Spotlight on Safety by Joe Harwell | Facility Operator at Superior East AND Co-Chair of Aurora Cooperative’s Safety Committee
With fall harvest going strong it is very important to make sure we as a company and our farmer owners are doing everything we can to be safe and to make sure everyone makes it home safe at the end of the day. There are many things that we can do to make sure this happens. Conveyor safety is one of those things. Some of us use conveyors on a daily basis and some only use them during harvest. Whether you are very familiar with them or you’re not there are 12 simple rules you can follow to make sure you and the people you work with and for make it home safe at the end of the day.
1. Do not climb, sit, stand, walk, ride, or touch the conveyor at any time
Not following this rule can lead to injury, and it happens more often than you would like to believe. It’s imperative that workers never climb, sit, stand, walk, ride or even touch the conveyor line at any time. It’s common sense, but people tend to get mischievous about it and there are injuries and equipment damage due to not following this rule every year.
2. Do not perform maintenance on conveyor until electrical, air, hydraulic, and gravity energy sources have been locked out or blocked
It is plain old common sense to follow this rule. Don’t perform any maintenance (or even open a panel or guard) until electrical, air, or hydraulic power sources are disconnected or blocked out. Block the incline on a gravity conveyor before getting to work on it. There are technicians who sometimes become too confident in their ability to work on machinery even when it’s connected to power because they have been around it a long time and know it well. It’s this kind of thinking that can lead to injuries.
3. Operate equipment only with all approved covers and guards in place
They built the conveyors with guards for a reason – safety. Operating it without the guards is one of the most unsafe, and sadly, most common occurrences in the industry.
4. Do not load a stopped conveyor or overload a running conveyor
This simple safety standard helps preserve your conveying equipment because it helps prevent overheating. Workers should never load a conveyor when it’s stopped, or overload it when it is running.
5. Ensure that all personnel are clear of equipment before starting
Workers should always be certain that everyone is clear of the conveyor before starting it up. Many times, factories install warning horns to alert workers that the conveyors are about to become active. This is an excellent, and relatively inexpensive safety upgrade you can make, but you shouldn’t stop there. Training should also be included about what
the warning horn means and how injuries can occur if it’s ignored.
6. Allow only authorized personnel to operate or maintain material handling equipment
Only workers who have been trained should be permitted to operate and perform maintenance on conveyors. This is for two reasons: (1) Safety of the technician. Conveyors can be dangerous to those who do not thoroughly understand the equipment and how to safely work on it. (2) Only trained personnel can really maintain a conveyor to perform at peak efficiency. This isn’t necessarily a safety concern, although it can be if sub-par conveyor performance causes workers to try to look at it on their own or bypass guards.
7. Do not modify or misuse conveyor controls
Conveyor controls are not just on/off switches. They are any kind of electronic or mechanical devices used during conveyor operation. These controls should never be modified for any reason by unqualified personnel. Monitor your various controls to be sure no one has misused, modified, or disconnected them.
8. Keep clothing, body parts, and hair away from the conveyor
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep clear of conveying equipment while it is in operation. This is one of the most common ways to be injured around a conveyor. Workers should keep their hands off of conveyors. Those with long hair, loose clothes, or ties should be exceptionally careful (or should bind their hair and clothes before going near the machinery). Ties should be thrown over the shoulder or tucked in. Long sleeves should be restrained or rolled up. Visitors to your plant should be briefed on safety and inspected for potential clothes or hair that could be caught before being allowed near the conveyor line.
9. Remove trash, paperwork, and other debris only when power is locked out and tagged out
It’s important that the area around your conveyors be kept clean and as free of dirt, oil, etc. as much as possible to insure the equipment continues to operate efficiently. However, it is unsafe to do that cleaning and maintenance when the conveyor is powered and operating. Beyond that, you should familiarize cleaning crews with conveyor safety as well as your conveyor operators, pickers, packers, etc.
10. Ensure that ALL controls and pull cords are visible and accessible
In case a conveyor needs to be stopped suddenly, all the controls and pull cords need to be easily accessible and plainly visible so that anyone working in the area can reach them.
11. Know the location and function of all stop and start controls
By the same token, anyone who regularly works in a conveyor area must be familiar with the location and function of stop and start controls. The controls must be marked to avoid confusion and allow people to make fast decisions on using them. Training should be given to all employees about the controls, where they are, when to use them, and how
to access them. It’s best if this fundamental safety training is repeated frequently, and especially if you reconfigure your plant, change the layout, or update equipment.
12. Report all unsafe conditions. Jams should be cleared ONLY BY authorized, trained personnel
You should have a culture of safety around your conveyors that encourages workers to report unsafe conditions like loose guards, people working too closely with the conveyors with unrestrained clothes or hair, etc. Training about safety issues and when to report them should be made to all employees and repeated often. Untrained people trying to clear conveyor jams can result in unsafe situations as well as damaged equipment. Workers should be trained to call facility maintenance to clear jams.