Friday, May 31, 2013

Safety Tips: Conveyors

Conveyors have been in use for decades.  The inherent dangers of using this type of industrial equipment are often overlooked by both management and workers in constant contact with the machinery.  Serious injuries linked to conveyors are not uncommon in manufacturing environments.  Everything from death to critical injuries takes place.  On average about there are 234 claims per year that involve a powered conveyor.

These accidents are serious matters and employers should take precautions to heart.  In a recent incident, an employer was found to be guilty for failing to take reasonable precaution by “ensuring the conveyor was stopped and locked out before the worker (that was killed) entered the area.  The company was fined $150,000.

All companies should be focused on the safety of workers not only to avoid prosecution, but more importantly to avoid serious injuries and possible death.  One way to make certain that safety measures are in place is to work on a selection of safety measures for conveyors.

First, identify the hazards:  Focus on the common locations for injuries on a conveyor first.  With over 48% of accidents happening between the live drum, head drum, or tail drum and the belt.  13% take place between a load carrying or return roller and the drum.  And finally, 13% of accidents happen in other areas – for example, between electromagnets and other parts.

Second, use risk assessment techniques to assess and document the hazard:   With knowledge of the hazards, it is important now to eliminate the hazard or to work on controlling the hazards by applying and implementing appropriate safeguards and other control measures.  There are several common guarding methodologies to follow.  They are:
  1. Fixed Guards
  • Perimeter/Surround Guards
  • Barrier Guard (Fixed Distance) 
  • Fixed In-Running Nip Guards 
  • Interlocking Guards 
  • Interlocked Guards with Guard Locking


Finally, eliminate the hazards by an inherently safe design:  This is achieved through review of the current designs and looking for potential flaws or areas that could be upgraded to provide for a safer working environment.

The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) has established standards that it believes should be followed in order to reduce the risk of equipment damage, serious injury, or an accidental death.
  1. Never Climb, Sit, Stand, Walk, Ride, or Touch the Conveyor – at any time.
  2. Do NOT perform maintenance on a conveyor until energy, air, hydraulic, and gravity energy sources have been blocked or locked out.
  3. Only operate equipment with all manufacturer approved covers and guards in place.
  4. Make certain all personnel are clear of equipment before starting.
  5. Only authorized personnel should be allowed to operate or maintain conveyors.
  6. Keep clothing, body parts, and hair away from moving conveyors.
  7. All safety buttons and stop mechanism should be visible and easily accessible.
Follow these and other safety guidelines when operating or in the vicinity of an operational conveyor.  Though these seem simple in nature, they are important to maintain the health and safety of all workers.


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