For years the bottom line for worker safety has revolved largely around OSHA requirements. Under these requirements, although workers are required to follow employer guidelines, ultimate responsibility for creating a safe workplace resides with the employer.
Later this year, however, current safety parameters are set to change somewhat with the release of ANSI B11.GSR. Though still undergoing final approval, this new standard from the American National Standards Institute is expected to shift certain safety responsibilities from the employer to machine and machine tool providers.
“ANSI B11.GSR is patterned after a European model for safety standards,” says J.B. Titus, manager, business development and industry standards for Siemens Energy and Automation. “The first level of the standard will serve as a general standard that will apply to most machinery, regardless of industry or application. The other levels drill down to groups of similar machines, followed by references to specific machines for specific applications.”
Titus adds that while many of the existing consensus standards address some of the issues ANSI B11.GSR does, none does it with the scope of this new standard. “The requirements and the methodologies it describes go above and beyond what many of the other standards lay out,” he says.
Results from this second phase of the Automation in Packaging Benchmark Study indicate that packaging machinery OEMs are well-prepared for the shift in responsibility that ANSI B11.GSR will bring.
In one area of the study, OEMs were asked to describe how they are currently incorporating automation into the machines they provide across seven areas of products. In all three product areas where safety was a possible response—in instrumentation and control components, machine and embedded controllers, and networks and communications hardware and software—it ranked as one of the top features offered as standard by nearly all OEM responders.
Only in the networks and communications category did anything rank higher as a standard offering. And that item—I/O products and cabling—is an obvious standard offering in this category (after all, you can't have machine communication without I/O and some cabling).
As a standard feature, safety is offered by 76% of OEMs responding to the survey within instrumentation and control components, by 73% in machine and embedded controllers, and by 66% in networks and communications hardware and software. In each of these categories, an additional 10% of respondents offered safety features as an option.
Most interesting, in the machine and embedded controllers category, safety outranked PLCs/PACs, discrete sensors and embedded computers as a standard offering. And in the instrumentation and control components category, standard safety outranked components and connectors, instrumentation, and process sensors.
Based on these responses, the packaging machinery OEM community clearly is responding proactively to industry requirements to make its products safer.