Machines and systems are more and more often subject to modification, revamping, rebuilding work that involves a number of actors, in various roles: the employer, manufacturers of machines and partly completed machinery, end users, automation suppliers, installers and company maintenance technicians.
The complexity of the work requires high-level professional expertise and know-how on the part of all the persons involved, such as to guaranty achievement of the three main objectives: machine Safety, Quality and Efficiency. The respective responsibilities of the manufacturer and the employer as regards the design and manufacture of the safety devices must be clear and distinct right from the beginning of the project. Safety must be obtained by correctly managing the responsibilities of the various subjects involved.
This must be done clearly and in advance, defining the supply contracts with extreme care. An appropriate risk assessment must be carried out during the initial design stage, and consequently the implementation of all the safety measures required must be defined, and all the documentation needed to demonstrate machine and/or system conformity with current regulations regarding health and safety in the work place must be prepared. But what are the references to be adopted for safety purposes?
The machines to be altered may be more or less “old”, with or without the EC marking, conform or not conform to current safety standards. A complex machine composed of a number of machines and/or partly completed machinery can create not few difficulties during the upgrading process.
Application of European Directives entails that the employer improve the safety measures of machine in use. It is possible that a machine, by virtue of its “years of use”, has a safety level equal to that originally provided for by the original manufacturer of the machine itself, or it may have been adapted, as far as possible, based on the technical evolution of safety standards. When assessing plant machinery, an employer will never question machine design, but will assess the “evident” risks, that is to say, those that a good technician, who is not particularly specialized in technical standards and regulations for machines, but nonetheless absolutely competent as regards machine operation and use, can detect by inspecting the equipment, the place of installation and the use that is made of the machine itself.
Safety must be obtained by correctly managing the responsibilities of the various subjects involved
To the contrary, whoever designs and creates an alteration must have the competency required to evaluate not only evident risks, but also occult risks, because the alteration must obligatorily be executed in greater compliance with the state of the art. Whoever designs and creates the alteration, working on an existing machine, must also be capable of evaluating the suitability of the project, guarantying the correct supply of all documents required to attest the work carried out: “one cannot ever expect that an existing machine reach the safety levels of new machines; nonetheless, that is the objective to be aimed at, as it is unacceptable that an alteration reduce the safety level of any machine, introducing new risks that have not been evaluated or have been underestimated”.
Therefore altering, revamping and rebuilding require competencies that allow evaluating the extent to which the work in question impacts the original design parameters of a given machine, proposing and assisting the client in comparing possible alternatives, feasibility and validity and choosing the best solution, organizing and managing the supplies and the activities on the field.
The complexity of the work requires high-level professional expertise
It is also necessary to know how to assess, right from the start, all the aspects that regard worker safety and environmental safeguarding, defining structured procedures to file the modification made, assess the respective risks and required safety measures, define supply responsibilities and provide all the documents necessary to certify the solutions adopted in observance with current legislation.