Maintenance, Health & Safety and Noise Risks
Old and/or poorly maintained machinery and equipment can pose a danger to the health and safety of those nearby in a number of different ways, in particular through worn or missing parts, and the danger from noise on hearing.
Older Machines are Likely to be More of a Health and Safety Hazard
Whilst new machines and pieces of equipment can still break and be dangerous when they are used for the first time if they have not been thoroughly tested and run-in, it is more likely that dangers will come from old machines which have one or more of the following conditions:
- Parts that have become worn and may cause the machine/equipment to break and cause possible injury
- Parts that have become loose and may fly off during operation, causing a serious injury to the operator or a person situated nearby
- Damaged or missing safety features which would ordinarily prevent an accident from occurring. Examples include hand guards for hand-held equipment such as chainsaws, or even emergency stop buttons which have fallen off and are no longer operational
- Damaged cables for electrically-powered tools. Over time the power cable can become frayed or the protective casing accidentally cut ever so slightly, which can create the possibility of electrocution
Machinery and Equipment Dangers are Covered on Many Health and Safety Courses
The danger to a person's safety and wellbeing that can occur from using tools and equipment is so great that many health and safety courses like the NEBOSH General Certificate contain modules and elements which take an in-depth look at many of the potential risks and hazards that are associated with their usage, maintenance, storage and a lack of appropriate training before commencing operating them.
Indirect Danger Posed by Failing Machinery
As well as posing a potential danger to health and safety directly, machines are also utilised extensively in monitoring and automated safety features. If this equipment fails for some reason then the safety system may not activate when it is needed, which can result in serious injury, illness or death to workers and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity. If this accident were to occur at a facility such as a nuclear power plant, it can have extremely serious consequences for many people over an extremely large area. Along with the health of human beings, it will also create extensive death and damage to the surrounding environment too for a long period of time.
The Importance of Maintaining and Replacing Equipment for Preventing Accidents
We have seen in the paragraphs above that old or poorly maintained machinery and pieces of equipment can pose serious risks to the health, safety and wellbeing of both workers and members of the public alike. Therefore it is imperative that this equipment is regularly inspected for damage and is sufficiently maintained by a person who is competently trained and has the required knowledge to carry out the maintenance properly. If they are not suitably competent, the act of performing the maintenance can actually create a danger to health and safety! It is also strongly recommended to replace old equipment and machinery which is likely to fail soon with newer equipment.
Not only can this newer equipment reduce the potential for health and safety incidents in the workplace, but it is likely that it will be more efficient than the previous model which has environmental benefits through the consumption of less energy and can also save the company money due to lower electricity bills.
Noise Risks to Hearing
Newer machinery can often take advantage of advances in technology and materials to operate far more quietly than machines built in the past, which can significantly reduce the potential for damage to the hearing of those near the machine. Not only can newer machines be quieter than older ones, but old ones which have worn or loose parts can also produce a great deal of noise and vibration.
Although measures can be taken to reduce the levels of sound which actually reach the ears of people, it is far more preferable - as it is with other health and safety risks and dangers - to remove the problem at source by replacing the machinery with quieter models.