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Fastening solutions provider Southco aid compliance with new EU Machinery Directive

For machine builders worldwide, operator safety is of paramount concern. Now, with the advent of the new Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC which became effective on December 29, 2009, safety attitudes are further emphasised. The latest legislation, which is concerned with the mechanical and electrical safety of machines, represents a consistent message of safety for machine builders across Europe – they must design safeguards to protect equipment operators, while providing service that minimises downtime! In this context, machinery is described as "an assembly of linked parts or components, at least one of which moves, with the appropriate actuators, control and power circuits etc joined together for a specific application, in particular for the processing, treatment, moving or packaging of a material".

The rationale behind the framework of the strict measures laid out within this latest legal requirement for equipment manufacturers globally selling within the EU, is to ensure the safety of individual workers whoever or wherever they may be. The fastening of machine guarding and the ergonomics of operator equipment are both high on the list of safety requirements imposed by the new directive.

Specifically, the directive states that to obtain CE accreditation, machinery and equipment must be restricted by attaching protective devices such as fixed, adjustable and movable guards. Such protection devices should be of robust construction, not be easy to bypass and must be used to protect risks such as moving parts. Fixed guards need to be held in place by fixings which can only be opened or removed with tools, movable guards should be interlocked, and adjustable guards should be readily adjustable without the use of tools.

Compliance – the right choice
This new legislation has created a dilemma for machine builders, operators and purchasers across the industrial equipment market place as they struggle to decide on the most effective choice from a plethora of different options, in terms of meeting the new safety requirements in the most cost effective way. As the global leader in the provision of access hardware solutions, Southco believes it is ideally positioned to help machine builders adhere to these new regulations.

Southco’s access hardware solutions aid machine builders
adhere to the new EU regulations for machine guarding

Ulrike Sturman, Industry Marketing Manager for Diversified Technologies at Southco, takes up the story: "The industrial machinery and equipment market is a very fragmented industry and covers a vast and diversified range of sectors. At Southco, we can offer designers, suppliers and purchasers of industrial equipment the complete solution, in terms of fastening devices, technical expertise and a wide and localised distribution network to support the requirements of a segmented industry to comply with the EU directive. As well as having the industry’s widest range of captive and quick access fasteners available globally for machine guarding, as the market leader in positioning technology we can also provide a host of hinges and positioning control devices for positioning adjustable guards, and for allowing monitor screens and control panels to be moved smoothly and effortlessly with zero backlash through controlled torque mechanisms."

Southco offers the industry’s widest range of access hardware
solutions and most innovative positioning technology products

Southco fully recognises that compliance means extra costs to a business and is therefore a price sensitive issue. This fact is reflected by the ‘quick fix’ and DIY solutions being adopted by many small to medium-size industrial equipment manufacturers and operators to stay on the right side of the law. Sturman: "We believe those who adopt these short-term approaches will create a lot of problems for themselves longer term. However, those willing to invest in our reliable and easy to use captive and quick access hardware solution, rather than plump for cheaper options, will not only comply with the directive but also enjoy additional benefits as a result of the company’s industry-leading technical values. These include a longer life cycle, enhanced product performance and long-term cost savings."

Fixed guards

For fixed guards, the directive has three key stipulations:

Fixed guards must be fixed by systems that can be opened or removed only with tools

Their fixing systems must remain attached to the guards or to the machinery when the guards are removed

Where possible, guards must be incapable of remaining in place without their fixings

Engineered fixing systems using Southco’s established and proven range of captive screws minimise problems commonly experienced with loose screws, nuts, or bolts dropping into operating equipment. And from a productive perspective, engineered fixing systems that utilise captive, self-aligning designs, improve assembly speed and convenience. The company’s extensive range includes screws with a smooth knob action, screws that are flush fitting for safety, and smooth head screws for use in a limited space. For added safety, differently coloured headstyles are available.

Also, for quick and easy access – which is particularly advantageous for repeat-access applications – and high strength and economical performance, the Dzus quarter-turn and fast-lead captive fasteners ranges provide different options for tool-restricted access, and flush or low-profile installations. Also available are self-ejecting options that provide a visual indicator for unfastened guards, while the spring-ejection feature helps clear fasteners out of the way in multiple fastener applications.

Adjustable and movable guards
For adjustable guards restricting access to those areas of the moving parts strictly necessary for the work, the directive states that they must be readily adjustable without the use of tools.

For these applications, Southco has a range of controlled-torque positioning devices providing the ability to raise, lower, tilt, swivel, and position adjustable guards for better safety protection during equipment operation and for easy access when necessary. These devices, which include the recently launched AV-D30 mounting arm, can also hold guards in a partially or fully open position without secondary hardware, to provide unrestricted maintenance access.

According to the directive, "interlocking movable guards must, as far as possible, remain attached to the machinery when open, be designed and constructed in such a way that they can be adjusted only by means of an intentional action, and be designed in such a way that the absence or failure of one of their components prevents starting, or stops the hazardous machinery functions". For such applications, Southco can offer tethered quick-access pins with simple push-button actuation for locking movable safety guards into place, as well as for activating electronic lockout sensors on movable guards. Additional devices such as captive spring-loaded plungers also allow for quick positioning and fixing of sliding guards.

Sturman: "Initially, our main focus is on machine guarding applications across five key segments – namely printing and labelling, textile, processing and packaging, materials handling and compressors. These specific sectors have been identified as those that we believe would best benefit from Southco’s access hardware solutions."

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