According to OH&S experts, protective devices which have been tampered with present a widespread risk to the safety of employees in Germany. This is the conclusion of a report on tampering with machinery which was recently published by the HVBG, the Federation of Institutions for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention. According to around 1,000 experts consulted for the report, at least 37% of all stationary industrial machines are affected either permanently or temporarily. Protective devices on these machines are deliberately defeated, for example in order to simplify or speed up work.
"Tampering with protective devices can result in serious or even fatal accidents," explains Dr. Walter Eichendorf, Deputy Managing Director of the HVBG. The statistics published by the BGs do not explicitly indicate accidents caused by tampering. However, "the figures for 1998 to 2004 show that over 400,000 accidents occurred on machines which were apparently in proper working order," says Eichendorf. This equates to 60% of all accidents on stationary industrial machinery, and prompted a closer investigation into tampering with machinery.
Between September 2003 and December 2005, BG researchers gathered information on the incidence of tampering with protective devices in plants, analysed the motivation behind tampering, and developed technical, organizational, psychological and ergonomic solutions to the problem. Over 200 recent cases of tampering were recorded in detail. Dr. Kai Lüken, psychologist and head of the project at the BG Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BGIA), finds the results disturbing. "The great majority of machines which were tampered with are of recent construction and bear the CE mark," he says. "The problem is not therefore one of obsolete technology." Another particular cause for alarm is that in some cases, the supplier of the machine himself describes how the machine may be tampered with, and even supplies the necessary tools, such as spanners.
In order to improve the situation in future, the OH&S experts have issued specific recommendations for action to prevent tampering. "Preventing tampering means working with all parties to the work process," emphasizes Lüken, "namely the manufacturer of the machine, the developer of safety concepts, the standards author, and of course the operator of the machine and his superiors." The proposals for prevention extend from training measures, through appropriate amendments to standards, to the establishment of a forum in which designers, users and OH&S experts can pool information. The report also contains comprehensive information on responsibility and liability for machines which have been tampered with. The report, entitled "Manipulation von Schutzeinrichtungen an Maschinen", was produced by the BG Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BGIA), the BG Institute Work and Health (BGAG), and the BGs responsible for the metalworking sector. The report is available in German and can be downloaded from www.dguv.de, webcode d6303.
Report "Manipulation von Schutzeinrichtungen an Maschinen" (in German)