Irked by Inaccessible Machine Safety Standards

Maybe it's just me, but every time I try to cover machine safety, I'm a little shocked and unhappy by how difficult it is to secure nuts-and-bolts advice on safety standards and how to comply with them. Sure, there are lots of summaries and general statements about how important machine safety is, but there are few specifics on how to actually implement machine safety.

Unfortunately, copies of actual machine safety standards often costs hundreds of dollars each, and have to be purchased from the organizations that develop and support them, such as ISO, IEC, IEEE, NFPA, ANSI, RIA, PMMI and others. Personally, I can't afford that to write one article, and I'd bet many of the smallest machine builders can't afford it either. And, even some of the experts that develop safety standards can't talk about them in too much detail for fear of impinging on their copyrights, and so I probably couldn't publish too many details even if I did have the standards in hand. This is a shame because it seems like actual machine safety is less important than publishing standards about it.

I know it takes revenue to develop and maintain safety standards, but I think there ought to be some way to "lower the pay wall" and get more specifics about machine safety out to those builders and user that need it most.  

Fortunately, in my most recent efforts to research and report on machine safety for Control Design's cover article for May 2012, I ran across the freely downloadable Sistema software utility, which provides developers and testers of safety-related machine controls with comprehensive support in the evaluation of safety in the context of ISO 13849-1. It's available from the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance organization . More information about the Sistema tool is available from Rockwell Automation at .

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  • <p>When a standard becomes part of a government code, such as when a municipality requires machinery to be UL-labeled, then that code can NOT be for profit. A fee for reproduction might be acceptable if ordering paper, but most codes these days are transmitted electronically.</p> <p>As to impinging copyrights, that also seems hypocritical. In order to discuss something like that, whole paragraphs may be needed. I can see defending overall copyright infringement, but if magazine writers are concerned about it, then there is a serious problem.</p> <p>Go get them Jim!</p> <p>TJ McDermott Senior Project Engineer / Project Manager Systems Interface Inc.</p>


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