Safety Standard IEC/ISO 17305 Merger Project Halted

Safety Standard IEC/ISO 17305 Merger Halted

Dual standards ISO 13849 and IEC 62061 are set to continue. Here’s what OEMs need to know now.

By Derek Jones, business development manager, Safety, Rockwell Automation

When it comes to machinery safety, standards compliance often is the primary concern for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). However, as studies have shown, best-in-class manufacturers that think beyond simple compliance have achieved half the injury rate of average performers — while also achieving 5% to 7% higher overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and 2% to 4% less unscheduled downtime.

Compliance alone won't necessarily add value, according to Bevcorp, an Ohio-based rotary filler and labeling machine builder and winner in the Rockwell Automation 2014 Manufacturing Safety Excellence Awards. Compliance is the minimum. You have to understand the responsibility between the end user and the OEM, conduct effective risk assessments and use accepted methodologies.

In the past, industry often made its own decisions on how to protect machines and workers. Companies could choose to meet the bare-minimum compliance levels or go beyond to provide more advanced safety equipment. However, safety standards continue to evolve, and it's become advisable to embrace the more stringent standards.

Several years ago, the more advanced ISO 13849 performance level model and IEC 62061 safety integrity level model replaced the relatively simple EN 954 machinery safety categories. The two standards that replaced EN 954 are more complex in nature but incorporate important advances in safety technologies that allow OEMs to address safety needs while providing opportunities to improve productivity as well.

However, change is now happening fast. Until very recently, it was intended that a new safety standard IEC/ISO 17305 would merge ISO 13849 and IEC 62061. IEC/ISO 17305 was expected to take effect in 2017, giving users a single global safety standard, and clarifying some of the issues encountered while trying to comply with two similar but separate standards.

However, the IEC/ISO 17305 project was stopped as a result of a decision taken in the October 2015 Plenary meeting of ISO TC199. The decision was made based primarily on the committee's ability to achieve the objectives on schedule, recognizing that significant differences remain between ISO 13849 and IEC 62061 which will need to be addressed.

Work will continue to prepare new editions of ISO 13849 and IEC 62061, with the two responsible groups working closely to use work already completed on IEC/ISO 17305, and to confirm that the new editions progress on a converging path.

Machine builders should focus on understanding the existing ISO 13849 and IEC 62061 standards, which continue to enjoy broad global acceptance while providing for worker safety and productivity. Use of these standards will help ease the transition to future editions, and the eventuality of IEC/ISO 17305.

Doing so also helps make multinational safety-compliance processes more cost-effective, while building better-performing and more internationally competitive machinery.

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