The equipment that is used by employees and volunteers can be the source of a number of accidents within Churches and Places of Worship. Equipment is classed as anything that is provided for use at the workplace, and can include simple items like screwdrivers to complex items of catering equipment, lawnmowers and fixed items including pipe organs.
There are a number of hazards associated with equipment that should be identified as part of the Risk Assessment:
Moving parts of machinery
Electrical shock and fires caused by electrical faults
Constraints on posture
Manual Handling and Ergonomics
Mechanical hazards often result from rotating or moving parts (whether this movement is caused by a person or a motor or engine). The following classifications of mechanical hazards are usually used:
Entanglement, which is where a part of the body or clothing is entwined in a moving part of the equipment, such as the chuck of a drill
In-running nips where a part of the body could be drawn in, such as where two moving gears connect together or there is a chain and sprocket arrangement
Crush injuries or entrapment, caused by moving parts of machinery moving towards a person
Abrasion, cutting and puncture hazards, such as those associated with meat slicers and drills, where part of the machine could damage, burn (through friction) or puncture the skin
Shear hazards, where a part of the body is caught between two moving parts, or a moving part and a fixed part of the equipment, or two moving parts of the equipment (often in a scissors like movement)
Ejection, which can be intentional or as a result of equipment failure, such as swarf from a drill bit, the failure of the equipment or sparks coming off a grinding tool
Some equipment operates at high or low temperatures, which could cause discomfort or, at worst, serious burns. An example would be a traditional style tea urn, where the metal gets very hot when switched on. Some equipment might get hot if it fails, such as if a motor becomes jammed, which is a consideration especially for maintenance and repair.
The use of vibrating tools and equipment has become more widely understood as being a significant problem for many industries of late. Vibration from the equipment can pose significant problems to the blood flow, muscles, tendons and bones in the affected part of the body. Certain equipment, such as hammer drills and other power tools, are known to cause a problem, and the use of such tools should be restricted. "Vibration White Finger" is an example of one of these conditions, which are often called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS for short).
In a similar way to vibrations, noise hazards from equipment can be a serious problem as the continued exposure to high sound levels can cause deafness. Noise hazards are considered elsewhere on this Website.
Electrical hazards can cause electric shocks and burns and can start fires and the retained charge in some equipment can pose a danger when equipment is being maintained. There is also the potential of tripping hazards caused by electrical cables. Electrical hazards are considered elsewhere on this Website.
Some equipment uses chemicals, such as the petrol and lubricants in a lawnmower. Chemical safety is considered elsewhere on this Website. It is also important to consider the fire safety of chemical use, to ensure that fire and explosions do not happen.
Typical safety measures for equipment use
Whatever equipment is being provided and used, it is essential that it is suitable for the job that is in hand. Any new equipment should be bought from a reputable supplier and carry the CE mark, which is a good indication that the equipment will be safe, providing it is used as it was designed to be used.
Always follow the manufacturer's guidance and instructions and take care when choosing equipment to ensure it is going to be of sufficient build to be used in a non-domestic environment. Today, so much information is available on the Internet that manufacturers manuals should be accessible even before the equipment is purchased, to help make a decision about what to buy.
Dangerous parts of machinery (i.e. those that pose a significant risk of injury to the user or to others nearby) are usually protected or guarded to prevent access, or prevent items being ejected out from the equipment. There are a number of types of guard available, such as fixed guards that enclose the dangerous part, automatic guards that move a person away from the danger and adjustable guards that need to be altered by the user. In any case, the safety of the equipment relies on the presence and correct use or adjustment of the guards.
It is often stated that you should not start a machine unless you know how to stop it. The controls of many pieces of equipment are usually straightforward, but some might have a number of controls that look the same, and these need to be clearly marked. Some equipment might need an emergency stop button, and it must be possible to isolate equipment from all energy sources (including electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic etc…) – often this can be achieved by removing the mains plug from the socket.
People should be provided with instructions on using equipment, some training or other information to enable them to use the equipment safely. With most equipment used in Churches and Places of Worship, the instruction manual supplied by the manufacturer would be adequate, alongside information and training about any specific hazards caused by operating the equipment in the specific setting. People who are using unfamiliar equipment should be supervised by someone who is. Some equipment, such as scaffold towers, mobile elevated work platforms and some professional catering equipment requires more detailed training.
With some equipment, the use of Personal Protective Equipment (such as gloves, safety shoes and hearing protection) might be required. The provision of Personal Protective Equipment is not a substitute for selecting the correct equipment in a safe way and using other safety measures but can be used in addition to the standard measures that are in place.
The maintenance and inspection of equipment is important to make sure that it continues to be safe for use. The manufacturer's guidance or instruction manual is a good source of information on the required routine maintenance that is required. The equipment should be inspected from time-to-time to ensure that it remains in good order, as many faults are easily spotted by a quick visual inspection.
Electrical equipment would usually undergo a Portable Appliance Test. Electrical safety is considered elsewhere on this Website.
Equipment that is used for lifting items or people is a special class of equipment, which must undergo mandatory formal inspection. Typically, this is every year, but equipment used for lifting people (such as mobile elevating work platforms) and lifting accessories must be formally examined every 6 months. A specialist should be contacted to undertake this inspection, and a report will be issued on the equipment which should be retained for a period of time.
The Health and Safety Executive produce a number of Approved Codes of Practice on equipment. "Safe use of work equipment" (L22, ISBN 9780717616268), provides general details on the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. "Safe use of lifting equipment" (L113, ISBN 9780717616282) provides details about equipment that lifts loads or people.