How do you future-proof your safety systems?

Looking through machine safety standards there is plenty of guidance for the early phases of machine safety system life cycles, by this I mean you can find good guidance to explain the following activities:
  • Select the required integrity level; CAT/PL/SIL
  • Design the safety system
  • Verify the system design
  • Validate the safety system
But what guidance is available for the operation phase of the safety system? Safety systems can be operational for 10 to 20 years, sometimes even longer! Is it reasonable to expect application parameters won't change the requirements of the safety system over that extended period of time?

Requirements can change dramatically over the life of a safety system for example here are some parameters that could affect the suitability of the current safety system:
  • The uses of the machine 
  • Speed of throughput
  • Frequency/duration of safety demands on the system
  • Stopping times of the equipment
The need to design systems to take consideration of the above changes is becoming more prevalent. Functional safety standards such as AS 62061 mention these factors as prompters for safety system modification, but how can you reliably identify these parameter changes?

Relying on manual monitoring of the safety system parameters causes extra work and is susceptible to human complacency/error.

With the ability to have high levels of data sharing from modern safety systems to standard control systems, it is possible to create this parameter checking as an automated function of the control system. Thus if the use of the machine is changed in a way that effects the safety system's suitability, this will be flagged by the control system and initiate the appropriate modification process.

The most common example of the above concept is Stopping Performance Monitoring (SPM), which is a requirement out of IEC/TS 62046. SPM should be performed when presence sensing systems such as light curtains, safety mats or laser scanners are used as a trip device and the stopping performance of the machine can be subject to deterioration, due to wear of brakes, valves, etc. SPM could be achieved by the machine control system monitoring the stopping performance of the machine and comparing this result to the calculated stopping time used for the safety distance calculation of the presence sensing system. Once the calculated stopping time is exceeded the control system could initiate a safety stop, provide information to the operator of this condition and not allow operation until the system is restored to its acceptable state.

Preventative warnings could be provided by the control system as the stopping performance approaches the calculated stopping time, thus the braking system can be repaired in upcoming scheduled maintenance. Downtime is then avoided and the level of safety is maintained.

Require more information about how modern safety systems with increased integration can assist? 

Craig may be able to assist you with the above mentioned issues, so please reach out via email -

Craig has been a Safety Specialist with NHP Electrical Engineering Products since 2007. He is also a committee member at Standards Australia and is a TUV Rheinland certified Functional Safety engineer.
Craig Imrie

Published: 6 July 2016

PL and SIL merger cancelled. What does it mean for AS 4024.1?

For those who are designing machine safety control systems to achieve international standards you may have been aware of the process in place to merge the two current standards. This would result in a new standard, IEC/ISO 17305, which would merge the methods of Performance Levels (PL as per ISO 13849.1:2015) and Safety Integrity Level (SIL as per IEC 62061).

This process was seen as a positive step for machine safety designers as we would finally have one unified standard that everyone would design their systems to, instead of the confusion of having multiple standards running concurrently. However this merger process has now been cancelled without a guarantee of when or if the process will be restarted.

So what is the relevance of this to Australian Standards?
Our Australian Standard, AS 4024, adopts directly from international standards and as stated in AS 4024.1100 the future direction of the control system section was dependent on the merged standard:
It is envisaged that on completion of the work of Joint Working Group 1 of ISO/TC 199 and IEC/TC 44, combining ISO 13849-1:2006 and IEC 62061, the resulting unified Standard will replace both
Parts 1501 and 1503 in the next revision of the AS 4024.1 series

So what does this mean for the future direction of AS 4024.1? Well that seems to be up in the air at the moment.

Potentially the next revision of AS 4024.1 will see Safety Categories disappear and Performance Levels remain. Another option may be Safety Categories remain as an option for safety control systems that consist of simple devices, such as safety relays, safety contactors, safety valves, etc.

There may be advantages of this second option for the following reasons:
  • The Australian industry has much more familiarity and knowledge of Safety Categories compared to PL or SIL
  • Safety Categories provide a simple method to design safety control systems
  • When applied correctly Safety Categories provide adequate risk reduction
  • International systems using PL will still be designed to a Safety Category architecture
What do you think? 
If you have a comment or opinion on what the future direction of safety control systems should be in AS 4024.1 please leave a comment below.

Feedback from the industry is essential so the committee can ensure the standard reflects the industry’s needs.

Published: 22 March 2016

New Conveyor Safety Standards Are Here!

As of August 2015, AS 1755 has been superseded by a new set of conveyor safety standards. For those who aren’t familiar with AS 1755, this is why it's a big deal:
  • AS 1755 has been the Australian standard for conveyor safety since 1986
  • It is the code of practice for conveyor safety in South Australia and referenced as guidance for conveyor safety in every other state and territory’s code of practice
  • Conveyors are one of the most prevalent types of machinery in Australian industry and a significant cause of work safety incidents 
So why are we changing the standard? 
The main issue with AS 1755, is there are many different types of conveyors used in many different industries and it’s difficult for one standard to effectively cover all of this. For example, a low torque conveyor of 5m length placed in a manufacturing plant which has high exposure to human operators has vastly different safety requirements then a conveyor that transports tons of material over 500m and has very infrequent exposure to human operators.

To deal with these different conveyor options we now have 4 new standards to replace AS 1755:
  1. AS/NZS 4024.3610 - Conveyors - General requirements
  2. AS/NZS 4024.3611 - Conveyors - Belt conveyors for bulk material handling
  3. AS/NZS 4024.3612 - Conveyors - Chain conveyors and unit handling conveyors
  4. AS/NZS 4024.3614 - Conveyors - Mobile and transportable conveyors
The general requirements for conveyor safety can be found in 3610 and additional requirements can be referenced in 3611, 3612 and 3614 for specific conveyor types. This should allow the series of standards to better cover the safety aspects of common conveyor applications in Australia and New Zealand.

The standards are now placed in the 3000 series of the AS 4024 family. This makes more sense rather than having the conveyor standard being separate to the AS 4024 collection of safety standards. The 3000 series consists of machine specific standards and now covers the following types of machines:
  • Presses: Mechanical (AS 4024.3001), Hydraulic (AS 4024.3002)
  • Milling machines (AS 4024.3101)
  • Robotic cells (AS 4024.3301)
  • Conveyors (AS 4024.3610AS 4024.3614)
If you have any machines covered by a 3000 series standard this will provide the best guidance for safety requirements.

Published: 10 November 2015