Everyone talks about ways to reduce industrial accidents. We hang warning signs in our facilities, we keep score of days without injuries, and we talk in meetings about how to reduce industrial accidents.
I’ve been in plants for more than 30 years and there are a lot of unsafe things you just would not believe. Here are four tips to reduce industrial accidents in your manufacturing facility.
Pay attention to Pinch Points
Many people don’t pay attention to pinch points on machines, places where I can get close and get my clothes or my fingers or my toes into a gear, a shear or anything else along that way. We need machine guarding on that. Guarding can come in the form of aluminum extrusion framing, fencing, something to block people from getting to that point, or light curtains, or other opportunities for it to stop the machine so those pinch points won’t happen. We've got to pay attention to what’s around the machine so that it doesn’t hurt people, because we know that they are not going to pay attention.
To give you an example, in a foundry where we were pouring aluminum into a mold, here’s a big vat with several thousand degrees of molten aluminum. Our robot dipped into the vat, pulled out the aluminum and headed down the line to a mold. One of the operators came out in front of the robot as it was running down the line, everybody’s screaming at him to get out of the way. He said, "It will see me." Robots don’t have eyes. And he was lucky that the molten aluminum didn’t hit him or he wouldn’t have any eyes, either.
People don’t pay attention, so we have to help and protect them. Machine builders today in the U.S. are not required to incorporate all the guarding and safety features. And there are plenty machines lacking for safety. So, it’s up to the user to make sure their machines are guarded well and live up to OSHA standards.
Make Sure Your E-Stop Actually Works
Do your emergency stop buttons actually stop the machine in time? E-stops are important. Are they within reach where the operators are? Are there pull switches where the operator can get a hold of them? Schmersal has an excellent PDF on E-stops you can read for more information.
Wear Proper Protective Equipment.
On the electrical side, I’m talking about PPE: Personal Protect Equipment. Face shields, Nomex coveralls that won’t burn. If a worker opens an electrical panel and there’s an arc flash - if you’re not protected you will be awfully sorry. Protective glasses, ear plugs, all sorts of protection equipment is available to reduce industrial accidents. There’s electrical protection, too. For instance, ground fault isolation features in the panels. If you’re missing a ground and don’t have a ground fault, you could have people shocked.
Properly Report Any Incidents
The last tip to reduce industrial accidents is that management should properly report any safety incidents that do happen. OSHA requires that report. If you’re not following the OSHA rules then when the inspector comes in, for whatever reason, you could be in a little bit of trouble.
Lonnie Muse has three decades of experience as a controls engineer and has seen numerous, mind-numbing instances of plant safety violations. If you need help solving your safety challenges, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org