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OR Codes – Working Safely with Plant and Equipment

Working with plant and equipment can be dangerous if not handled properly. It is essential to adhere to safety guidelines and procedures to prevent accidents and injuries. This article serves as a reminder of the importance of delivering tool box talks and clear work instruction on how to work safely with plant and equipment, including first aid and the operator’s responsibility to ensure the equipment is fit for use.

Importance of Machinery Safety

Machinery safety is crucial in any workplace that uses plant and equipment. Misuse of machinery or lack of maintenance can lead to severe injuries to the user and others. As an employer, it is essential to ensure that your workers are adequately trained in machinery use and safety measures. You should also have adequate maintenance arrangements in place to ensure that the equipment remains safe to use, is maintained, inspected and fir for use. Using QR codes to locate and update equipment status play a vital role in machine and plant safety.

UKCA Marking or CE Marking for New Machines

New machines must be UKCA or CE marked and supplied with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English. From 1 January 2025, new machinery that is only CE marked will no longer be acceptable in Great Britain. It is important to note that the supplier must provide the right safeguards and inform buyers of any risks (‘residual risks’) that could not be designed out. Users need to be aware of these risks and manage them accordingly.

Assessing and Managing Risk

Before using any plant or equipment, it is crucial to identify potential risks and develop a risk management plan. Assess the machine’s safety features, and ensure that all safeguards are fitted and free from defects. The term ‘safeguarding’ includes guards, interlocks, two-hand controls, light guards, pressure-sensitive mats, etc.

Ensure that poorly designed safeguards are managed appropriately. These may be inconvenient to use or easily overridden, which could encourage workers to risk injury and break the law. If employees are doing this, find out why and take appropriate action to manage it.

Produce a safe system of work for using and maintaining the machine. Maintenance may require the inspection of critical features where deterioration would cause a risk. Look at any residual risks listed in the information provided with the machine. Make sure they are included in the safe system of work.

Choosing the Right Equipment for the Job

It is essential to choose the right equipment for the job at hand. Do not put machinery where customers or visitors may be exposed to risk. Ensure that machinery is safe for any work that has to be done when setting up, during normal use, when clearing blockages, when carrying out repairs for breakdowns, and during planned maintenance.

Make sure the equipment is properly switched off, isolated, or locked off before taking any action to remove blockages, clean, or make adjustments. Operators of power-operated plant and equipment must be trained in its use and authorized.

General Safety Precautions

Plant and equipment should only be used by people who have been trained in their specific use and are authorized. Consider the risks to other people who are nearby when operating plant and equipment. Before use, ensure that plant and equipment have no obvious defects: bring defects to your supervisor’s attention.

Only use plant and equipment for its intended purpose. Don’t carry passengers unless the plant is designed to do so and wear seat-belts where fitted. Observe site speed limits and one-way systems and, if necessary, obtain assistance when reversing. Carry out daily checks (brakes, oil, lights, and tires).

Preventing Access to Dangerous Parts

Measures should be in place to prevent access to dangerous parts. The measures you use to prevent access to dangerous parts should be in the following order. In some cases, it may be necessary to use a combination of these measures:

  • Use fixed guards to enclose the dangerous parts whenever practical. Use the best material for these guards – plastic may be easy to see through but can easily be damaged. Where you use wire mesh or similar materials, make sure the holes are not large enough to allow access to moving parts.
  • If fixed guards are not practical, use other methods, like interlocking the guard so the machine cannot start before the guard is closed and it cannot be opened while the machine is still moving. In some cases, trip systems such as photoelectric devices, pressure-sensitive mats, or automatic guards may be used if other guards are not practical.
  • Where guards cannot give full protection, use jigs, holders, push sticks, etc., if it is practical to do so.
  • Control any remaining risk by providing the operator with the necessary information, instruction, training, supervision, and appropriate safety equipment.

Other Control Measures

If machines are controlled by programmable electronic systems, changes to any programs should be carried out by a competent person (someone who has the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to carry out the work safely). Keep a record of such changes and check they have been made properly.

Ensure control switches are clearly marked to show what they do. Have emergency stop controls where necessary, for example, mushroom-head push buttons, within easy reach. Make sure operating controls are designed and placed to avoid accidental operation and injury, for example, by using two-hand controls where necessary and shrouding start buttons and pedals.

Do not let unauthorized, unqualified, or untrained people use machinery – never allow children to operate or help at machines. Some vulnerable workers, such as new starters, young people, or those with disabilities, may be particularly at risk and need instruction, training, and supervision. Adequate training should ensure that those who use the machine are competent to use it safely.

Examples of Accidents Involving Machinery

Several accidents happen in the workplace every year, involving machinery. Most of these accidents could have been prevented by following the right safety procedures. Here are some examples of accidents that occurred due to poor training and risk assessment:

  • A worker received severe injuries, almost severing their left arm when using a cross-cut saw. The nose guard had not been set correctly because training was inadequate. The worker had no previous experience and had only 5 minutes’ training on the saw. This did not include any instruction about the saw guards and how to adjust them correctly. The saw was also unsuitable for training purposes.
  • A worker was killed when they were crushed in the rollers of a rubber and cloth inspection machine. The company had not assessed the risks associated with using the machine. They had not checked that it was safe to use following modifications when the nip guards were removed, and an unguarded roller was inserted.

First Aid

In any workplace, it is crucial to have adequate first aid provisions in place. Workers should be trained in basic first aid, and first aid kits should be readily available. If an accident occurs, it is essential to act promptly and seek medical attention if necessary.


Working with plant and equipment can be dangerous if not handled properly. As an employer or worker, it is crucial to adhere to safety guidelines and procedures to prevent accidents and injuries. By following the right safety measures, you can ensure a safe working environment and prevent accidents. Remember to choose the right equipment for the job, assess and manage risk, and prevent access to dangerous parts.


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