British Agency Inspecting Die Cutting Machines

The Health and Safety Executive alerted known users of hand-fed platen machines about the potential risk of serious or fatal injuries and announced it will carry out inspections this year.

Britain's Health and Safety Executive is sending an alert to known users of hand-fed platen machines about the potential risk of serious or fatal injuries and also announced its personnel will carry out inspections this year to ensure the new operating and guarding guidance is being followed.

While only a handful of fatalities have occurred -- two operators were crushed to death in 2007/2008, and three other fatalities are known to have occurred in other countries, according to HSE -- the agency said it has become aware that as the machines in use have become larger, operators are climbing onto the lower platen to make routine changes while the machines are in semi-automatic mode. Doing this can be a fatal error.

Although HSE says current guarding requirements in Britain are effective at preventing crushing hand or arm injuries, its new information sheet addresses the new risk some operators are taking. It includes training, lockout/tagout procedures, daily checks, and periodic inspection guidance.

"Hand-fed platens are high-risk machines," said Tim Small, a manufacturing safety specialist with HSE. "Our investigations show that workers can and do climb between the platens on many machines. The risk is particularly high when the platen is being used in dwell [semi-automatic] mode. In this situation, operators are not protected by the current guarding arrangements. HSE will be carrying out visits to users to check that firms are taking action to comply with Information Sheet. We will consider using our enforcement powers where we find particularly poor standards or where firms have not started to take any action to improve standards."

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