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The Issue of Health and Safety

David Catanach, director of the British Sign and Graphics Association (BSGA), is pulling out what hair he has left as he discusses the issue of health and safety

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BSGA director David Catanach warns that the CE marking does not necessarily mean a piece of it will be given the green light by HSE inspectors

Welcome to my world

In September 2016, a BSGA member received an unannounced visit from their area Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, who, after carrying out an inspection, issued an Enforcement Action.

The inspector considered that the CNC router present—which was not in use at the time—did not have the adequate safety guarding in line with two HSE policies namely the Enforcement Policy Statement and Routers and Machining Centres: Safe Working Practices (WIS22). The inspector requested additional guarding around the router that would cut power to the machine should anyone approach too closely.

However, the consequence of this visit was that the member had to pay HSE an ‘intervention fee’ for the courtesy of their visit and subsequent costs to correct what they, HSE, considered a risk of serious personal injury before the router could be legally used again. Since 2016, more sign-makers around the UK are reporting similar incidences to the BSGA.

The BSGA approached the HSE to try to get to the bottom of the issue as in our, and other experts, views, the equipment was as supplied and CE marked, thereby conforming to the British Standard BS EN 848-3:2012 Safety of Woodworking Machines. The router in question did not have any of its built-in safety features by-passed, tampered with, or disengaged.

Under EU law, it is the responsibility of the business owner, under PUWR regulations, to ensure their machines comply with essential safety requirements, so purchasing a properly CE marked product meets that requirement. Or so we thought…

It is an accepted premise that if a product is CE marked, then that demonstrates the product complies with all relevant product safety law and, along with the Declaration of Conformity, gives the product presumption of conformity with relevant safety directives.

The BSGA advises to check all the relevant health and safety documents to ensure they are operating within regulations

Even HSE recommend in their guide to buying new machinery that products are CE marked. Our question was simply that if the product complies and earns CE marking, on what grounds are HSE issuing an Enforcement Action and how can we work together to create a uniform message that can be taken back to the industry?

In a reply to our questions, HSE replied as follows (our comments are in brackets and italics following the comment):

  • The CE mark is not a quality mark.
  • Nor is the CE mark a guarantee the product meets all the requirements of relevant EU product safety law. (In fact, the CE mark is a safety mark and confirms products comply with all the relevant European safety standards).
  • The safeguarding exception (for routers that work at these speeds) referred to in BS EN 848—3 refers only to the risk of impact hazard from moving parts, excluding the cutting tools and drives and that this is not the hazard that the inspectors took enforcement action against.
  • HSE’s opinion is that there is a risk of serious personal injury if a person comes into contact with the cutter tool; the cutter tool or workpiece if ejected; trapping and crushing hazards caused by moving tables and machining heads. This position is supported, according to HSE, in BS EN 848-2:2012 and HSE’s guidance Routers and Machining Centres: Safe Working Practices (WIS22). (The risk of injury from cutter contact and of pieces causing injury if cutters break is in fact covered in the standard for CNC routers, so provided the manufacturer has made provision to prevent this happening and can show this as documented in the ‘Technical File’ then the product will meet this aspect of the standard).

This therefore implies that even if the product conforms with the requirements to be CE marked, HSE will ignore or not take into consideration CE marking and assess the ‘risk’ as the local inspector sees it at the time of the visit.

We believe that HSE should be helping both manufacturers directly and owners via trade associations such as the BSGA, rather than simply imposing charges. In this case, the HSE do not intend to take up our offer of a meeting to discuss this issue as “the law on this is clear”. Their words, our italics.

We believe that HSE should be helping both manufacturers directly and owners via trade associations such as the BSGA

It seems we can no longer expect a balanced approach from experienced inspectors.

It is also frustrating that there is inconsistency in HSE applying this practice across the UK, which is why we seek a nationwide directive that we can all work from. But HSE is not prepared to discuss and simply refer you to WIS22, which does not seem to cater for machines that work at these speeds anyway.

One point of view that has been made to the BSGA is that HSE is taking what can be seen to be ‘easy pickings’ by imposing Notices of Contravention (NOC) on owners of these types of CNC routers. Equipment was purchased in good faith because the machine was CE marked, only to discover that an HSE inspector requires further safety equipment to be installed. It is difficult for us in that the HSE are not prepared to engage with us in dialogue so that we can inform accordingly.

We know that BSGA supplier members that manufacture or sell CNC routers now include safety guarding in the form of either pressure mats, safety rails, or light beams on sales of all new equipment. It would be in your interest as the owner and user of any routing machines to ensure that you have the necessary safety equipment that is available from the manufacturer/supplier and ensure that the machine is CE marked and that the manufacturer has a ‘Declaration of Conformity’.

We recognise that the imposition of extra safety guarding mechanisms may impact on the positioning of the machine on your premises as well as the additional costs involved. That, we regret, is out of our hands, but it seems that until HSE is prepared to work with industry, there is little else we can do other than inform you of their stance.

It seems that until HSE is prepared to work with industry, there is little else we can do other than inform you of their stance

It is recommended that all BSGA members make themselves familiar with the HSE Enforcement Policy Statement. There will be aspects that will apply to you as a business regardless as to whether you use or own a router or not.

Those who use CNC routers should also read and consider the implications of WIS22.

The British Sign and Graphics Association (BSGA) history dates back more than 70 years when a group of leading sign-makers formed the Master Sign Makers Association (MSMA) with the aim of promoting the sign industry and defending its interests.
For more information on the issues discussed in this article visit www.bsga.co.uk or tel: 0845 338 3016.

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