What to Do if You are Issued an OSHA Citation

The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency responsible for overseeing workplace safety. On the federal level, OSHA conducted 24,333 inspections in 2021. Of these 24,333 inspections, 10,584 (about 43 percent) were programmed inspections that focused OSHA’s enforcement resources towards industries and operations where known hazards exist.

If a violation is discovered during the course of an inspection, a citation may be issued. Citations serve as warnings, signaling the employer to take action to resolve the violation. When an employer receives an OSHA Notice, they must either post it, or a copy of it, at or near the place where each violation occurred as to make employees aware of the hazards to which they may be exposed. The OSHA Notice must remain posted for 3 working days or until the hazard is abated, whichever is longer. (Saturdays, Sundays and Federal holidays are not counted as working days).

Enforcement of machine guarding regulations is part of OSHA’s mission. OSHA requires that “any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury” be addressed as to eliminate or reduce risk based on hazardous exposures. In addition to the primary hazardous point-of-operation exposure, different functions, componentry, and processes sometimes need to be addressed on a single machine, or within a single manufacturing process, as well.  OSHA may also require secondary safeguarding devices, such as lighted beacons, audible alarms, and perimeter-style barrier guarding in some instances.

Despite regulations outlined in OSHA 1910.212, and the serious dangers posed by industrial equipment, machine guarding violations remain one of the top ten most common OSHA citations. Machine guarding violations also holds the dubious distinction of making the list of OSHA’s largest monetary penalties.

In this blog, we will discuss what a citation is, and how Rockford Systems can assist you in the event you are issued one.

WHAT IS AN OSHA CITATION?

An OSHA citation is similar to a complaint filed in court. That means it contains allegations of a violation, not conclusive findings. And while an OSHA citation may certainly look like a final ruling, sometimes including an invoice and a notice of debt collection, it is not a final legal document. The citation only becomes final after the employer:

  • Agrees with the citation or some modification thereof through a settlement.
  • Fails to contest the citation within fifteen working days.
  • Contests the citation, but loses during the administrative litigation process.

By law, OSHA must conduct an investigation before issuing a citation, most likely after an OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer conducts an on-site inspection. An investigation file will likely exist that contains evidence that supports OSHA’s citation. Unless the employer contests the citation and proceeds to the administrative litigation process, it’s possible that they are unaware as to exactly what is in an investigation file.

An OSHA citation should never be ignored. If an employer is not sure if they want to contest the citation, they can schedule an informal conference with an OSHA area director, a practice that OSHA encourages. An extension of any amount of time beyond the fifteen working days will not be granted unless the employer submits a Petition for Modification of Abatement showing the steps it has taken to achieve compliance. If the employer fails to remedy the situation by the abatement date, the citation becomes final and its fines must be paid. Simply paying the fine, however, does not get the employer off the hook. An employer still must correct the violation or could be cited for either a repeat, or possibly even willful violation in the future. OSHA also has the right to shut down the worksite to protect employees.

Let’s now explore three words that are extremely important to an OSHA violation: repeat, willful and serious.

  • Repeat violations are where OSHA determines that there have been similar violations within the last three years.
  • Willful violations are committed voluntarily or with indifference or disregard to the law.
  • Serious violations refer to situations where an employer knows that there is a hazard present that could result in either injury or death. OSHA uses another term, “other-than-serious” violations, for situations that likely will not result in injury or death but still may compromise health.

Maximum penalty for a serious violation is currently $14,502 per violation, while willful or repeated violations can result in penalties up to $145,027 per violation. OSHA does not fine employees for workplace and jobsite safety violations, only employers whos’ duty it is to provide a safe working environment compliant with OSHA regulation. Any possible reduction in penalty is at the discretion of the OSHA Compliance Officer, and factors such as size of the company, safety history, and good faith of the employer can all weigh in as to penalties assessed.

CONTESTING A CITATION

If an employer agrees to the citation, they must pay the fine within fifteen days, along with correcting the violation by the abatement date indicated on the notice.

An employer has the right to contest part or all of any notice that they receive. If only part of the notice is contested — such as the abatement date, penalty amount, or certain violations listed in the citation — than the employer still must correct the corresponding violations and pay the fines for the other parts of a notice that they are not contesting.

In contesting a citation, it is highly recommended that you enlist an experienced, knowledgeable safety professional to join you at both the informal and formal administrative hearings. An outside expert can also help guide an employer’s on-site investigation, and conduct a machine safeguarding audit with specific recommendations as to corrective actions and equipment.

During an OSHA hearing the employer should be prepared to share:

  • A detailed, written safety policy that addresses common or uncommon machinery hazards an employee may encounter.
  • Accurate records of all workplace accidents, injuries, illnesses, and deaths.
  • Classroom and field training schedules that teach employees proper safety procedures for both everyday work and in case of an emergency.
  • Administrative records demonstrating enforcement of company safety rules.
  • Up to date machine safeguarding audit records and documented corrective actions taken, if any, since the citation was issued.

AVOIDING CITATIONS

OSHA fines can be costly, and the process of contesting a machine guarding citation can be lengthy. The best way to avoid having to spend both time and money on an OSHA citation is to prevent one in the first place. Rockford Systems offers several services that will keep your employees safe and your business, including:

  • Safeguarding Policy Development: After conducting a baseline compliance evaluation and report, Rockford Systems will create the written program with a strategy for implementing any shortcomings in machine safeguarding. Employee training, ongoing safeguarding improvements, and an annual audit program round out the policy.
  • Machine Risk Assessment: Leveraging an experienced team of safeguarding specialists, all of whom have dedicated OSHA regulation and ANSI/NFPA 79 standards expertise, a Risk Assessment may provide an organization with a thorough understanding of its machine hazards. It is a proven, methodical tool to identify and document the hazards, as well as quantify and prioritize risk reduction efforts according to an associated risk score. A risk assessment will help you to identify hazards, but may not necessarily lead you to a solution in eliminating or reducing hazard in all cases.
  • Machine Safeguarding Assessment: This style of assessment is designed for companies who need safeguarding solutions and associated costs. It uses an organization’s machine list, machine task and hazard data gathered during the assessment, electrical schematics and our proprietary RSXpress™ mobile inspection tool that allows our safety professionals to perform a full assessment in determining compliance with OSHA regulation and ANSI/NFPA 79 standards.
  • A Machine Safeguarding Assessment is delivered with a complete compliance report and machine safeguarding project proposal.

Finally, Rockford Systems offers an Emergency Response service that can be scheduled for the same or next business day following an unplanned downtime incident or employee accident, depending upon the severity of the situation. Upon completion of the Emergency Response Assessment, Rockford Systems provides customers with a quick-turn, high-quality, comprehensive safeguarding report and proposal that outlines findings, suggesting ways to reduce risk and become compliant. Professional recommendations are provided in the areas of guards, devices, awareness barriers/devices, safeguarding methods and safe work practices, all referencing applicable OSHA regulations and ANSI/NFPA standards. In some cases, OSHA officials may even grant companies time extensions if it has demonstrated “Good Faith” efforts, such as hiring an outside expert to conduct an emergency response assessment.

 

How Rockford Systems Light Curtains Can Brighten Employee Safety in Your Plant

At first glance, a simple beam of infrared light would seem ineffective protection against fast-moving, dangerous industrial machinery. After all, isn’t that what heavy-duty steel guards are for? Yet, these beams of infrared light, when utilized as a component of “safety light curtains,” have prevented thousands of employee injuries and saved countless lives. Unlike other types of more bulky safeguards, such as physical barriers, light curtains make it easier to access equipment while performing maintenance or semi-automatic processes that require human interaction. Whether they are used to reduce exposure to point-of-operation hazards, or as a perimeter guarding device, being lightweight and compact makes light curtains ideal for machinery, robots or areas that require frequent access for purposes of material feeding, maintenance, repair, setup or the need to be adapted quickly to layout changes on a plant floor.

Light curtains are defined as being presence-sensing optoelectronic devices, and are often used as a component within an overall safety system in meeting nationally recognized safety regulations and standards, such as OSHA or ANSI (B11.19-2019). The most common application of light curtains is to detect people or objects passing through a perimeter boundary, or close to protect from direct contact with a machine’s point-of-operation. “Point of Operation” in this instance refers to where production material is being positioned for punching, bending, cutting, machining or where any type of hazardous motion is present. This is why light curtains are installed onto power presses and metal forming machines to protect the operator’s hands or fingers from crush injuries.

Transmitters and Receivers

Although light curtains come in a wide variety of designs, the two common features that make them alike are a transmitter and receiver. Transmitters units have a series of LEDs that emit an array of synchronized, parallel infrared light beams to a separate receiver unit on the other end. The receiver has a corresponding array of photo-diodes that automatically synchronize with the transmitter LEDs, in effect, “receiving” the pulses. Receiver circuitry is designed to detect only the specific pulse and frequency designated for it, preventing external light sources from being sensed. These systems can be mounted vertically, horizontally, or on any angle depending on the application. The only requirement is that the transmitter must align with the receiver when installed.

It is important to note that light curtains differ from other photoelectric sensors in that they have self-monitoring circuitry. When photoelectric cells from the transmitter are interrupted by an opaque object, this event triggers an output signal that is typically fed to a safety relay device delivering redundant protection. For example, if a person steps into a prohibited zone, this safety relay would signal to the machine to stop anywhere in its cycle or stroke to prevent a potentially catastrophic accident. Light curtains should only be used on machinery that can be quickly stopped anywhere within the machine’s cycle, and should never be used on any machine with a full-revolution clutch.

Once tripped, a conscious action is required on behalf of the operator to re-start the machine cycle after the source of the light curtain interruption is addressed. Prior Action Stations must be located outside yet within view of the protected area to prevent the inadvertent automatic or continuous resumption of the machine. Depending on the light curtain and its application, a separate enclosure may hold various diagnostic indicators, power supply, user controls and control logics that cannot be installed within the receiver.

Another light curtain design worth noting is an “active passive system” consisting of two unique devices. One both emits and receives beams while the other device essentially acts as a mirror to deflect the beams back to the receiver. While this approach minimizes overall costs and wiring, an active passive system reduces the intensity of the light beam and therefore normally has a much shorter operating range than a standard system. Mirrors will reduce the operating range of a light curtain by up to 18% per mirror, depending on the type of mirror installed.

Blanking & Muting

As mentioned earlier, light curtains come in a wide variety of resolutions and IP ratings. Other more advanced features have to do with minimizing the disruption to factory flow caused by machinery being completely shutdown when light beams detect an obstruction. Two worth noting are “blanking” and “muting” — two terms that are frequently used interchangeably yet incorrectly. Muting is the temporary automatic suspension of the entire curtain while a non-hazardous portion of the machine cycle is being performed, for example, during a press’s up stroke. Blanking is more complex. Instead of muting the entire sensing field, blanking is the bypassing of only a portion of it, leaving the rest of the light curtain active. Blanking finds utility when material is fed through the sensing field while the machine is in motion. Obviously, care must be taken to ensure the operators hands, fingers or arms cannot fit through the blanked portion.

Minimum Safety Distance 

When utilizing a light curtain as a point-of hazard safeguarding device, it is important to know and understand the stopping time of your machine.  Both OSHA, ANSI, and ISO all provide formulas to calculate the safe mounting distance of a light curtain based on the stopping time of your machine.  OSHA’s formula is the base requirement, while ANSI and ISO formulas represent best safety practice, and generally result in more than a 10% increase in safe mounting distance.

Light Curtain Resolution

The resolution of a safety light curtain is its detection capability measured as the amount of separation between its laser beams. Higher resolution light curtains improve the detection capability that can sometimes allow for the light curtain to be safely mounted closer to a hazard. While a 14mm resolution is ideal for finger detection and can be deployed closer to the source of hazardous motion, a lower 25-30mm resolution is all that is required for hand detection.

Rockford Systems strongly recommends a risk assessment prior to any light curtain installation.

Status Indicator Lights

Light curtains often feature status indicators clearly visible from a distance, preventing close proximity to dangerous machinery. Red, green, and yellow lights conveniently display operating status, configuration error codes, and blocked beams.

Questions to consider when selecting a light curtain:

  • What is the stopping time of the machine or equipment? Is it sufficient to even consider a presence sensing device?
  • How large is the area needing to be protected, and are there two corners or four corners?
  • What is the required height of the protection field?
  • What is the required operating range?
  • What is the required resolution, usually measured in millimeters? The tighter the required spacing, the higher the resolution.
  • What are your mounting requirements?
  • What Performance Level (PL) is required?
  • What environmental challenges will the light curtain face, including excessive temperatures, moisture exposure, and shock/vibration that can damage the equipment? This is often measured in IP ratings.
  • What cabling and wiring is needed?

Finally, with so much on the line, it is essential to overall employee safety that you consult with an experienced machine safeguarding expert when specifying and installing a light curtain. Contact Rockford Systems to ensure that your safety needs are fully met.

 

 

What the Wave of Retiring Machinists Means to Plant Safety

Within the next decade approximately 2.7 million “Baby Boomers” (b. 1946-1964) will retire, thereby ensuring that tens of thousands of skilled, well-paid positions will become available without a ready supply of American workers to fill them. Statistics paint an especially gloomy picture for the manufacturing sector, a widening of the skills gap, and a possible dilution of existing training programs.

Compared to the rest of the economy, the impact on manufacturing of this generational shift is oversized owing to two factors:

  • One, despite increased efforts by colleges and vocational schools to train new manufacturing workers, available jobs still outpace qualified employees.
  • And two, the existing manufacturing workforce is considerably older than the national employee average of 42 years. Currently, the average age of highly skilled manufacturing employees is 56, and nearly a third of all manufacturing professionals are over 50. As they retire, knowledge goes out the door with them.

What are the implications of these trends for your plant’s productivity? How will it impact employee safety? What can you do to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next?

Safety Knowledge Gap

Besides having less experience operating machinery correctly, workers new to the job are often unsure about their safety rights and responsibilities, or might feel uncomfortable speaking out about a potential hazard. They may also not have the proper training, so they underestimate the risks involved with operating high-speed machinery. A recent survey of machinists in North America exposed that 70% couldn’t recall receiving any formal training when they were first hired on.

Equally troubling, the Millennials (b. 1980-1996), who are replacing baby boomers, are more apt to job hop — 90 percent expect to stay in a job for less than three years — leaving manufacturers with heightened turnover and a badly depleted knowledge base, especially when it comes to safety. The so-called “Great Resignation,” the unprecedented mass exit from the workforce spurred on by Covid-19, also has reduced the pool for skilled labor.

Given all this, it probably comes as little surprise that employees under the age of 25 are twice as likely to visit the emergency room for an occupational injury than those over 25. The dangers facing younger workers underscore the critical importance of machine safeguarding. The lathe, press or saw on the plant floor considered “safe” solely on the basis of being accident-free for many years is no guarantee that modern safety regulations and standards are being met. A machine mistakenly perceived as “safe” may be the most dangerous in your maintenance shop, or on your production floor.

Safeguarding Assessment

Faced with the wave of Baby Boomer retirements, many manufacturers are trying to hold on to their older workers, persuade some to return after retirement, or recruit those retired from other companies. Unfortunately, these steps only postpone the inevitable. A more meaningful first step is to conduct a thorough machine safeguarding assessment on your machinery.

A machine safeguarding assessment draws on the expertise and experience of an outside company to identify and address machine hazards before they cause accidents. Over the course of a machine safeguarding assessment, detailed information is collected concerning each machine, how the operator interacts with the machine, and the process it is tied to. Hazardous areas are pinpointed on the machine and a hazard level assigned to each machine. Evaluating this hazard level helps determine which safeguarding methods should be applied to each machine to make it safe. If a risk is not tolerable, safeguarding measures need to be applied that will reduce the risk to an acceptable level that is in accordance with applicable regulations and standards. The assessor should also accurately identify all costs associated with the final project. After installing safeguards, a follow-up assessment will be conducted to verify that risk levels have either been eliminated, or reduced to a tolerable level.

Transferring Tribal Knowledge

Retirees won’t leave behind every bit of knowledge they’ve gained over the years, but capturing a majority of the important operational details will be beneficial down the road. Your organization needs to find ways of both learning and sharing this “tribal” knowledge before experienced machinists retire.

One common way of doing so is implementing a structured training and mentoring program pairing young workers with senior people who are technically expert in complex machinery. Along with face-to-face training on the machinery, the experienced worker is there to answer questions about operating procedures, and to help the young worker learn how to operate the machinery correctly. Recognizing hazards and learning safe work practices must be a central part of training and mentoring programs so make sure they are given equal billing with productivity during conversations. Training and mentorship also play an important role in informing young workers about OSHA, every worker’s right to a safe workplace, as well as the right to refuse unsafe work. Once retired, the mentor can return on a part-time or as needed basis to continue training new hires.

Outside Training

While older machinists certainly have the experience and technical knowledge, they may not know how to teach because they aren’t professional trainers or they can’t communicate effectively with a younger generation. Others may feel that training is an additional obligation that has been hoisted upon them when they are already crunched for time.

Hiring an outside firm to teach your team about machine safety regulations and standards is another step toward overcoming dilution in training. Rockford Systems offers a variety of safety training courses, including Machine Safeguarding Seminars, Combustion Safety Training, NFPA 70E and other courses at its Training Center in Rockford, Illinois. The popular 2-day seminars combine classroom discussion with live demonstrations to give the hands-on experience that new employees need. Once the seminar is complete, the employee will be better able to interpret the OSHA 29 CRF and ANSI series standards as they relate to their specific machine applications and production requirements.

Can’t make it to Rockford? No problem. The seminars can be presented at your company and tailored to the types of machinery found at your plant.

Annual Audits

Rockford Systems also offers an Annual Verification Audit to verify that your properly safeguarded equipment is being used as intended to protect employees working in dangerous environments. Moreover, the audit ensures that your capital investment in providing a safe working environment is sustained and continues to be in compliance with OSHA regulation and ANSI B11 series standards, as well as meeting any internal safety policies that a company may have established.

The primary evaluation criteria for the audit are visual inspection and function testing of safeguarding, controls, disconnects, motor starters, and mechanical power transmission apparatus covers. Once an audit is completed, Rockford Systems identifies issues in a detailed report highlighting deficiencies or changes from the original project specifications and recommendations for corrective actions to bring the equipment back into compliance.

Final Thoughts

A perfect storm has formed, making it increasingly difficult for manufacturers to find and train labor. The retirement of tenured and experienced machinists only makes matters more challenging. To ensure plant productivity and safety needs are continuously met despite retirements, take proactive steps through working to develop and promote training and mentorship programs, properly safeguarding your machinery, and conducting annual verification audits to ensure that your safety program is being followed as intended.

For more information, visit www.rockfordsystems.com

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Safely Using Bench Grinders

Statistics indicate half of grinder accidents result from operator error

Because grinders are commonly used machines in workplaces nationwide, many workers become complacent about their hazards. However, grinders are very dangerous when used improperly. In fact, statistics show that more than half of grinder injuries are the result of operator error. Rockford Systems, LLC, a premier provider of machine safeguarding products and services, offers this primer on grinder safety regulations to help prevent accidents and even fatalities.

First off, it is important to be fully versed in the regulations that outline safe grinder installation, maintenance and operation. The workplace regulations that apply to grinders are OSHA 29 CFR SubPart O 1910.215, a “machine specific” (vertical) regulation with a number of requirements, which if left unchecked, are often cited by OSHA as violations. ANSI B11.9-2010 (Grinders) and ANSI B7.1 2000 (Abrasive Wheels) are consensus standards that also apply. Carefully review these regulations and standards before operating any grinding machinery.

Work-Rests and Tongue-Guards 

OSHA specifies that work rests be kept adjusted to within 1/8-inch of the grinding wheel to prevent the workpiece from being jammed between the wheel and the work rest, resulting in potential wheel breakage. Because grinders run at such high RPM, wheels can  shatter when they break, causing very serious injuries, blindness and even death. In addition, the distance between the grinding wheel and the adjustable tongue guard — also known as a “spark arrestor” — must never exceed 1/4-inch. Because the wheel wears down during use, both of these dimensions must be regularly checked and adjusted.

Grinder safety gauges can be used during the installation, maintenance, and inspection of bench/pedestal grinders to ensure work-rests and tongue-guards comply with OSHA’s 1910.215 regulation and applicable ANSI standards. To do so, wait until the grinding wheel has completely stopped and the grinder is properly locked out before using a grinder safety gauge. Grinder coast-down time can take up to several minutes, which may tempt an impatient employee to use the gauge while the wheel is still rotating. This practice is very dangerous because it can cause wheel breakage.

Other advice: where grinders are concerned, personal protective equipment (PPE) usually means a full face-shield, not just safety glasses. The fact is, an employee cannot be too careful with a machine that operates at several thousand RPM. Remember to document any safety requirements set forth by OSHA as that is the best evidence that safety procedures are being followed.

Ring-Testing

OSHA requires that grinding wheels be ring tested before mounting them. This simple step prevents the inadvertent mounting of a cracked grinding wheel. Ring-Testing involves suspending the grinding wheel by its center hole, then tapping the side of the wheel with a non-metallic object. This should produce a bell-like tone if the wheel is intact. A thud, or a cracked-plate sound, indicates a cracked wheel. For larger grinders, grinding wheels are laid flat on a vibration-table with sand evenly spread over the wheel. If the wheel is cracked, the sand moves away from the crack.

To prevent cracking a wheel during the mounting procedure, employees must be very carefully trained in those procedures. This starts with making sure the wheel is properly matched to that particular grinder, using proper blotters and spacers, and knowing exactly how much pressure to exert with a torque-wrench, just to mention a few things.

Wheel Covers 

This OSHA-compliant Wheel-Cover allows no more than a total of 90 degrees of the wheel left exposed. (65 degrees from horizontal plane to the top of wheel-cover). Never exceed these wheel-cover maximum opening dimensions. Larger wheel-cover openings create a wider pattern of flying debris should the wheel explode.

A well-recognized safety precaution on bench/pedestal grinders is to stand well off to the side of the wheel for the first full minute before using the machine. Accidents have shown that grinding wheels are most likely to shatter/explode during that first minute. OSHA Instruction Standard #STD 1-12.8 October 30, 1978 addresses the conditional and temporary removal of the “Work Rest” for use only with larger piece parts based on the condition that “Side Guards” are provided.

Grinder Do’s

  • Always handle and store wheels in a careful manner
  • Visually inspect all the wheels before mounting for possible damage
  • Make sure operating speed of machine does not exceed speed marked on wheel, its blotter or container
  • Check mounting flanges for equal size, relieved as required and correct diameter
  • Use mounting blotters when supplied with wheels
  • Be sure work rest is properly adjusted on bench pedestal and floor stand grinders
  • Always use safety guard that covers a minimum of one-half the grinding wheel
  • Allow newly mounted wheels to run at operating speed, with guard in place, for at least one minute before grinding
  • Always wear safety glasses or some type of approved eye protection while grinding
  • Turn off coolant before stopping wheel to avoid creating an out-of-balance condition

 

Grind Don’ts

  • Don’t use a wheel that has been dropped or appears to have been abused
  • Don’t force a wheel onto a machine or alter the size of the mounting hole – If a wheel won’t fit the machine, get one that will
  • Don’t ever exceed maximum operating speed established for the wheel
  • Don’t use mounting flanges on which the bearing surfaces are not clean, flat And smooth
  • Don’t tighten the mounting nut excessively
  • Don’t grind on the side of conventional, straight or Type 1 wheels
  • Don’t start the machine until the safety guard is properly and securely In place
  • Don’t jam work into the wheel
  • Don’t stand directly In front of a grinding wheel whenever a grinder is started
  • Don’t grind material for which the wheel Is not designed

 

Rockford Systems offers a wide variety of safeguarding products for grinders including motor starters, disconnect switches, and shields.

For more information, visit www.rockfordsystems.com.

Rockford Systems Introduces Protector Series Light Curtains with Expanded Features

Reliable detection, advanced safety functions, combined with simplified selection, installation and maintenance

ROCKFORD, IL, FEBRUARY 3, 2022 — Rockford Systems, LLC today introduced its new Protector Series Light Curtains for safeguarding personnel near industrial machinery with the potential to cause injury. Protector Series Light Curtains feature bi-color alignment indicators, simplified resolution settings, automatic diagnostics, remote fixed blanking, and can be interconnected in a cascading configuration. Built for ease-of-use, they also provide for hassle-free installations that eliminate software, DIP switches, and expensive components from the process. Brackets and connecting cables are all included, as a kitted solution, for faster, more cost-effective light curtain installations.

“Protector Series Light Curtains are the latest example of Rockford Systems’ unmatched ability to provide end-to-end safety solutions, from industry-leading OSHA training and more than 6,000 innovative safeguarding products to comprehensive on-site audits,” said Matt Brenner, Vice President and General Manager-Rockford Systems Machine Safeguarding. ”Rockford Systems has drawn on decades of applications expertise to enhance the light curtain selection and integration process resulting in an improved overall user experience.”

Faster Set-Up, Easier Maintenance
Designed to reduce setup and maintenance time, Protector Series Light Curtains feature bright bi-color alignment indicators that run the length of the receiver window. In the event a sensor is not aligned properly or if the window requires cleaning, green lights will switch to red to instantly identify the problem area. Optional remote indicators can be purchased for long distance monitoring of light curtain status to further support safety and productivity goals.

Protector Series Light Curtains employ dual-scan technology that makes its photodiodes highly immune to EMI, RFI, ambient light, weld flash and strobe lights that may compromise sensor performance. Damage from impact is greatly reduced by a design that recesses the unit’s windows 5mm into the housing to prevent direct contact with the sensors. Emitters and receivers are both contained inside of 3mm thick industrial grade aluminum housings with durable metal end-caps.

For those applications that require multi-sided protection where mirrors cannot be used, up to four Protector Series Light Curtain systems of any length, resolution, and beam number can be easily configured. Cascading Protector Series Light Curtains minimize wiring, while simplifying the safety circuit, resulting in lower Total Cost of Ownership.

Protector Series Light Curtains are also ideal for industries subject to frequent washdowns or water spray, such as food, beverage and pharmaceutical processing. They are rated IP65/IP67 so they offer total protection from low-pressure water jets and more substantial liquid ingress or immersion.

Simplified Ordering
Customers can select whichever features best suit their application. Protector Series Light Curtain designs will accommodate more than 90% of all point-of-operation applications, coming in a choice of three common resolutions — 14mm (finger detection), 23mm (hand detection) and 40mm (body detection) — for each light curtain length. All three resolutions have a range of up to 12 meters (39 feet) coinciding with the needs of most manufacturing settings. Rockford System’s customer service professionals are ready to assist online, on-site, or over the phone in helping specify the proper light curtain for the application.

Brenner commented: “As demand for machine safeguarding continues to expand, so does the need for manufacturers to employ the proven performance of light curtains as a risk reduction measure. Ensuring simple, yet advanced solutions in light curtains also extends to their selection, purchasing and installation process.”

Ten Tips for Safeguarding Your Shop’s Metal Lathes

Operators of lathes are one of the largest machine worker populations in the United States, estimated to account for over 140,000 machinists. Of this population, approximately 3,000 suffer lost-time injuries annually in the United States. Some of these are fatal. These accidents occur in large industrial settings and factories, as well as in much smaller machine shops. No lathe operator is immune from an accident.

Operating a manual metal lathe, in particular, presents a number of hazards. For one, the lathe’s rotating parts easily can catch hair, jewelry and clothing, entangling the operator and resulting in severe and life altering injuries. Entanglement is also a risk whenever lathe operators use emery paper to sand or polish a rotating shaft. Without warning, the paper may wrap itself around the shaft, entangling the operator’s gloved hand, hair or loose clothing at over 300 RPM. Second, flying hot metal chips and coolant present serious risks if the machine’s guards or the operator’s PPE does not protect them effectively. Other risks include a work piece kicking back at the operator, slip-and-fall accidents due to coolant spilled on the floor, and parts or materials, such as chuck keys or unsecured work pieces, being projected at high speed and striking the operator and nearby employees. There have been lathe accidents recorded due to something as minor as the flashing effect of fluorescent light that can make a spinning lathe appear to have stopped.

Research shows there are numerous factors that can lead to a lathe accident. At the top of the list are malfunctions due to defective machinery, the failure to install proper safeguarding, mistakes due to the lack of employee training, poor lighting, and not providing proper PPE.

What does a metal lathe do?
A manual metal lathe is a precision turning machine that rotates a metal rod or irregular-shaped material while a tool cuts into the material at a preset position. Similar to a wood lathe, the metal lathe normally consists of a headstock and base that houses one or more spindles on which a work holding device or “chuck” can drive the stock while cutting tools remove metal, producing mainly cylindrical and conical shapes.

Operator Training & PPE
First and foremost, lathe operators must be trained and held accountable for following safe work practices. This is essential in avoiding injury. Examples of lathe machine safety precautions include not wearing loose clothing, rings and other jewelry, keeping long hair pulled back while operating a lathe and keeping hands and fingers away from rotating parts. As mentioned earlier, these practices are important because rotating parts will catch loose or dangling items and pull the operator into the machine, causing serious injuries or death.

OSHA makes it the responsibility of the employer to provide training that addresses safe start-up and shutdown as well as proper machine operation, speed adjustments and work piece placement, control and support. Employers must also equip lathe operators with proper PPE that includes safety glasses or other suitable eye protection, earplugs, protective footwear, and close-fitting clothing.

Safeguarding Standards for Lathes
There are no OSHA regulations specifically for lathes. Instead, OSHA considers lathes to be a 1910.212 machine, saying to the employer, “One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks” … but 1910.212 requirements are vague because they cover such a wide variety of machinery. Therefore, a reference to something more detailed, like the “appropriate standard” ANSI B11.6-2001, Safety Requirements for the Construction, Care, and Use of Lathes, is required for specific safeguarding alternatives. Section 5 of this standard contains the safeguarding requirements on metalworking lathes.

An important standard that ANSI B11 standards reference is ANSI/NFPA 79, Electrical Requirements for Industrial Machinery. It provides detailed information for the application of electrical/electronic equipment, apparatuses, or systems supplied as part of industrial machinery, including lathes. This standard addresses such issues as requirements for operator controls, emergency-stop devices, disconnect switches, motor starters, and protective interlocks.

Of course, even properly installed safeguarding equipment can’t protect a machinist who “works around” the safeguarding, lifting a guard, for example, to accomplish a task. Thankfully, most shields can be interlocked with the machine’s electrical system to prevent operation when they are not in place. Swinging a shield from its protective position will break its electrical connection and cut the power, forcing a quick coast down.

A lathe has several points of operation that present hazards. Each requires specialized safeguarding equipment. Below we address each of these hazards and what can be done to avoid accidents.

1. Safeguarding the Chuck
The chuck area is by far the most dangerous area on a lathe. From a practical standpoint, a rotating chuck cannot be fully enclosed — unlike gears, sprockets, or chains that usually are completely covered, often by the OEM. However, that same lathe manufacturer may not provide safeguarding at or near the point of operation although, according to 6.21 of ANSI B11.6, manual lathes must be safeguarded with a chuck guard and chip and coolant splash shields as required. In this case the employer is responsible.

Hinged chuck-shields are one of the most common methods to protect lathe operators from the rotating work-holder. Their purpose is to prevent an operator from inadvertently coming in contact with the chuck, which often results in entanglement, serious bodily injury or even death. Chuck shields are commercially available from numerous providers. They may be constructed of metal, polycarbonate, or some combination of materials. When not in use, they need to be swung up out of the way, so most are hinged. Same for during set-up.

Although U.S. Safety Standards and Regulations do not require chuck-shields to be interlocked, some European and Canadian manufacturers offer that feature. With electrically interlocked shields, when the lathe chuck shield is lifted up, the positive contacts on the microswitch open, sending a stop signal to the machine control. The machine will not start up again until the emergency stop button has been reset.

A common complaint against chuck shields is that they limit visibility due to light reflecting off the shield, or that obstruct their view to the work piece. To overcome these problems a clip-on lamp is sometime installed yet these can easily overheat. A far better solution is newer shields featuring built-in bright LED lighting that yield better visibility without shadows or heat build-up.

2. Sanding Belt Holder
Hand sanding and polishing metal shafts on the lathe with an emery cloth has resulted in numerous injuries. Emery cloth and gloves can easily be caught on the shaft, pulling the operator’s hand and arm on the shaft. An automatic sanding belt holder enables lathe operators to sand, polish and debur hands-free, keeping them a safe operating distance away from the spinning shaft and preventing entanglement. It typically fixes to existing tool-case turrets.

3. E-Stops
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards state that an emergency-stop or “e-stop” is required on any machine that will tolerate a quick stop. Some lathes have a true e-stop built in to halt operation in less than a second, but most require several seconds to cease functions. An electronic motor brake can improve coast-down time, in some cases from 15 seconds to 3 seconds, which can make a significant difference in an emergency.

Per NFPA 79, the e-stop must be a red with a yellow background, and have a mushroom-shaped button with a manual latch that keeps it down once it is pushed to prevent machine operation by the regular controls. Once the e-stop is engaged, the latch keeps it down until a manual quarter-turn releases the latch and allows the machine’s controls to again command the machine’s actions. Kick plates or grab-wires that go across a machine can facilitate an emergency shutdown if there is potential for an operator’s hands to be caught.

E-stops need to be readily accessible. An e-stop button should be within easy reach at each location on the machine that requires operator interaction. When more than one individual is involved, each person should have his or her own e-stop.

4. Chip/Coolant Shields
The long stringy chips produced when turning steel can wreak havoc on an operation and production. Edges of the chips are scorching hot and extremely sharp putting the operator at risk for injury, as well. Chips can strike the operator in the upper body or accumulate on the floor creating a slip-trip hazard.

As protection against chips, coolants, lubricant and sparks, lathes should be equipped with a chip and coolant splash guard, also known as a carriage safety guard. This type of guard can be electrically interlocked like a chuck shield, and gives added protection to the operator from direct contact with rotating components. Coolants are often overlooked as a hazard yet workers often are exposed through inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or absorption through the skin, leading to burns and irritations. Without a chip/coolant shield, operators can also be at risk of inhalation of airborne substances such as oil mist, metal fumes, solvents, and dust.

It is rare for an OEM to include this type of shield on a new lathe. Again, it is the responsibility of the employer to install it before the lathe is put into commission.

5. Chuck Wrench
According to feedback from OSHA Compliance Officers and Insurance Loss Control Inspectors, one of the most common lathe accidents results from the misuse of standard chuck wrenches furnished by lathe manufacturers. When the lathe is not being used, a typical – and very unsafe storage place for the chuck-wrench is in the chuck. At some point in time, the operator turns the lathe on without checking to see where the chuck wrench is located, which projects it across the shop floor. Spring-loaded, self-ejecting chuck wrenches are a solution to this problem because they won’t stay in the chuck by themselves, helping to prevent a potential ejection hazard at machine start-up.

7. Magnetic Motor Starters and Disconnects
When updating an older lathe it is required practice to bring it up to code with current electrical standards like NFPA 79. This will require the installation of a motor starter and disconnect those only locks in the OFF position. When adding a motor starter, ensure it is magnetic to provide drop-out or “anti-restart” protection.

8. Telescopic stainless-steel sleeves
Although slow moving, horizontal rotating components in a lathe can entangle an operator and crush body parts with their tremendous torque. Installing telescopic stainless-steel sleeves will seal off their pinch-points plus protect the components from metal chips and other destructive contaminants. Unfortunately, operators complain that these devices are time consuming to install, need to be removed and cleaned regularly, and cause a loss in carriage travel. However, when compared to preventing a life-changing injury, these complaints are trivial in comparison.

9. Other Precautions
As with any machine, provision for Lockout/Tagout is always important with lathes. Danger and warning signs, depicting specific hazards on lathes, are also strongly recommended.

10. Conduct Machine Safeguarding Assessments
Machine Safeguarding Assessments are a critical step in any machine safeguarding process as outlined by ANSI B11, especially for companies deploying older or refurbished lathes. It is not unusual for lathes built in the 1940s to still be in active service, having been resold several times over the decades.

Odds that an older lathe is up to today’s safety standards are highly unlikely. Employers are often lulled into a false sense of security because a serious accident hasn’t occurred, or they may simply assume that the lathe they purchased, whether new or used, came equipment with all necessary safeguarding. The only way to take the guesswork out of compliance issues in your shop is a machine safeguarding assessment conducted by a qualified third-party, to help keep operators safe, machines productive and processes online. They will assign each machine a Risk Rating of 1 to 27, with 27 being the worst, based on three considerations: Severity of Injury, Exposure Frequency, and Avoidance Likelihood. When conducted by professionals, your machine safeguarding assessment will be delivered with a compliance report and a safeguarding project proposal that will detail the timing, costs and specific equipment required to bring machinery up to current standards.

OSHA, Happy Golden Anniversary!

History

The Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 29, 1970 – that measure that created OSHA – gave the federal government the authority to set and enforce safety and health standards for most of the country’s workers. The agency’s responsibilities include private sector employers and their employees in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands.

The demand for a system of overseeing workplace safety on a federal level had begun more than a century before that signing, when workers in factories that sprang up during and after the Civil War were killed or sickened by hazardous materials and dangerous machines. Some states, urged on by social reformers and the budding labor movement, passed their own factory safety and health laws and hired inspectors to enforce them.

Workplace disasters helped shape public opinion

High profile tragedies like the 1907 mine disaster in Monongah, West Virginia that killed 362 coal miners, and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City that claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, helped turn public opinion toward the need for government intervention in hazardous workplaces.

In 1913, Congress created the Department of Labor. Under newly appointed Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (formerly the U.S. Bureau of Labor) started compiling regular accident statistics in the iron and steel industry and gradually included other industries.

Frances Perkins, appointed Secretary of Labor by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, brought with her experience working in occupational safety and health in the State of New York. Perkins created a Bureau of Labor Standards in 1934 to promote safety and health for the entire work force. The Bureau helped State governments improve their administration of job safety and health laws and raise the level of their protective legislation.

Fast forward to 1970, when Nixon signed the OSH Act in a ceremony at the Labor Department in the presence of labor leaders, business representatives and members of Congress. Although the action ended “on a note of harmony and bipartisanship” – according to MacLaury – it came after a bitter, three-year-long legislative struggle.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia describes the OSH Act as “a cornerstone of worker protection in our country.” Following its enactment, workplace fatalities decreased by approximately 65 percent.

Today

Are America’s workplaces safer fifty years later? Absolutely. Workplace fatalities have decreased about 60%, while injuries and illnesses have fallen significantly. From the 1978 cotton dust standard that reduced worker fatalities by 90%, to the nationwide observances we lead like the Annual Trench Safety Stand-Down that reach hundreds of thousands of workers with key safety messages, to our new COVID-19 Harwood Grant program funding, OSHA has worked diligently throughout the decades to improve workplace safety.

This decade began with the coronavirus pandemic, which presented a challenge unlike any other the nation has faced – and had devastating effects on workplace safety and health. It also exposed deep inequities in our workforce. Too many workers – including many who were deemed essential – went without essential protections and far too many lost their lives as a result. They will not be forgotten.

Today OSHA’s mission is as important as ever and we have much work to do to ensure every worker comes home safe and healthy.

https://www.osha.gov/osha50

Shield Against Debris

When a machinist is cutting, drilling, shaping or milling raw materials, there are always inherent risks. Thankfully, proper and up-to-date safeguarding equipment drastically minimizes the risks that machines pose. In this article, we look at one of the most basic and most critical components in machine safeguarding: the safety shield.

Before we start, we need to clarify the terms “guard” and “shield.” These are often used interchangeably when referring to safeguarding equipment, yet the two categories are very different. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.217 defines a guard as an enclosure that prevents anyone from reaching over, under, around, or through to a hazard.

Guards are used when a machine risk assessment shows a high level of exposure to recognized hazards. Shields, on the other hand, are designed for lower levels of exposures to hazards, while providing visibility into the point of operation. Shields typically have a transparent plastic panel with rugged framing, while a guard is solid metal, although it should be noted that not (not all shields have a framework, and that many industrial guards use aluminum for framework.).

Flying debris protection
The purpose of safety shields is to protect the machinist and bystanders from moving parts, flying debris, coolant, sparks, and other potential safety hazards by enclosing the danger (shields don’t enclose a hazard, they providing a barrier between plant personnel and the hazard) behind a rugged, impact-resistant panel. Shields attach to machinery, either temporally or permanently, fitting over blades, drills, lathe chucks, grinding wheels and other dangerous components (blades, cutting tools, chucks, grinding stones and other hazardous rotating components.).

Perhaps the greatest danger shields protect against is flying debris, an all-too-common occurrence in machine shops with the potential to bring about serious injury to an operator’s eyes, face, or body. The costs of a flying debris injury can add up quickly. Costs may include workers’ compensation claims, medical expenses, lost production time, and the possibility of permanent scarring and blindness.

For instance, consider an abrasive wheel grinder. Grinders are one of the most common pieces of machinery in maintenance shops, wheel grinders are powerful and designed to operate at high speeds. Depending on the equipment, the wheels can revolve at an incredible 10,000 surface feet per minute, and can loosen sharp chips or particles that can fly into an operator’s eyes or face. If a grinding wheel shatters while in use, the fragments can travel at more than 300 miles per hour directly at the operator, more than fast enough to penetrate the skull and cause traumatic brain injury. In situations like this a safety shield is the last line of defense against tragedy. (Our shields do NOT provide protection from catastrophic machine failure, which I would consider an exploding grinding stone) Even if the operator is wearing proper personal protective equipment, flying chips can cause life-threatening injuries without a shield installed. A shield can make the difference between a day that ends successfully and a day one that ends in the hospital.

Safety standards
Given their critical importance to operator safety, it is not surprising that ANSI, OSHA and other standards governing machine safeguarding heavily rely upon shields. Specific requirements largely depend on the type of machinery being safeguarded. Before installing a new shield on any machine the safety manager must ensure that the shield conforms to the appropriate, up-to-date standard for that machine.

Besides grinders, shields are typically installed on drilling machines, lathes, milling machines, band saws (saws), belt sanders, and disc sanders (sanding machines), and boring machines.. TheseThe seven (eight) machines represent over 95 percent of all shielding applications. Different standards outline the type of shield design and size that is allowed on each. In some cases, more than one type of shield per machine may be necessary to provide protection.

Types of shields
Shields come in dozens of designs, sizes and shapes. In their most basic form they can be broken out into fixed, portable, adjustable and interlocked categories, or a mixture of these features.

Fixed/portable
The most obvious characteristic of a fixed shield is that it is a permanent part of the machine. Tools are needed for its removal making it difficult to bypass. It is also not dependent upon other moving parts to perform its intended function, further increasing the protection. In contrast, a portable shield can be removed from the machine when not in use. Often, smaller shields will feature a pull magnetic base that attaches to a flat surface on the machine being safeguarded. Being removable, portable shields can be set aside for maintenance or moved to a similar machine. There are also large freestanding portable shields used to protect the area between machines, along aisles, or the backside of a machine.

Adjustable
An adjustable shield can be positioned for maximum protection during operation and swung out of the way for easy access to the workpiece and tooling. Types of adjustable shields are those mounted on brackets that allow for slide adjustments to fit workpieces; on steel ball-and-socket arms for simple movements and adjustments; or on flexible spring-steel arms offering virtually unlimited adjustment possibilities and long-term holding power.

Interlocked
Although not required, (I don’t like saying “not required” fiIt is best practices that sshields featuring movable parts that can be opened without using tools should be interlocked with the machine control system. The interlock prevents machines from starting until the shield is positioned safely in front of the hazardous area. Additionally, if the shield is moved away from the hazardous area while the machine is running, the interlock will send a stop signal to turn the machine off.

This way the hazards covered by the shields will be effectively controlled if the shield is opened and the hazard is exposed. (Explain differently, this is confusing. Hazardous machine movement is prevented when the shield is opened) When an interlocked shield is opened or closed, a tripping mechanism automatically shuts off the power to disengage operations. The machine cannot cycle or be started until the shield is back in place. (Maybe wrap all three previous sentences into one statement. Sounds odd and non-technical)

Modern machines rely on electrical interlocks since they are already fitted with an electrical control system. The interlock is connected to the safety circuit of the machine and will prevent machine start-ups when the shield is swung open, even if the power switch is “ON”. It is only after the shield is closed that the machine can be restarted and normal operation resumed. Switches and sensors connected to these systems can be something as simple as a micro-switch or a reed switch, or as complex as a non-contact sensor with an electromagnetic locking device. Non-contact interlocking devices available today use coded RF signals or RF ID technologies to ensure that the interlock cannot be defeated by simple measures, like taping a magnet to a rA safety relay will monitor the interlock switch for failure, providing a notification if the interlock has been removed or is not functioning correctly.

Impact resistance
It goes without saying that Aa transparent shield needs to be highly impact resistant, along with providing an unobstructed and undistorted view. Impact resistance of a material can be measured in different ways, and the test method varies depending on the material being evaluated. In the United States, the notched Izod impact resistance test, as outlined in ASTM D256, is a common method of measuring the toughness of a plastic material.

It is important to note that increasing the thickness of a shield beyond a certain level does not always improve or increase impact resistance. A shield made of tougher material can be down-gauged to be thinner — and, therefore, more cost-effective — than one made from a more brittle material while still offering the same or superior level of protection for operators. Not sure the impact resistance data belongs in this article.

Innovations
Having lain dormant for decades, innovation has finally come to the safety shield business. Companies are bringing new materials and features to the product category that are enhancing operator safety yet making it less expensive for machine shops to be fully compliant with regulations.

An example of this new problem-solving advancement is the incorporation of bright LED lighting into the shield frame to yield higher visibility of the work area. Operators have often complained that shields limit visibility because of reflectivity or obstruction. Unlike an incandescent, LED lighting is not-reflective, cool and renders true colors. Besides the white lighting illuminating the work area while in operational mode, different LED colors can be programmed to act as visual indicators.

For example, when the shield is moved out of the safe work position, the white LED can switch off automatically and red LED can switch on to warn the operator. If you plan to purchase a shield with an LED be aware that the lighting must be manufactured to exacting IEC IP65 outdoor/wet locations standards to withstand splashes of coolant and lubricant from the machine.

Another innovation is modularity. Different machines require different shields, and one size rarely fits all. Shield manufacturers have embraced the modular design concept so that shield shape, size, mount, arm, offset, lighting, interlocking and safety monitoring can be configured to engineer the best solution for even the most unique challenge.. Available today are various mounting options, including opposite-hand mounting scenarios for left-handed operators. Left handed or not, handles for drills, mills, boring machines, etc are located on the right side of most machines. Opposite side mounting locations are selected based on available machine frame surface and/or other obstructions on a machine. Shields are vertically and horizontally adjustable to clear varying work setups and table heights.

Finally, there is the issue of operators bypassing shields, either by pushing them out of the way or tampering with the equipment.

Tamper-resistant interlock enclosures (switches) and redundant safety monitoring (monitoring does nothing for preventing tampering) go a long way towards stopping bypassing. However, a quality shield that doesn’t interfere with operation of a machine is a better answer. A shield defeats its purpose if it impedes a worker from performing a job quickly and comfortably. When properly installed and designed for a specific machine, a shield will actually enhance efficiency because it will relieve apprehensions about an injury.

Learn about Rockford Systems’ line of PROTECTOR Series Shields offering the highest level of safety on the market.

Limiting the Transmission of COVID-19 in Schools with Sneeze Shields

Block the virus, not the learning

In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Considerations for Schools: Operating Schools During COVID-19, the CDC recommends the installation of “physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.” OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 publication also suggests, “installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards,” as a defense against the spread of COVID-19. In general, sneeze shields are recommended wherever it is not possible for people to remain more than six feet away from others, or when they simply forget to do so.

Sneeze shields have been widely used in school cafeterias for decades. However, their use in our “new normal” of American education is different. Rather than preventing students from dipping their fingers into the mashed potatoes, sneeze shields today are installed to create peace-of-mind for administration members, students and teachers during all face-to-face interactions where the shields serve as a way to:
• Intercept COVID-19 respiratory droplets;
• Re-enforce physical distancing requirements;
• And compliment the use of masks.

Ultimately the goal of sneeze guards in schools is to block the virus, not the learning.

SIZING UP SAFETY
To ensure that a sneeze shield performs its assigned duties, the most critical factor is that its dimensions exceed the users’ breathing zones by a wide margin. What is a breathing zone? It is defined as the pocket of air from which a person draws breath. Imagine a bubble with a radius of 12 inches extending from the mid-point between a student’s ears. That “bubble” is the breathing zone.

GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Guard School DesktopSneeze shield height and width are based on an average-sized person who is between five and six feet tall. In the United States the average height for men is five feet, 9 inches tall, while for women it is five feet, 4 inches tall. Obviously, in classrooms for lower grades you should take into account the smaller frames of younger students.

Also, the shield’s height should reflect whether or not people are sitting or standing. For example, in an office area, a student might be standing while an administrator remains in a chair. In this case, the sneeze shields should be the height of the average standing person.

Besides protection of the breathing zone, the width of a sneeze shield should take into account for user behavior, in particular if a student moves to the side of the shield to speak directly to another student. Currently, industry best practice is to make the sneeze shields as wide as the surface it is installed on to prevent circumventing it. Shield designs also may include wings or side panels to provide both stability and further shelter the user’s breathing zone from the potentially harmful emissions from coughing, sneezing, loud talking, laughing, and more.

GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Shield Tabletop with Pass ThroughBecause the purpose of sneeze shields is to ensure that a user’s breathing zone is not contaminated, speaking ports or grates should not be installed through the partition. However, sneeze shields often need openings at the bottom to allow for the transfer of items or payment for transactions. These slots should be kept as small as possible dependent on the activity. Also, the slot should be placed off-center, rather than directly in front of the person. If large packages must be passed, a slider or plastic flap can be installed. Please note that sliders and flaps are high-touch surfaces and will need to be sanitized throughout the day.

An alternative, albeit a poor one, to a slot, slider or flaps is to hang sneeze shields from the ceiling with space for transactions underneath. Although more convenient and visually appealing, hanging a sneeze shield leaves a large gap between the shield and the countertop, allowing air to flow through. Also, if the partition is able to swing, it may fan contaminated air from one person to another. Hanging shields are also difficult to clean. Surface-mounted or freestanding shields are the preferred design for school safety.

Materials
Sneeze shields are engineering controls that significantly reduce droplet transmission in schools, and should be purchased with great care. Materials vary greatly.

Polycarbonate, an optically transparent yet virtually unbreakable plastic, is an ideal material for sneeze shields. Polycarbonate is advantageous in schools because it is possesses a unique balance of toughness, dimensional stability, optical clarity, and excellent resistance to scratching. Properties such as scratch and impact resistance should be considered before making a selection for schools, especially in higher grades were vandalism may occur. Polycarbonate is also thin, which allows for easy communication between both sides. This is perfect for schools, because it allows students to clearly see and hear their instructions and interact with other students without having to come into direct contact. Additionally, polycarbonate allows access to natural light and shields out harmful ultraviolet rays.

Acrylic (Plexiglas) shields are less expensive than those fabricated from polycarbonate. In a case of “you get what you pay for,” Acrylic is also easier for students to damage and will require more replacements, more frequently. Both acrylic and polycarbonate are stronger than untempered glass. However, acrylic is only 4x to 8x stronger than glass, while polycarbonate is approximately 250x stronger. When struck by an object polycarbonate bends but doesn’t break. When acrylic is struck it stays stiff but cracks and shatters under impact. This exposes students to another potential hazard in addition to COVID-19: sharp plastic shreds. Yet another issue is acrylic is fire resistance. In several states, including New York, the use of acrylic in schools is prohibited, as it does not meet fire code standards.

Some school districts that have re-opened are championing the portable desk sneeze guard. Equipped with a carrying handle to, portable desk sneeze shields are susceptible to being dropped by students onto hard floors. For that reason a hard, virtually unbreakable material like polycarbonate is required.

A sturdy metal frame may be required in instances where sneeze shields are subjected to heavy impact, vandalism, or are placed outside to act as freestanding partitions. A frame is also necessary in applications that need a bolted solution for high traffic areas or a movable solution to roll from one place to the next on caster wheels.

Cleaning
Sneeze shields intercept respiratory droplets. For that reason they must be treated as contaminated surfaces and should be cleaned regularly according to a set protocol. Shields that are not touched should be cleaned daily, whereas portions of the partition that are touched should be cleaned twice daily, or more frequently if visibly soiled, as with other high-touch surfaces.

GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Guards in SchoolsSchool districts around the country are hard at work making and installing sneeze guards throughout their facilities. Sneeze guards are installed in their front offices, around and on student desks, separating library and cafeteria tables, and in entrances where temperature checks are being performed. School buses are using them to provide extra separation between students. When combined with social distancing, face masks, hand washing and sanitizing, sneeze guards for schools have the potential to make a major impact on safety and help everyone breathe a little easier this school year.

For more information, please visit www.germblockshields.com or call 1-800-922-7533.

Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 with Cough and Sneeze Shields

According to the American Lung Association, sneezes and coughs are your body’s way of releasing irritants found in the nose and lungs. In effect, people have a high-speed face cannon capable for expelling all sorts of bugs and germs. Unfortunately, getting rid of irritants in such a violent method means spreading germs in a large spray of saliva, mucus, and germs. A cough can travel as fast as 50 mph and expel almost 3,000 droplets in just one go. Sneezes are even more forceful —they can travel up to 100 mph and create upwards of 100,000 droplets.

GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Guards

Public health experts and elected officials have emphasized again and again that social distancing is the best tool we have to slow the coronavirus outbreak. However, many organizations are unable to effectively manage to keep people six feet or more apart, simply due to the nature of their business. Consider the interactions between a teller and a bank customer, employees in side-by-side cubicles, or assembly-line workers standing shoulder to shoulder in food processing plants. In those situations, and many more, safe social distancing cannot be achieved and a shield may help limit the spread of pathogens.

Restaurants first installed cough and sneeze shields around the “all you can eat” buffets and supper-club salad bars of the 1950’s to prevent guests from contaminating food. Today, cough and sneeze guards are being mounted in all types of settings, from grocery stores to post offices, as a blockade against the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19).

GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Guard Floor Standing

Sneeze guards are not medical devices, but they have PPE qualities contributing to transmission slowdown—even if a customer and employee aren’t wearing masks. In addition, shields provide customers with an extra reassurance of safety as they cautiously re-enter the so-called “new normal” of everyday life. Installing shields demonstrates an organization’s dedication to the health of their staff that helps to retain employees. Shields may also serve as a visual reminder to use proper hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Like N95 masks and disposable gloves, sneeze shields have become another new icon of the current pandemic.

Sneeze barriers work best when they are used alongside other proven methods including enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices, PPE, social distancing measures, and drastic changes in how services are provided, especially in the hard-hit retail and hospitality industries.

HISTORY

Back in 1959, Johnny Garneau, who owned and ran the American Style Smorgasbord chain of restaurants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, filed a patent for the “Food Service Table,” later known as the “sneeze shield.” An admitted germaphobe, Garneau couldn’t stand customers smelling the entrees and having their noses too close to the food. He installed his invention in each of his restaurants, and as a indirect result, he played a crucial role in food safety initiatives. By the early 1960s the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated the presence of food shields in restaurants across the country. Garneau passed away in 2003 but would certainly have been proud of how his invention has today become instrumental in preventing COVID-19 infections.

STANDARDS
While the CDC recommends the use of shields as protection against COVID-19, there are currently no enforceable government standards or codes requiring shields for this specific purpose. The FDA governs sneeze guards for food safety only, requiring that restaurants with buffets, hospital and school cafeterias, portable food carts and self-serve fast food displays have shields.

GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Guards in Factory

Some of the country’s largest unions have recently called for emergency regulations to ensure the safety of “essential workers” against COVID-19. They have joined together to lobby OSHA to implement enforceable emergency coronavirus workplace regulations for those workers who have continued to punch into work despite COVID-19, including store clerks, machine operators and of course, the healthcare workers on the frontline.

DESIGN
The most effective sneeze guards are tall and wide enough to protect an individual whether they are standing or sitting. These calculations are based on an average-sized customer who is between five and six feet tall. Shields should cover the full interaction.

GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Guards for Cubicles

Cheaply made shields are unlikely to withstand the rigors of daily wear and tear. In clean-room settings, for example, shields need to withstand the rigors of frequent deep cleaning, using very hot temperatures, pressurized wash downs and specific cleaning agents, such as ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, ammonia and soap solutions, all of which are cleaning agents specifically recommended by the CDC in the fight against the coronavirus. Disinfection should be performed daily.

MATERIALS
Although some manufacturers opt to use tempered glass or plexiglass, shields constructed of polycarbonate hold many advantages over their counterparts. Polycarbonate is harder to scratch, reducing the risk of bacteria “hiding” within scratches, and it can be cleaned with ease. In addition, it is far stronger than glass yet considerably lighter in weight, while also providing excellent resistance to long-term exposure to environmental elements such as UV rays. Enhanced strength means that sharp impacts or abrasive cleaning chemicals aren’t a danger. Also, sturdy polycarbonate panels can resist damage caused by customers leaning on them. From the manufacturer’s standpoint, polycarbonate holds the advantages of being easily routed, drilled, formed, bent and sawed without snapping or breaking under stress.

Just as you wouldn’t want a mask without a tie string, you don’t want a sneeze shield without a sturdy frame. A rugged metallic frame offers strength and durability. Stainless-steel frames allow shields to be washed down and sterilized per the CDC’s recommendation for frequent cleaning. Avoid frames that have large gaps or cracks that encourage bacterial build up. Instead, insist on full penetration welds.

CONCLUSION
What will the new normal look like when the COVID-19 lockdown finally ends? Most likely, adjustments to life that were thought to be temporary will become permanent including the wearing of masks, the habitual washing of hands and, of course, sneeze shields anyplace people interact in close proximity.

Rockford Systems manufactures a full-line of GermBlock™ Cough and Sneeze Shields that limit airborne droplets resulting from coughing, sneezing or speaking from reaching a nearby person. Well suited for industrial, commercial, clean room and retail settings. Industrial strength, constructed of heavy-duty clear 3/16″ polycarbonate and 16-gauge 304 stainless steel ¾” framing with full penetration welds. To ensure shield stability, floor standing shields include foot plates with gussets. Custom shields and clean room models are also available, which include a broad array of size and mounting options, as well as casters. Contact www.rockfordsystems.com to learn more.

Also available on Amazon.