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NIOSH Leads Evaluation of Strategic Machine Safety Guideline

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
March 3, 2003

About 155 people die every year from being caught in, crushed by, or otherwise fatally injured from hazardous contact on the job with heavy industrial machinery. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is leading a project with diverse business, labor, and insurance industry partners to evaluate the effectiveness of an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) voluntary guideline to prevent such injuries.

The ANSI guideline, ANSI B11 TR3, describes a strategic process for employers to use in assessing the risk of such injuries in their workplaces. By performing such an assessment, companies can determine where best to focus efforts to reduce those risks. The ANSI guideline tailors the concepts of an international voluntary standard, ISO 14121, to the U.S. workplace. The new procedure is expected to be particularly effective for reducing risks during machine maintenance tasks.

The NIOSH-led study will compare operations involving two similar machines within several companies. In one setting, the ANSI TR3 process will be adopted. The matched operation will continue to follow traditional safety practices. Where the ANSI TR3 process is implemented, existing safety controls, machine guards, and other safety devices, practices, and programs are assessed beforehand.

Results of the study will help employers assess the effectiveness of the ANSI guideline in practice, and will help them decide whether to invest in new procedures with assurance that the changes are likely to improve safety in their workplaces.

As a first step, NIOSH held a training workshop on October 30-November 1, 2002, with a variety of companies that are participating in the study. The workshop helped participants understand the TR3 process and computer software that was provided, and helped them practice using the software.

Next, NIOSH will work with participants to apply the ANSI TR3 process to one of their machines. One year later, safety data and conditions again will be assessed for the machine to which the TR3 process was applied, and for the comparison machine where traditional practices continued to be followed. NIOSH will publish the results and make them widely available to employers, employees, safety professionals, and other partners.

The point of contact for technical questions about the project is John R. Etherton, Ph.D., NIOSH Division of Safety Research, e-mail, tel. (304) 285-5985. For further information about NIOSH research and recommendations for preventing work-related injuries and illnesses, call toll-free 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) .