Making the commitment to retrofit an existing manufacturing facility’s safety system is a crucial first step. It’s also one of the most difficult. When a facility has been around for multiple decades and “has been running just fine,” the decision to set aside time and money for a major safety upgrade is as courageous as it is necessary.
Let’s take a look at one of the most common obstacles that companies face during the retrofit process: understanding how the existing safety equipment ties into the controls system and identifying which parts must be modified to ensure compliance.
Sometimes the challenges of dealing with older equipment can make engineers feel like they’re stuck in a real-life version of an adventure movie—“Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Lost Controls Cabinet.” The safety system’s design may be sound, but the ways in which it relates to the controls system is a riddle that muddles the minds of all who dare to tackle it.
Ultimately, a working safety system is supposed to send a stop signal to any machinery capable of performing hazardous motion in the event that it detects an unsafe condition. The safety control monitors the safety devices, but safety engineers also need to identify locations for monitoring key equipment parameters that may affect operator safety (such as pneumatic or hydraulic pressure on a press) and determine where to send the stop signal.