company in the US, what drives domestic machine safety behavior?  Let me offer one opinion.

In my forty plus years of experience I would offer the following generalized priority:

  1. OSHA Regulations - because it’s the law, local regulations (i.e.: state, city, municipality, etc.), business demands/policy, and perhaps the legal threat.
  2. US based consensus standards, performance requirements in a purchase order, cost savings programs, and company safety policies.
  3. International standards influence, best practices, competition, and image.

The purpose of this list is not to be absolutely accurate, but instead, to drive some thinking as to where a new international standard like EN ISO 13849-1; 2006 plays a role in my business. Will this standard likely drive domestic safety behavior? Let’s take a quick look.

  1. Will OSHA or any local regulations, for enforcement of Regulations, reference EN ISO 13849-1; 2006?
  2. Is it likely that all US consensus standards will change policy this year from “informative references” to “normative (required) references” to international standards?
  3. Or, will the new requirements of EN ISO 13849-1; 2006 more likely fall into priority #3 above for most domestic companies?

To answer these questions one probably needs to look at your segment of the US discrete (machine) industry. Some of the segments are: large, medium, or small companies; end users vs machine builders, union vs non-union shops, European customers - yes or no, international plant locations vs only US…and the list goes on. There’s an interesting discussion going on at the “Safety Automation Forum” on this subject. You may want to check it out -

Another related article can be located at -

There will be a lot more said on this subject over the next several months!

For more on Machine Safety visit:

Posted by J.B. Titus on January 8, 2010

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