Conveyor Safety in the Workplace
Just as OSHA is a governing and determining body in the world of worker safety, creating new laws and guidelines to ensure the safety of your workers, CEMA, the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association is a trade organization comprised of conveyor equipment manufacturers, installers and designers.
Over the years a number of injuries and fatalities have been logged or associated with conveyors, with the majority of these incidents occurring usually during maintenance activities that take place while conveyors or other related machines are still in operation and danger zones remain unprotected by rails, fences or guards.
Preventative measures should always be implemented in order for work on, or near, conveyors to be performed safely. You will want to evaluate all the conveyors in the facility in order to both identify as well as make note of all safety hazards points.
Right from the design stage, worker exposure to hazards should be controlled by reducing the frequency of conveyor clean-ups, conveyor maintenance, removal of jams, etc. In many situations, such hazards should be carefully analyzed before any preventative measures are implemented, even if, or when, safety guards are in place.
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In other words, the worker must always be fully cognizant and aware of possible hazards or potential danger with any aspect of the conveyor he/she is to operate or work on. In some cases, this might even result in an actual Lockout/ Tagout situation, making sure that faulty equipment or perceived dangerous machinery conditions are dealt with before the conveyor can be fully operational.
In a recent incident a worker lost his hand, because an adjoining machine, a peeler, which was automatically triggered by the conveyor that the employee was working on was activated, pulling his hand and arm into the vicinity of the peeling knives resulting in the loss of limb.
In addition to machine guarding and providing personal protective equipment, another way you can improve the conveyor safety in your facility is by implementing a visual communication program. Some of the areas in and around conveyors that certainly require safety labeling or signage are:
- Exposed and moving parts
- High voltage levels
- Trip hazards
- Low clearances
- Equipment starting automatically and unexpectedly
- Pressurized systems
- Sitting, walking or climbing on equipment
- Hot surfaces
- Rotating shafts
- Falling parts
The list above represents only some of the areas of danger that first come to mind. Over time, with observation, you could probably double this list, based on your own particular needs and operations.
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