Ask the Expert, Equipment and Machinery Safety, Fire Safety

Ask the Expert: Running Equipment Without Employees On Site

In our latest installment of Ask the Expert, brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a recent question from a subscriber asking about running equipment without employees on site. See what the experts had to say.

Machinery robots

Q: What are the requirements for running equipment without employees in the building?

While there are no specific regulatory requirements, It is recommended that the following steps be taken to manage an unattended process: 
 
• Before being left unattended, a process should be fully developed and run for a prolonged period of time with staff in attendance. This is to ensure that the equipment is working satisfactorily, that all foreseeable potential safety issues and fire hazards have been identified and addressed and that the fire risk assessment for the process has been satisfactorily completed. 
• Physical segregation of the process from other operations being carried out on site, whether these are automated or manned. 
• Suitable fire detection and warning systems in case of fire. 
• Development of an emergency action plan to protect life and property and ensure the continuing functioning of the business in the case of fire; and staff training in the actions to take in the event of fire, including the safe shutdown of the process and evacuation of the premises. 
• All equipment, including safety cutout devices, should be installed, used, and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Servicing and maintenance should be carried out by a competent person. The periodic maintenance regimes should continue to be observed even if the equipment is only used occasionally. 
• Information should be provided for the fire and rescue service at a prominent location to indicate: 
– The layout of the site 
– The location of unattended processes 
– The location of emergency shut down points for the process 
– The nature of the automatic fire suppression system(s) and the location of any controls 
– The nature and location of any hazardous substances involved in the process and related control valves or mechanisms 
– Contact details for specialist staff who may need to be consulted 
– The location of hydrants, rising mains, or other sources of water for firefighting purposes

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