Home » Playing Dangerously with Fire

Playing Dangerously with Fire

The protective devices of a machine are intended to protect the persons working there from hazards. Nevertheless, these devices are repeatedly dismantled, bypassed or otherwise rendered inoperative. Occupational safety experts assume that around a quarter of all occupational accidents on stationary machines occur solely because of this. The German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), Berlin, provides information and asks for assistance in prevention. This article was first published in issue 5/6 2022 of the BG RCI magazine.

Authors: Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung (DGUV), Berlin, Berufsgenossenschaft Rohstoffe und chemische Industrie (BG RCI), Heidelberg, Markus Hofmann, Hildesheim/Germany

The fact that protective devices are manipulated is in most cases due to deficiencies in the protective concept of the machine. If this is not adapted to the operability of the machine, protective devices are perceived as a harassment. Operation, set-up, troubleshooting or cleaning is made more difficult or even impossible by the protective device – and this creates a strong incentive for manipulation.

Companies that manufacture and operate machines are obliged by law to ensure that only safe machines are placed on the market and made available. Machines with a high incentive for manipulation are to be considered unsafe and must not be operated due to the increased risk of damage. The questions of whether or not a machine’s protective devices provide an incentive to tamper and what measures, if any, can be taken to reduce it are therefore relevant to both machine manufacturing and operating companies.

Raising awareness and offering solutions

In 2008, the Prevention Managers’ Conference under the umbrella of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), Berlin, set up the „Manipulation“ working group. Together with the social accident insurance institutions and accident insurance funds, and under the direction of the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IFA) of the DGUV in St. Augustin, the working group is developing cross-sector design examples, information leaflets and action aids in the areas of machine design, operation and standardisation. The results are published on the stop-defeating.org website in cooperation with the “Manipulation” working group of the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

The working group has developed four teaching modules for use in safety instructions and training courses. They support lecturers in sensitising specialists from machine manufacturing and operation, occupational safety and prevention to the topic of manipulation and offer concrete approaches to solutions. The teaching modules consist of PowerPoint files with explanatory notes. They can be used as a whole or in parts, depending on the time available and the desired level of detail. They are available for download at stop-defeating.org/lehrmodule/

Take part in the IFA survey!

Fig. 1. The DGUV is conducting an online survey on the frequency of manipulations of protective devices. Source: DGUV

How often does an accident occur because protective devices on a machine have been overridden? What experience have you had in your company with manipulated protective devices? How do you assess the situation overall? And what do you think could help to reduce the frequency with which protective devices are manipulated? The IFA launched an anonymous survey to assess the current situation (Figure 1). All occupational safety and health experts in companies are invited to participate and give their feedback. Duration of the survey: only about 5 min. You can find it here https://befragung.ifa.dguv.de/454588