Dangers of bypassing safety devices

12 December 2023

A serious crush injury caused when the safety lock on an automated machine was tampered with has prompted a SafeWork SA warning.

Inspectors recently attended a worksite where a worker had become trapped in an automated computer numerical control (CNC) machine and suffered broken ribs.

An examination of the equipment found that the electrical interlock device used to prevent the machine’s door from being opened while in operation had been overridden with a home-made metal key – exposing the worker to dangerous moving parts. Inquiries are continuing.

SafeWork SA reminds businesses that disabling the safety features of CNC machines and any other automated tools can have serious consequences and is a significant breach of work health and safety laws.

Employers must ensure that safety devices such as electrical interlocks, light curtains, pressure mats and guards are not overridden and/or bypassed to undermine the safety features of any plant and equipment.

Regulation 208 (3) of the Work Health & Safety Regulations (2012) states the person with management or control of the plant must ensure that the guarding is solidly constructed, securely mounted, well maintained and not easily bypassed.

Penalties for failing to comply with the regulations attract maximum penalties of $6000 for an individual and $30,000 for a business.

Safety solutions

To reduce the risk of incidents and injuries, employers must:

  • Ensure plant with safety devices is regularly inspected and tested by a competent person to verify the safety devices are operating in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements.
  • Implement a system of work for the testing of safety devices prior to the operation of the plant. This may involve a daily checklist or similar system of work.
  • Ensure all workers required to use plant which has safety devices installed, are provided information, instruction and training on the correct operation of the devices.
  • Ensure workers and/or other persons do not deliberately bypass or override safety devices fitted to plant and equipment.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Glenn Farrell said safety locks and guards on machinery provide a physical barrier that when utilised appropriately and maintained provides a highly effective means of preventing injury or death.

‘Failing to have adequate control measures in place on items of plant, such as safety locks, can have significant life changing consequences for a worker,’ he said.