Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Last Updated: 2023-08-28
Safety light curtains are an essential component of industrial safety systems. We use these devices to detect the presence of people or objects in a hazardous area and prevent equipment from starting or operating if there is a risk of injury. However, to ensure that light curtains provide effective protection, it is crucial to calculate the safety distances correctly before installing them.
First Step: Calculate the Safety Distance!
When safeguarding machinery, it’s important to take all necessary precautions to prevent accidents and injuries. One crucial step in installing light curtains, commonly used as machinery safeguards, is calculating the safety distance. According to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), safety distance is:
“…the minimum distance an engineered control must be installed from a hazard to ensure individuals are not exposed to it.”
A mechanical power press is one example of a machine that requires careful consideration of safety distance. These machines cannot immediately come to a complete stop and need time to respond to the safeguarding device and components. If you place the light curtain too close to the crushing point, the machine may not have sufficient time to respond to a person’s finger or hand.
Calculating the safety distance involves considering factors such as an individual’s approach speed, the machine itself, the reaction time of the light curtain, and the reaction time of the safety-related parts of the control system. Adding extra time as a buffer for any variations in the machine’s reaction time is also important.
Use Tables 1.3 and 1.4 from ANSI B11.19-2019 to determine the reaching distance associated with devices. Refer to these tables to know how far over, under, or through someone can move through the protective field before being detected by the light curtain. It’s essential to consult with a safety professional to determine the appropriate safety solution for your machine. Ferndale Safety can help you determine what type of light curtain you need and how to install it.
How To Calculate the Safety Distances
OSHA Recommended Safety Distance
The OSHA safety distance formula, as specified in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.217, is as follows:
- Ds – is the Safety Distance.
- K – The hand speed constant. 63 is the OSHA recommended hand rate constant in inches per second. (See “The K hand speed constant”)
- Ts is the total stop time of all devices in the safety circuit, measured in seconds. This value must include all components involved in stopping the hazardous motion of the machinery. For a mechanical power press, it is the stopping time measured at approximately the 90º position of the crankshaft rotation.
Note: The Ts number must include the response times of all devices, including the safety light curtain, the safety light curtain controller, the machine’s control circuit, and any other devices that react to stop the hazardous motion of the machinery.
Not including the response time of a device or devices in the stop time calculation will result in insufficient safety distance for the application and may result in operator injury.
ANSI Safety Distance Formula
ANSI B11.19 Recommended Safety Distance
The 2019 edition of the ANSI safety distance formula, which Ferndale Safety recommends, is as follows:
The Total Time Variables (T)
The total time to achieve a safe condition (T) is the sum of all components’ response times and the machine’s stop time. These variables include:
The (K) Hand Speed Constant
The ANSI standard value is 63 inches per second when the operator begins reaching the point of operation hazard from rest.
Note: ANSI B11.19 1990 E126.96.36.199.5 states, “The value of the hand speed constant, K, has been determined by various studies, and although these studies indicate speeds of 63 inches/second to over 100 inches/sec., they are not conclusive determinations.
The employer should consider all factors, including the physical ability of the operator, when determining the value of K.
The Reaching Distance (dds)
The “reaching distance” in the context of safety systems, especially light curtains or similar protective devices, refers to the maximum distance an individual can extend or move a part of their body (like a hand or arm) over, under, or through a protective field without being detected. It measures how close a person can come to a hazard without triggering a safety response from the protective system.
This measurement is crucial for ensuring the safety of workers or users. If someone can reach too far into a dangerous zone without the machine stopping or the system giving a warning, there’s a high risk of injury. Hence, determining and ensuring a safe reaching distance helps design systems and workplaces that prevent individuals from getting too close to potential hazards before the protective mechanisms are activated.
- Determine ddo, ddu, and ddt:
ddo : The distance over the protective field.
ddu : The distance under the protective field.
ddt : The distance through the protective field.
- Use Reference Tables: Tables I.3 and I.4 from ANSI B11.19-2019 can help determine ddo and ddu. These tables provide values based on the hazard zone’s height and the sensing field’s positioning.
- Calculate ddt: For vertical applications, using the formula ddt=3.4×(de−7) mm, where de is the light curtain’s effective detection capability or resolution.
- Determine the Overall Reaching Distance:The reaching distance, dds, is the greatest value among ddo, ddu, and ddt: dds≥max(ddo,ddu,ddt)
By following these steps and employing the appropriate reference materials, you can determine the reaching distance for a given safety system. Always ensure you’re following the manufacturer’s guidelines, and consider any additional factors unique to the specific application or environment.
Safety Distance is Only One Part of the Equation
Now that you know how far away from the hazard you should install the light curtains, you may need to consider pass-through risks. A dangerous situation can arise when a person is between the light curtain and the hazardous area. In fact, the safety distance may be large enough to fit multiple people in that area. Add additional guarding, horizontal light curtains, or area scanners to prevent pass-through risks.
Proper installation and sizing of light curtains are crucial to minimizing the risk of injury to employees operating machinery. Establish the safety distance first, followed by sizing the light curtains appropriately. The height of the light curtains may vary based on the height of employees, and the mode of operation can affect the safety of workers.
Around, Under, Through, and Over (AUTO)
Pay special attention to persons being able to reach hazards around the light curtains and reaching underneath or overtop.
Use guarding in areas not covered by light curtains to prevent workers from reaching over or under the light curtain or barriers. Bolster height and the use of platforms should also be taken into consideration when installing light curtains.
Don’t have the bottom beam too high or the top beam too low for light curtains. We recommend that the bottom beam be no more than 12” or 300mm from the floor. A lower beam that is too high up can tempt a person to crawl underneath. Likewise, if the top beam of a light curtain is too low, a person can reach over it.
Calculating safety distance is a crucial step in safeguarding machinery with light curtains. It not only ensures compliance with global safety regulations but also helps prevent long-term costs of injury and machine downtime. Consult the safety professional at Ferndale Safety to determine the appropriate safety solution for your machine and ensure you take all necessary precautions to prevent accidents and injuries.
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Light curtain installed on a gantry saw – Source: REER