Back in 1996, I had no idea that creating and documenting a methodology for the differentiation of safety and health risk for the construction, setup, maintenance and operation of machine tools could have such far-reaching ramifications. We were a small group with machine tool experience, working under the auspices of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), to develop a domestic answer to a European Standard for Risk Assessment, EN1050. This standard called upon machine manufacturers to assess safety risks associated with the use of their machines, and to address and convey that information to the machine user.

Our sub-committee was far different than those before it. The Internet opened our activities to the world. As chairman, I invited people from every discipline and every corner to participate. By the time this "technical reference document" - ANSI B11.TR31 - was completed five years later, we had involved over seventy members and observers, and had spawned at least two similar standards (in other industries) in the process.

The enhanced communication provided by the Internet and e-mail highlighted the fact that things can now happen in "real-time," and a few people can make a big difference - and not spend a lot of money doing it. If you feel strongly enough about an issue - you can make it happen! I say this as an invitation. If the rest of this presentation makes sense to you - you can make it happen!

What does TR3 tell us?

The basic elements of TR3 are simple:

  • All of the tasks being performed should be identified in order to fully appreciate how people are to be affected by hazards. Task analysis at the onset of the risk determination process will help to identify all of the hazards involved in an operation or process so that they may be properly considered and evaluated.

  • Risk is not determined by hazard severity alone - but also by numerous factors affecting the likelihood of that event occurring.

  • The end-user (employer) is ultimately responsible for determining what "bottom line" risk level is acceptable (or tolerable) in light of current regulations, past events, industry standards and contractual requirements.

  • Risk reduction efforts should generally follow the "safety hierarchy" and be appropriate to the degree of risk reduction needed to achieve that acceptable level of risk.

  • "Zero Risk" is not practically achievable! There will always be some residual risk in any operation, and this must be communicated down the line from the machine designer and builder (or modifier), to the installer, the user and ultimately to the employee. When anyone in the chain of responsibility makes change to the operation or process, it is their responsibility to perform a new risk assessment in light of those changes.

  • Risk reduction to an acceptable level is generally the result of incremental and cumulative efforts along the way.

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