IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Exploratory Study on Quebec Machinery Manufacturers’ Practices Related to Integration of Machine Safety into the Design Process


This report is intended primarily for Quebec organizations working in occupational injury prevention (e.g., the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail [CNESST] or the associations sectorielles paritaires [ASP]) in one or more industries. It concerns an exploratory study on the integration of safety at the machine design stage that was conducted with the participation of machine manufacturers. It will also be of interest to designers and manufacturers who want to learn more about  safety of machinery at the design and assembling stages of machinery. in Quebec. The goal of the study was to gain a better understanding of the practices and needs of Quebec machinery manufacturers with regard to ensuring the safety of their products. More specifically, the study set out to describe machinery manufacturers’ ways of working, understand designers’ needs with respect to incorporating safety into the design process and investigate to what degree standards in safety of machinery match manufacturers’ needs.

The method used to achieve the study objectives involved analysis of the data collected through interviews and observations conducted with 17 Quebec machinery manufacturers. These companies specialize in the design and manufacture of machines used for production purposes in different  companies. The machines these manufacturers design and build are intended for use in a variety of industries and are sold in Quebec, elsewhere in Canada and in various foreign markets. A large part of the machine manufacturing and assembly work is performed in these manufacturers’ facilities.

The manufacturers interviewed rely on design teams generally made up of mechanical, electrical and mechatronic engineers, technicians in these same fields, drafting professionals, mechanics and electricians for the design of their machines. These teams refer to between five and six standards or regulatory documents, on average, depending on the requirements of their clients. The same is true of design tools, with most manufacturers using risk assessment and reduction checklists based on those suggested by the CNESST or standards organizations. The IT tools generally used are software programs like Solidworks, AutoCAD, Solid Edge or other 3D engineering design applications.

Most respondents are aware of the need to accurately identify the risks associated with using their machines and avoid as much as possible informal methods that don’t always allow a comprehensive analysis to be conducted. Their risk analysis methods are generally documented in accordance with the scope of the project. All the manufacturers interviewed install guards and protective devices. They give priority to guards consisting of rigid frames and polycarbonate panels, and rely less on light curtains and laser scanners, which are expensive.

The bypassing of these safeguards remains a source of concern for manufacturers. The causes cited to explain bypassing are essentially problems related to the performance and adaptability of human-machine interfaces, the lack of integrated safety measures, the absence of devices allowing the performance of assembly, reconfiguration and maintenance operations, and the acceptability of protective devices by users.

Some constraints, such as cost, productivity and operating time, must be given special attention by design teams. For operating and process-compliance reasons, customers sometimes guide manufacturers toward safety solutions that suit them or, conversely, they refuse the solutions manufacturers propose. The prices and turn-around times initially agreed upon for the design and build are generally fixed, whereas cost overruns, in particular those related to all the constraints, must be assumed by manufacturers.

In addition to the bypassing of safeguards and the constraints imposed by clients, this study identified other issues, that is, how to (1) implement inherently safe design, (2) manage risks during the machine life-cycle phases other than production and maintenance, (3) monitor and follow up on updates of applicable standards, (4) design and validate safety-related control systems, and (5) raise clients’ awareness of machine safety. All these aspects need to be addressed in simple or layperson’s terms, in the form of design tools intended for all trades and professions involved in the manufacturing of a machine.


Additional Information

Category: Research Report
  • Yuvin Chinniah
  • François Gauthier
  • George Abdul-Nour
  • Sabrina Jocelyn
  • Barthélemy Aucourt
  • Guy Bordeleau
Research Project: 2015-0060
Online since: December 05, 2019
Format: Text