Machine safety and layers of protection

Another study confirms the relationship between tasks performed and injuries and fatalities. Don't risk assessments find such relationships? Recognizing layers of protection can help.


Wow, have we come full circle? Another study confirms that there’s a relationship between “tasks performed” and “injuries/fatalities.” Isn’t that a main purpose of conducting a risk assessment?

Professional Safety (Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers) in its July issue has a featured article, Fatality Prevention – Findings From the 2012 Forum. This Forum evaluated and developed three central points as discussed in the article:

  1. A new measure, the Fatalities and Serious Injuries (FSI) potential rate, is being used to measure an organization's risk for having FSIs
  2. Organizations can reduce FSIs by identifying, understanding and controlling the precursors of all incidents that have the potential to cause FSIs
  3. And, management of risk associated with FSI precursors must occur at the task level. 

Their answer – Layers of Protection (LOP).

In my opinion, apparently the approach for manufacturers is to establish a practice of measuring and reporting an organizations risk level for having FSI’s on a task by task basis. Then, based on an appropriate scoring system, apply one or more LOP measure(s) to further reduce the risk of an FSI incident. One of the bases behind this additional practice comes from evaluating over 300 sampled injuries. Apparently the FSI sub-level of events was at least partly the result of intentional and unintentional behavior. I assume their understanding is that after applying the required risk mitigation steps (including the Five Hierarchy of Measures) to achieve “acceptable” risk – some risk of an FSI incident still remains due to human behaviors. 

Therefore, additional mitigation guidelines are included in three layers of protection. Their LOP measures are broken into three groups: 1) Administrative LOPs, 2) Warning device LOPs and 3) Safety devices LOPs. Each of these groups includes multiple unranked measures. 

I endorse any and all measures that can effectively reduce injury incidents in manufacturing. In my opinion, companies should seriously consider learning about this best practice and how it might benefit their employee safety program and their business. 

Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below. 

J.B. Titus, CFSE

Related articles:

ASSE – Professional Safety Journal - Fatality Prevention – Findings From the 2012 Forum

ASSE - Professional Safety Journal - Near-Miss Reporting, May 2013

OSHA – search for near miss

Machine Guarding & The Hierarchy of Measures for Hazard Mitigation

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