Safety for Industrial Operations – A European Approach

Netherlocks B.V. has been designing and manufacturing interlocking, valve control and other industrial safety products for nearly 15 years and is now bringing its expertise to the American market.

The industry that forms such a core of the American economy is ever improving in its productivity and efficiency, yet safety standards and practices have often been overlooked throughout the rapid drive for progress. Events and incidents occur every year – some making headlines, others only affecting those involved – which highlight the need not only for safety measures, but also for ways of making sure that they are effectively applied. Traditional approaches to machine and plant safety in the US have largely relied on more ‘improvised’ systems such as lock-out/tag-out. By contrast in Europe the principles of interlocking safety have long been regarded as a viable, potentially superior alternative depending on the situation.

Interlocking Safety Systems for the US market

Interlocking uses a ‘trapped-key’ system, whereby valves, actuators, switches, doors and processes are physically locked in a state until the right key is used. By using a trapped-key system, the next step in any process can only be unlocked and started once the previous step has been completed and the appropriate key released, guaranteeing the correct sequence of events. For instance: a supply valve may need to be completely locked closed before a drainage valve is opened, effectively ensuring that a dangerously high pressure is not going to cause an accident when the drain is activated.

Although a simple example, it effectively demonstrates the underlying principles of mechanical interlocking: human error, mistakes and even ignorance of proper work procedure are physically prevented by a mechanical system which does not interfere with the proper, safe operation of the elements involved. Contrary to some belief, this is one safety measure that should not adversely affect performance. When everything is being done as it should, interlocks do not interfere with normal operation. What they do, however, is make sure that procedures are being safely followed, with no allowance for mistakes, errors of judgement, or dangerous ‘shortcuts’.

The ‘Add-On’ approach taken by Netherlocks aims to make any operation safer by incorporating the right measures in the right places: with the vast majority of incidents and accidents being caused by human error, mechanically enforcing the adherence to safe procedure can dramatically increase worker safety and equipment protection. As expected when dealing with such a serious subject, a safety product is only useful if it is high quality and reliable. If a safety device should fail then the consequences could be grave, especially if people have come to rely on it. Netherlocks is proud to have an excellent, proven reputation for both reliability and quality, and is bringing this now to America.

Customised safety plans are encouraged in order to find and fit the best system possible for any installation, maximising both safety and efficiency. The company’s sales and support teams are available to give advice and training in the planning, implementation and assessment of safety systems, and the company is ready to customise their product range to suit the particular needs of a project. Further information can be found at the Netherlocks website or by contacting them directly at

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