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On guard - the importance of machine safety

Supplier: Australis Engineering By: Peter Gustafson
05 July, 2011

The safety of workers operating or cleaning machinery is a critical issue for all manufacturers — getting it wrong can lead to death or permanent injury and be costly to your business.

Machine Safety is Critical to a Safe Workplace

Allowing unguarded and dangerous equipment is a hazard to your employees and can severely impact your business. Recent incidents in Rural NSW, Adelaide and Sydney resulted in substantial fines to the prosecuted companies and no doubt resulted in higher insurance premiums and lost production, but most importantly left their employees permanently impacted by a lack of workplace safety risk management.

Machine Guarding protects your Employees

Installing WHS compliant machine guards made from aluminium profile is a cost-effective way to protect your personnel and even realise savings through reduced downtime. The following example is a brief case study of how we can assist you to retrofit a machine guard (or safety fence) to your existing equipment - but keep in mind we also manufacture for OEM's to incorporate guarding onto their new equipment as well!

A Case Study - getting it right!

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) manufacture and supply pharmaceuticals and are Australian and world leaders in medical and scientific research and development. Following an audit, several cases for improvements to existing machine guarding were identified so as to better comply with WHS regulations and to prevent the possibility of air borne product contamination.

Australis Engineering was engaged to design and configure new machine guarding for GSK's fully automated Panadol manufacturing and packaging facility. Requirements for the new IMA machinery guarding include:

  • Compliance with new WHS regulations
  • User friendly guarding, ie easy to clean and access the machines for maintenance
  • Full enclosure of the machinery to assist with product contamination
  • A design that is efficient and safe for GSK personnel to use.

Finding a workable solution was a challenge as the Panadol machines were never intended to be used fully enclosed and needed to remain fully serviceable with minimal removal of the guards to ensure that current servicing times could be maintained. The scope also required that the new guards maintain or improve visibility of the Panadol product and ensure maximum stability and integrity in the construction of the guards, while also, at minimum, maintaining the production rate of the machine or improving it if possible.

The Result

Using 3D CAD software and in-house engineering team, Australis Engineering designed, manufactured and installed five unique, fully enclosed WHS compliant machinery guards using aluminium profile. While the five lines were generally similar, each line posed a unique challenge requiring the design of special features such custom door shapes, complex out-shoot designs and customised tunnel sections.

Importantly, each IMA guard was also constructed with a fully removable side to allow easy servicing by GSK and to maintain current servicing times. With five similar, but unique machine guards, the use of aluminium profile for this application was ideal and provides key benefits including:

  • Ability to easily modify each design quickly due to the adaptability of the profile;
  • Structural integrity of the guard resulting from the structural integrity of the profile itself;
  • Slimline and lightweight;
  • Easily fitted with clear lexan panels to allow maximum visibility of the machine and product.

In addition, the guards were fabricated in modular sections for easy transportation and installation while also keeping installation times to a bare minimum which further reduced costs to GSK.

As a result of installing the new machinery guards, the five Panadol lines at GSK fully comply with WHS guidelines and maintain existing machine outputs but with decreased servicing downtime due to the improved access provided by the flexible aluminium profile and the ability to incorporate easily removeable panels.

Why use Aluminium Profile?

The success of the GSK Panadol machinery guarding project results from the use of Aluminium Profile. Aluminium Profile is a highly adaptable and user friendly material, being available in over 55 different profile patterns and sizes. Aluminium profile has a high strength to weight ratio and almost infinite uses due to the multitude of connectors, profile patterns and other accessories. The hard wearing anodised finish makes using aluminium profile a first choice in clean room environments where cleanliness needs to be guaranteed.

Importantly the unique connecting system used in an aluminium profile system greatly reduces fabrication time by eliminating the need to weld and paint steel. Generally this also results in reduced labour costs, meaning that many aluminium profile solutions are cheaper than a comparable steel solution. The flexible connecting system also permits any design to be built in a modular format allowing easier and faster transportation, onsite installation and modifications, resulting in further cost savings.

Typical applications where Aluminium Profile is recommended are: machine guards; safety fences; workstations or work benches; control room consoles; roller conveyors; belt conveyors; curved conveyors; palletisers; linear units; tradeshow stands and booths; and specialist vehicle systems (e.g. police, emergency and armed forces).

Aluminium profile is versatile and adaptable for hundreds of applicatins including machine guards