The issue of workplace safety is becoming increasingly significant for today’s industrial and manufacturing operations. A recent Travelers Insurance injury impact report states that material handling incidents caused 37% of injuries in manufacturing from 2010 to 2014, and those injuries accounted for 32% of total workers’ compensation claims. In its 2016 Workplace Safety Index, Liberty Mutual Insurance reports that injuries and illness caused by working conditions or equipment operation cost U.S. employers nearly $62 billion in 2013, or more than $1 billion per week.
A big contributor to unsafe working conditions is the additional pressure to enhance efficiency, increase productivity, and elevate output. This is a result of growing global consumer demand for products and increasing shareholder expectations of higher profits. Now more than ever, it’s critical to find the ideal balance between boosting the bottom line and maintaining a safe workplace.
Here are the three key factors manufacturers must consider in their quest to achieve that balance.
Factor #1: Equipment
Whether they are on the floor of a manufacturing plant or underground at a coal mine, conveyors are vital to automating an operation. But they still require human interaction in order to operate effectively, so there will always be safety concerns associated with conveying equipment.
A conveyor’s level of safety begins with how it is designed. Covering moving parts and preventing access to materials that often move at high speeds are important starting points. For example, despite being some of the most common conveyors in use today, belt conveyors are hardly the safest. They have exposed wheels that support the belt approximately every four feet along a run, and due to the open-trough design, there is the potential for spillage or dusting. Belt conveyors are also prone to material jams. The resulting heat and friction can create a fire hazard when handling combustible materials.
Factor #2: Maintenance
All conveyors require a certain amount of expected maintenance. Protecting maintenance personnel is especially important, and following existing OSHA guidelines is required. Whether it’s a 70-pound weight limit for removable pieces, requiring a tool to gain access to moving parts, or eliminating any gap larger than a half-inch between exposed shafts and rotating equipment, OSHA guidelines are not always enough when the human factor is taken into consideration.
Any conveyor can be shipped and assembled with guarding in place, but maintenance technicians, possibly in an effort to work faster or more efficiently, often take shortcuts that leave guards loose or completely removed. On a belt conveyor, that safety risk exists every four feet for the entire run.
Factor #3: Material
Manufacturing plants and industrial operations that deal with dangerous materials are well aware of the risks associated with exposing employees to those materials. Abrasive, caustic or high-temperature materials are all hazardous to human contact when they are conveyed.
Even the processing of safe materials can cause hazardous conditions. Any material that becomes airborne can settle on surfaces throughout a facility, increasing the risk of slipping, maintenance issues and the chance of fires.
Sealed Systems Are the Solution
Ensuring optimal safety while enhancing efficiency, productivity and profitability is possible with the adoption of an en-masse conveyor, screw conveyor, or bucket elevator from CDM Systems. Featuring an enclosed or sealed design, these types of systems move dangerous materials more safely and eliminate concerns about dusting, aspiration problems, and material contamination.
CDM’s enclosed conveyors also reduce the potential for injury by allowing only two access points to moving parts at the front and back of the conveyor run. This means easier maintenance and relief for technicians who are used to handling heavy guards and access panels.
With millions of dollars and people’s lives at stake, ensuring the safest possible environment for employees should be the top priority for any industrial manufacturing operation. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to come at the expense of a healthy bottom line. With any conveyor system, it’s important to identify safety challenges before they result in an injury, worker’s compensation claim, or worse. Doing so requires a thorough understanding of a variety of material handling demands, and CDM has more than 40 years of application experience. We will specify and size the right equipment to increase safety without sacrificing profitability.