Tafe centre leads the way for a safer workplace

Friday, 05 August, 2005

Swinburne TAFE's Centre for New Manufacturing (CNM) is taking the lead in addressing a training gap in the complex area of machine control system safety compliance, providing vital support for engineers, managers and technical staff.

Engineers, technical staff and even operators who design, install and maintain manufacturing equipment are playing a key role in ensuring that automated machines meet a myriad of safety requirements.

To support them in this role, Swinburne TAFE's Centre for New Manufacturing, in collaboration with Higher Education's Electrical Engineering department and with support from Pilz Safe Automation, launched a study of the skills gaps in the engineering industry.

The aim was to develop training programs that would initially include practical workshops and eventually incorporate design safety subjects into undergraduate and diploma courses.

The CNM's Warwick Howland, who coordinates the training as part of the centre's newly formed Australasian Centre for Automation Safety, says that safety training in the manufacturing industries has failed to keep pace with rapid developments in technology.

According to Warwick, the current Australian Standard (AS4024.1) has acted as an authoritative guide to achieving machine safety, with courts using it to determine whether employers and machinery suppliers have legally met their obligations. However, he says that a concern arises in that many of the standards are voluntary, in some cases overlap, and include conflicting requirements. "In this regard, the CNM sees itself as taking on a supportive and preventative role," Warwick explains. "We want the training to be a practical support for managers and technicians working in manufacturing."

As well as providing training, the CNM will act as a resource centre, informing people in the industry about the latest developments in automation safety techniques and legislative requirements, as well as offering practical support. Swinburne engineering students will potentially benefit, as the CNM's research findings make their way into the curriculum for robotics/mechatronics engineering in the Higher Education and TAFE divisions.

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