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Toward Sane Safety Standards

Nov. 30, 2012
Rockwell Automation's Safety Automation Forum Outlines How Organizations Work to Achieve Common Goals
About the Author

Joe Feeley is editor in chief for Control Design and Industrial Networking. 

The goal of safety standards organizations around the world is to harmonize national standards toward global unity.

At Rockwell Automation's Safety Automation Forum in November, Rockwell's Mike Miller, in his role as vice-chair of the U.S. National Committee TAG TC-199, outlined how organizations work to achieve common goals. "The USNC is a mirror committee to ISO/TC 199 machine safety. ISO and IEC are international organizations comprised of national standards bodies. Each nation has technical advisory groups or TAGs, made up of technical experts in their nations, and form working groups that focus on various elements of machine safety."

The U.S. TAG is administered by ANSI. The groups work individually and collectively to write global standards. "Gone are the days when we write individual, national standards," Miller explained. "Look at the global economy we live in. We want to build a machine one way and sell it all over the world."

He said 42 standards have been revised or added in the past 18 months. As the state-of-the-art changes, technology changes, and the groups are charged with seeing that standards remain relevant. "We often try to anticipate where technology will take us, and not put limits around its use."

Now, if you have machines and automation systems in U.S. food and beverage, you'd better become acquainted with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, if you haven't already. Said to be one of the most sweeping legislative actions relative to Food Safety and Regulatory oversight, it will impact the data gathering/sharing activities of food and beverage companies, including segments that weren't regulated before.

JLS Automation provides automation solutions for primary and secondary packaging operations. During Rockwell's Automation Fair, JLS's president, Craig Souser, explained FSMA's implications to machine builders and the industry's manufacturing companies.

The measures impact all food including dry food products, provide authority to inspect records, mandate recalls, and "they can close you down for inaction, so it's not to be taken lightly," Souser warned. "This is about food safety and it is preventive in nature. About 3,000 people died last year from food-borne illnesses."

This impacts products packaging and the need for collaboration between equipment suppliers and their end customers. "Ease of sanitation and subsequent validation requirements will impact design considerations," Souser stated.

JLS has begun to integrate Rockwell's FactoryTalk Historian in its automation system to provide tracking, traceability and validation data. "We're starting to do this now because we know the customer is going to need it down the road."

Implementation is three to four years away, but Souser warned: "If you wait to deal with it then, you could be in big trouble."

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