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 our GermBlock Cough and Sneeze Shield page 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.

Steel Curtains Help Protect Against Flying Debris Ejected from Hydraulic Presses

The potential for catastrophic injury when operating a hydraulic press is great. Its operation requires a worker to feed, position and remove stock in the area under the powerful ram or near the bending point, exposing him or herself directly to danger. Each year an estimated 250,000 industrial workers are struck by ejected debris such as metal chips, nails, broken cutters, blades, tools and dislodged grinding wheels from a variety of different machines.

Because of the tremendous force of a press, parts ejected from it have led to countless serious eye, head, and bodily injuries. Metal fragments, slivers, piece parts and blocks can be dislodged and dispersed at great speed, striking the press operator or bystanders. These types of accidents typically occur when job parts are not aligned properly during setup. As a result the job part may be squeezed out or ejected when under tremendous load. Stock may also fracture, sending shrapnel into the work area, piercing skin and underlying tissues. Each year an estimated 250,000 industrial workers are struck by ejected debris such as metal chips, nails, broken cutters, blades, tools and dislodged grinding wheels from a variety of different machines.

ROLE OF EJECTION CURTAINS
Ejection Curtain

Steel mesh ejection curtains were originally intended to protect people in the vicinity of a bomb blast. Today they have become a safety solution for hydraulic presses, namely Arbor and H-Frame presses. Rather than having a work piece that fractures, slides, rolls or ejects to become a high-speed projectile, the curtain’s interlocking wire coils act as individual springs that absorb kinetic energy, expanding and stretching in a predictive and repeatable way. The holes in the material allow pressure to go through the mesh while stopping or slowing the flying debris by wrapping around it and dropping it to the floor without ricocheting back towards the press, thereby reducing the potential for striking the operator.

Ejection curtains have gained popularity since they offer access during normal operations, as well as for press maintenance. Being mesh, the curtains are flexible and simple to push out of the way during loading, positioning or removing work pieces, unlike with traditional fencing or solid metal barriers. Additionally, the mesh curtain allows visibility while the press is in operation. Curtains are typically secured at the top on a pipe suspension assembly and hang free at both sides and the bottom, providing easy access to the machine.

METHODS FOR RISK REDUCTION
Ejection Curtains Top

Although ejection curtains are not classified as guards, they do act as an awareness barrier for powered presses to reduce exposure to the point of operation and also act as a containment barrier to stop or slow projectiles ejected from the machine. For powered presses, this product meets the ANSI B11.2 ref 8.2.1. “flying objects” clause, pending results of the risk assessment to determine the likelihood and force potential for throwing objects (note, a “shield” does not need to be a hard guard).

Platen presses, stamping presses, transfer presses, and in some cases forging presses require barrier guards or devices, which prevent access to the point of operation Over, Under, Around, or Through the guard itself. For these applications, an ejection curtain does not meet these criteria as it is a movable barrier and does not have to be in place to operate the press.

For more information on ejection curtains, please visit our product page or call 1-800-922-7533 or customerservice@rockfordsystems.com.

How to Get Your Hands on the Right Safety Gloves

Hands are the most used tools in the workplace, making their protection from on-the-job hazards critically important to maintaining employee productivity. Hand dangers are around every corner. Depending on the workplace, employees’ hands are endangered from chemicals, abrasive surfaces, splinters, broken glass, and cuts or scrapes, among countless other hazards.

According to the US Department of Labor, injuries to hands accounted for nearly 25 percent of all lost-time industrial injuries — a total of 110,000 annually. Seventy percent of those injuries resulted when an employee was not wearing safety gloves, while the other 30 percent of hand injuries occurred while an employee was wearing the wrong kind of gloves.

Hand injuries are preventable. Safety gloves, correctly sized and engineered with the right materials, will help defend workers from virtually any type of hazard. Unfortunately, employees often have a very limited understanding of how to select a glove properly based on the dangers they confront. The number of glove choices is vast—and the standards governing personal protective equipment, including hand protection—are not always easy to decipher.

Protective gloves, like any safety product, must be selected properly for the specific application. To do so, first conduct a risk assessment by determining the scope of the work, and next, identifying any potential hazards within that scope that may injure employees’ hands. If it is possible to eliminate the identified hazard by engineering or substitution, this is always the best means to protect the employee. If not, gloves should be used only as a last resort, along with other required PPE. Protective gloves tend to be less effective than other control measures but if avoiding contact is impractical or is not enough to protect employees then gloves are needed.

Recognize that an employee may be exposed to more than one hazard. For instance, the jobsite may contain corrosive chemicals or biological exposure, as well as sharp metals, or broken glass. If you are not sure of the hazard or hazards, confer with an Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) coordinator or industrial hygienist. Once gloves are selected, inform employees how to use them properly to protect themselves. Let them know when gloves should be replaced. If the gloves are reusable ask employees to rinse them before removal and tell them how they should be stored.

CHEMICAL-PROOF GLOVES
A principle function of skin is to protect our bodies from exposure to potentially harmful components of the external environment. Skin does this remarkably well, but direct contact with chemicals poses a danger to the skin itself. Chemical reactions to skin can be a burn, dermatitis or chapping. Chemicals can also penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. Risk varies according to the chemical, its concentration, and time of contact among other safety factors. Refer to the product SDS for specifics. Section 8 of the SDS provides what types of PPE are necessary to protect the user. Section 11 has toxicological information such as potential local skin effects, as well as potential absorption through the skin and resultant acute and chronic effects.

Because different glove materials resist different chemicals, no one glove is suited for all chemical exposures. Dependant on the chemical, gloves can be fabricated with natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile rubber, butyl rubber, polyvinyl chloride, polyvinyl alcohol, Saranex™, Tychem®, Trellchem®. Key factors to review in selecting the material are breakthrough time, degradation and permeation rate. Refer to the glove manufacturer’s test data for details.

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.138 (Hand Protection General Requirements) specifically addresses the need for hand protection or chemical protective gloves. This standard makes it mandatory to assess the job for chemical exposures, and then select the appropriate, chemical protective glove based on material, thickness, length and other traits. ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 is another source of information that provides a consistent, numeric-scale method for manufacturers to rate their gloves against certain contaminants and exposures.

CUT-RESISTANT GLOVES

Tear, puncture, and cut-resistant gloves are often constructed from materials such as high-grade stainless steel Kevlar®, and may feature a mesh aesthetic. Resistant to damage from sharp or abrasive objects such as glass and knives, these gloves are often ergonomically designed for a precise fit.

There are two major global standards used to evaluate the protection levels of work gloves: ANSI/ISEA 105 (U.S. Standard) and EN 388 (EU Standard). Besides Europe, EN 388 is also commonly cited in other parts of the world such as Canada, AUS/NZ and South America. In 2015-2016, significant changes were made to both to ensure consistency between different standards and to reduce the gaps between protection levels. The new ANSI/ISEA 105 scale, characterized by an ‘A’ in front of level numbers from A1 to A9, measures a glove’s performance by the cutting force it can withstand in grams. For instance, an A1 glove can withstand from 200-499 grams of cutting force, while an A9 glove can withstand 6000+ grams of cutting force. When looking at glove specifications, the ANSI cut level will be displayed inside a badge that resembles a shield.

Cut-resistant sleeves, often worn with cut-resistant gloves, extend protection from the wrist up towards the elbow or shoulder.

THERMAL-PROOF GLOVES
Thermal proof gloves protect against extreme temperatures and are fabricated from a variety of materials, including:

Neoprene: Neoprene gloves are used for protection against frost and burn injuries, as in the case of firefighting gloves.

Aluminized Material: Aluminized material is capable of handling and withstanding extremely high temperatures (depending on the specific formula, up to and exceeding 2,000° F). Gloves made of this material are suitable for welding, furnace and foundry, and some laboratory applications.

When choosing the heat-resistant gloves for a task, you’ll need to find out the precise temperature of the object, not just the ambient temperature. For example, an industrial oven might be 1000°F but the object being handled is only 600°F. Also, high temperature gloves are available as either gloves or mitts. Gloves are for applications that require dexterity, while mitts are for applications that require additional insulation for heat protection, added comfort, and longer wear. Heat-resistant gloves should be tested to ASTM F1060-87 (also know as C.H.A.R.) that establishes the maximum temperature at which a person can hold an object for more than four seconds before feeling pain, and for more than 15 seconds before getting a second-degree burn.

On the other end of the temperature spectrum, cold-resistant gloves, commonly known as freezer gloves, protect employee hands from cuts and scrapes, while an inner insulation reduces the risk of frostbite. These gloves do not have the thickness or the high level of insulation associated with a ski type glove since that bulkiness would inhibit grip and dexterity when handling frozen foods. Polyethylene, glass fiber, polyester, and spandex are all used in the construction of cold storage thermal gloves. Water wicking on the glove’s base layer moves moisture away from the skin, helping to keep hands dryer and warmer for a longer period of time.

GLOVES AND MACHINERY
Machinists who are operating rotating machines should not wear gloves. If machinists are working with a CNC machine, a lathe, a knee mill, or a drill press, wearing gloves near a rotating spindle can spell disaster. Machinery must have guards installed or incorporated into their design that prevent hands from contacting the point of operation or other moving parts.

For more information on choosing the right PPE for machinists, please check out this blog.

GLOVE MAINTENANCE
Like any tool, gloves must be treated properly for them to perform their function. Protective gloves should be inspected before each use to ensure that they are not torn, punctured or made ineffective in any way. A visual inspection will help detect cuts or tears but a more thorough inspection by filling the gloves with water and tightly rolling the cuff towards the fingers will help reveal any pinhole leaks. Gloves that are discolored or stiff may also indicate deficiencies caused by excessive use or degradation from chemical exposure.

Wearing the right safety gloves is instrumental in preventing different workplace hand injuries, including cuts, punctures, burns, or abrasion injuries. It also saves costs incurred by the company each time a hand injury occurs, such as medical expenses that average $6,000 and lost-time compensation expenses that average $7,500. Hand injuries send more than one million workers to the emergency room each year. Your employees cannot afford to go barehanded or be wearing the wrong gloves, not when the cost of one preventable incident far exceeds the cost of an entire hand protection program.

Machine Risk Assessment vs. Safeguarding Assessment? Start 2020 off on the right safety foot.

When it comes to accidents, manufacturing ranks second highest of all industries. That comes despite OSHA regulations and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. A key culprit is unguarded hazardous machinery.

Year after year, OSHA issues thousands of citations and levies millions of dollars in fines for machine safeguarding violations in an attempt to prevent injuries and save lives OSHA 1910.212(a)(1) is the most common section citation, whereby “one or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards” followed by OSHA 1910.212(a)(3)(ii) whereby “the point of operation of machines whose operation exposes an employee to injury shall be guarded.

Why the disregard?

Why is this so? Often facility safety managers are lulled into a false sense of security because a serious accident has not yet occurred or because accidents are rare in their facility. Other managers might wrongly suppose that their newly purchased machinery arrives fully compliant, not realizing that OEMs are typically concerned with new machinery price competitiveness, not necessarily guarding compliance. Still other managers may wrongly assume that older machines are “grandfathered in” before OSHA was formed.

For whatever reason, approximately HALF of industrial machinery has not been properly safeguarded.

That is the bad news.

The good news is there is a way to determine compliance through an assessment of the machinery on the plant floor, as outlined by ANSI B11.0. There are two types of assessments that reign supreme: the Risk Assessment and the Safeguarding Assessment. This article will address both methods and how they help an organization better protect the people operating the machines and reduce the risk at the facility.

Risk assessments should be conducted annually, including whenever a new machine is installed or a major change to an existing machine or production line has taken place. Additionally, in an ideal world, a pre- and post-assessment would be done to verify that the hazards identified in the assessment were properly mitigated.

Risk assessment

What a risk assessment is comprised of is outlined in ANSI B11 Series Standards for Industrial Machinery, ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012 Safety Standards for Industrial Robots, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 79-2015 Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery.

The overarching goal of a task-based risk assessment is to identify hazards associated with machinery or robots. This requires an on-site visit by a risk assessment professional who audits and assigns each machine a risk rating based on three considerations: Severity of Injury, Exposure Frequency, and Avoidance Likelihood, which produces a Risk Level. Today’s risk assessment specialists use software-based tools that can make the process quicker than working through a pen-and-paper risk assessment form.

In advance of the facility visit and based upon project scope, the risk assessment specialist will need to review a comprehensive machine list and potentially other documentation such as: corporate safety standards, lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures, electrical and mechanical drawings, floor-plan layout and equipment manuals.

The scope of assessing a piece of machinery for risk begins with reviewing its operational states with functionality tests performed to help identify potential hazards during machine start-up, cycle, and stopping. The risk assessment specialist may perform a Stop-Time Measurement (STM) test to determine the machine’s reaction time after receiving a stop signal to ensure proper safety distance of safeguarding devices. The specialist will also establish if a passerby or other employees in the area could be hurt if an incident occurs, in addition to the operator.

Along with assessing the production risks of the machine, the risk assessment specialist must analyze the tasks performed by the machine operator as they relate to interacting with the machine, loading and unloading materials, planned and unplanned maintenance methods, frequency of tool changes, and general housekeeping.

During the risk assessment, the specialist will photograph machines and generate a final hazard report documenting their assessment findings and risk levels. The hazardous findings of each machine are broken down into the following ranked classifications:

Critical: There is an imminent life-threatening or dismemberment hazard and immediate action is needed to reduce risk and improve operator safety
Mandatory: There is an imminent hazard that creates potential for injury and action is required to reduce risk, improve operator safety and to comply with OSHA/ANSI standards
Compliant: There is not a recognized hazard that creates potential for injury and no action is required.

Safeguarding assessment

While a risk assessment helps to identify a problem, it does not provide specific safety solutions nor cost estimates. For that, a safeguarding assessment is needed.

During the safeguarding assessment, a specialist will visit the site and conduct an intensive audit of each machine and identify compliance in five guarding areas: safeguards, controls, disconnects, starters and covers. The safeguarding specialist may request copies of electrical, pneumatic or hydraulic schematics, operator manuals and ask for control panel access so that engineers can review the control circuit for electrical compatibility of any proposed safeguarding solutions and to verify reliability of the control circuit to determine the interfacing requirements of suggested equipment. Then the safeguarding specialist will focus on risk reduction using this basic methodology:

– Eliminate Access — A good safeguarding system eliminates the possibility of the operator or other workers placing parts of their bodies near hazardous moving parts.
Reduction in Exposure — A machine safeguard should not be able to be removed, bypassed or tampered with by the operator. To minimize risk exposure, all guards and devices must be securely mounted at the point-of-operation and durable enough to withstand industrial environments, vandalism and heavy usage.
– Create No New Hazards — A safeguard defeats its own purpose if it creates a hazard of its own such as a shear point, a jagged edge, or an unfinished surface which can cause a laceration. The edges of guards, for instance, should be rolled or bolted in such a way that they eliminate sharp edges.
– Create No Interference — Any safeguard which impedes a worker from performing a job quickly and comfortably might soon be overridden or disregarded. Proper safeguarding can actually enhance efficiency since it can relieve the worker’s apprehensions about injury.
– Allow Safe Lubrication — Locating oil reservoirs outside the guard, with a line leading to the lubrication point, will reduce the need for the worker to enter the hazardous area.
Administrative Controls — Without administrative oversight and supervisory control, a machine safeguarding program will fail. Training is key to establishing a safety culture. Operators need to trained to follow the Standard Operating Procedures provided by the machine manufacturer in order to reduce hazards and related risks.

Uncovering gaps in protection

Unlike a risk assessment, a safeguarding assessment recognizes both the problem and the solution. A final compliance report and safeguarding project proposal is issued to facility management which identifies deficiencies or gaps where each machine is not in compliance with current or specified regulations and standards. When not in compliance, the proposal offers standard and customized safeguarding solutions, along with associated costs and timelines to help bring machines into compliance and reduce risk. Each proposed solution is carefully weighed against factors such as risk-reduction benefit, productivity, technological feasibility, economic impact, and maintainability.

In this way, a machine safeguarding assessment follows the OSHA/ANSI approach to controlling machine hazards: eliminate the hazard by design; or control the hazard by guarding, posted warnings, personal protective equipment, and employee training.

Risk reduction strategies

When evaluating risk reduction solutions to address identified hazards, consider each machine and its unique risks. Three basic methods are available.
– Eliminating or reducing risks to a “tolerable” level by installing a new, inherently safe machine. Please note that what constitutes “tolerable” to one company is not necessarily tolerable to another.
– Installing the necessary safeguarding equipment on an existing machine to minimize risks that cannot be eliminated. Fixed enclosing guards, protective devices such as light curtains, palm buttons or presence sensing mats, and training on the safe working methods of the machine are all necessary to reduce injury risks.
– Changing the production process to eliminate the hazard. Perhaps the operator performs actions that increase his exposure to serious hazards? Or recent changes upstream have created a more dangerous environment? Even a small change in procedures can make for a safer, more efficient operation.

Conclusion

Both risk assessments and/or the safeguarding assessments are critical first steps in any machine or robot safeguarding project as outlined in ANSI B11 Series Standards for Metalworking, OSHA 1910.212 General Requirements, ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012 Safety Standards for Industrial Robots and NFPA 79. These standards pave the way for risk-reduction measures that are both effective and economical. Machine risk assessments provide a comprehensive hazard analysis with a risk ranking; machine safeguarding assessments identify safeguarding solutions and provide cost estimates for implementation. Which one is right for an organization depends upon the specific needs of the organization, the organization’s objectives, desired outputs and risk levels.

Related Blogs:

Machine Risk Assessment Process

Machine Safeguarding Assessment

Machine Risk Assessment

Machine Risk Assessment – Inquiry Confirmation

Remote Safeguarding Assessment

Choosing the Right PPE for Machinists

Workplace safety is a growing concern among workers in North America. According to Injury Facts®, preventable workplace deaths totaled 4,414 in 2017 in the U.S., the fourth year in a row this number has increased. And, for every worker lost, countless loved ones, co-workers, and friends are affected. According to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. Under the OSH Act, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.

Hierarchy of Controls and PPE

Controlling exposures to occupational hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers. Traditionally, a hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective controls. As defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), it flows as follows:
• Elimination – Physically remove the hazard
• Substitution – Replace or reduce the hazard
• Engineering controls – Isolate people from the hazard
• Administrative controls – Change the way people work
• Personal protective equipment– Protect the worker with PPE

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that use of PPE – considered the last line of defense against worker injury – is acceptable when controls higher in the hierarchy don’t eliminate the hazard or are in development. Numerous types of PPE are available that are geared to work conditions and the part of the body that might be susceptible to a hazard. A broad range of safety products and services can help organizations effectively mitigate hazards in the workplace.

Developing a PPE Program

Diversity is the shopping cart of businesses throughout the world. The diversity of uses and needs for appropriate PPE can only be determined by PPE assessment that fully determines the risk factors of a particular job function with human involvement.

Quality assessment to determine if the exposure is presented as prescribed in OSHA’s Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), is a must. PPE suppliers are positioned in the marketplace to help make determinations relative to the selection of the proper PPE needed based on employer certifications. By understanding the work and the limitations of PPE, these suppliers can better identify the right equipment, predict the correct level of protection, and decide if the equipment meets the immediate level of need to help keep workers safe.

PPE for Machinists

PPE choices should be based on a PPE assessment that identifies the hazards of different machines that affect the operators. Many machinists commonly face hazards such as exposure to chemicals, liquids, oils, heat, sharp edges, moving parts, pinch points, punctures, welding sparks, noise, vibrations and flying debris – all of which should factor in the PPE assessment and selection process. Small injuries that occur frequently include lacerations from burrs or chips, bumping a sharp tool bit or insert while handling a part in the machine, dumping scrap in a bin, and unfolding a band saw blade. All of these injuries are preventable with the proper PPE.

Here are a few examples:

• Head protection – Bumping into objects/falling objects.
• Eye protection – Safety glasses/side shields (goggles for splashes and spatters)
• Face protection – Face shield with safety glasses and side shields (for splashes and spatters)
• Hand protection – Nitrile or other solvent-resistant glove based on an SDS review of the chemical
• Apron (plastic disposable) – Based on operation and an SDS review of the chemical
• Clothing in general – Rigid fabrics in good repair, FR rated as required
• Footwear – Steel toe boots or shoes
• Hearing protection – noise cancelling earmuffs (push to listen) based on recorded and documented decibels.

Gloves

The right glove selection depends upon the application. The OSHA CFR 1910.138 Hand Protection (a) General Requirements states: Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption or harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes. (b) Selection. Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.

Chemicals and Liquids. Cleaning, wiping off, and degreasing machines expose workers to harsh chemicals. In addition, machine and metalworking fluids affect workers’ hands. Common applications include finishers polishing metal and workers cleaning machines after use. Coated fabric, rubber, plastic, or synthetic gloves are good solutions for standing up to chemicals and liquids. These gloves help protect against specific chemicals:
o Butyl rubber gloves: Nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and peroxide
o Natural latex/rubber gloves: Water solutions or acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones
o Neoprene gloves: Hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, and organic acids
o Nitrile rubber gloves: Chlorinated solvents

Computer-Controlled Panels. Common applications include operators working around electronic metalworking equipment. Featherweight nylon, touchscreen, and mechanics gloves are good options for operating control panels.

Cutting Oils. Common applications include workers cleaning up work areas and maintenance workers around metalworking fluids. As with chemicals and liquids, nitrile gloves are a good choice for standing up to oils and are easy to dispose of after use.

Heat, Burns and Hot Objects. Machine parts and workpieces can get hot and machinists need protection when handling hot metal workpieces. Leather, welders, mechanics, and Kevlar® gloves offer protection from heat.

Material Handling. Transporting material onto the machine shop floor can rough up hands. Common applications include material movers handling heavy metal parts and machinists handling metal components that may have sharp edges and burrs.

Moving Rotary Parts. Machinists who are operating rotating machines should not wear gloves. If machinists are working with a CNC machine, a lathe, a knee mill, or a drill press, wearing gloves near a rotating spindle can spell disaster.

Pinch Points. Working on gears, chains, and pulleys puts machinists’ hands in immediate harm’s way. Common applications include CNC operators installing metalwork pieces, deburring metal, and handling machined parts with rough edges. Gloves that offer high dexterity, high cut resistance, and back-of-hand protection such as mechanics and impact gloves are recommended.

Puncture. Metal splinters, small metal chips, and burrs are found all over metal. Common applications include machinists handling metal scrap and punching operators handling metal burrs. High-rated ANSI puncture- and cut-resistant gloves are this hazard’s best choice.

Sharp Objects. Machine shop workers, such as milling operators, deal with sharp edges on workpieces, sharp metal chips, and cutting tools. ANSI A2 to A9 cut-resistant gloves are the best option to avoid cuts and lacerations.

Welding. Welders work around sharp metal and hot sparks. Welding, aluminized, and leather gloves are excellent hand protection choices for welders.

Eyewear

A PPE assessment should reflect the hazards such as flying debris and filings; chips; dust; molten metals; radiant light from welding, cutting and brazing, and splashing chemicals. All should bear the marking ANSI Z78.1.

Features and styles reflect the needs and the fit required of the wearer. It is appropriate for the employer to perform the assessment of the need and review the variety of styles available to fit each employee.

Rockford Systems offers a full line of PPE. Please call 1-800-922-7533 or email customerservice@rockfordsystems.com for more information.

Contributed by:
Brent Bryden, CEO for InterActive Safety Solutions, Inc., PO Box 457, Winnebago, IL 61088, 815-742-0513 www.interactivesafetysolutionsinc.com.

Bye-Bye Boomers: What Retiring Machinists Mean to Plant Safety

Within the next decade approximately 2.7 million Baby Boomers (1946-1964) will retire, thereby ensuring that tens of thousands of positions will become available without a ready supply of American workers to fill them. Statistics paint an especially gloomy picture for the manufacturing sector, and the resulting widening of the skills gap as young replaces old.

Compared to the rest of the economy, the impact on manufacturing of this generational shift is over sized because of two reasons: 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 percent could not recall receiving any formal training when they first hired on.

Equally troubling, the Millennials (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.

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 standards are being met. Seasoned machinists may have developed workarounds that prevented accidents. Worse yet, the machinist may have covered up small accidents they’d suffered, considering an occasional nick or scratch simply part of the job. Your “safe” machine may be the most dangerous on the floor.

Step One: Safeguarding
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 successful, long-term answer is having your plant’s machinery subject to a thorough risk assessment process.

A risk assessment draws on the expertise and experience of an outside company to identify machine hazards before they cause accidents. Over the course of the assessment, detailed information is collected concerning each machine, its operator and the process it is tied to. Hazardous areas are pinpointed on the machine with a risk level assigned to each potential danger. Evaluating this risk level helps determine if further safeguarding methods should be applied to the 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 national, regional and local regulations. The risk 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 been reduced to a code-compliant, tolerable level that will not threaten the safety of less experienced employees.

Step Two: 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 nuggets will be beneficial down the road. Your organization needs to find ways of capturing this “tribal” knowledge before the machinist hangs up their hat and heads for the white sandy beaches of retirement. One common way of doing so is implementing a structured 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 that are unclear or not understood, and to help the young worker learn the ropes of a new job. Recognizing hazards and learning safe work practices must be central part of mentoring programs so make sure they are given equal billing with productivity during conversations. Mentors can also play an important role in informing young workers of their OSHA rights 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.

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 young employees about machine safety overcomes those problems. Rockford Systems offers Machine Safeguarding Seminars at its Rockford Systems Training Center in Rockford, Illinois. The popular 2.5-day seminars combine classroom discussion with live demonstrations on fifteen machines set up to give the hands-on experience that new employees need. Once the seminar is complete, the employee will be enable to interpret the OSHA 29 CFR 1910 and ANSI B11 Series Standards as they relate to their specific machine applications and production requirements, perhaps better than the retired operator they are replacing.

AGAIN, IMPORTANCE OF RISK ASSESSMENTS & SAFEGUARDING
A perfect storm has formed, making it increasingly difficult for manufacturers to find and train labor. The retirement of the Baby Boom generation only makes matters more challenging. To ensure plant productivity and safety needs are continuously met despite retirements, take proactive steps by conducting a risk assessment of machines, work to promote the transfer of knowledge, and install code-compliant safeguarding equipment.

The good old days? Not for machine operators.

History of U.S. Machine Safeguarding

When manufacturing moved from small shops to factories during the Industrial Revolution, inexperienced, often very young workers were confronted with a confusing jumble of moving belts, pulleys and gears. While pre-industrial craftsmen faced risks from kilns and hand tools, industrialization introduced massive steam engines and fast-moving machines. Adults and children, some as young as four years old, operated unprotected machinery 12-16 hours a day under conditions unheard of today, with many losing their lives.

Safeguarding History

In America the use of labor saving machines was driven by a regulatory climate that discouraged employer’s interest in safety. As a result, manufacturers at the time developed machinery that was both highly productive and very dangerous. Overworked American factory workers in the 1900s faced life with missing limbs, damaged vision and hearing, lung infections, and severe burn injuries.

Child Worker Injury

Workers who were injured might sue employers for damages, yet winning proved difficult. If employers could show that the worker had assumed the risk, acted carelessly or had been injured by the actions of a fellow employee, courts would usually deny liability. Only about half of all workers fatally injured recovered anything and their average compensation amounted to only half a year’s pay. Because employee accidents were so cheap, industrial machinery was developed with little reference to safeguarding.

Not unexpectedly, reports from state labor bureaus were full of tragedies that struck the unlucky. These reports spurred the budding labor movement to call for factory safety. In 1877, Massachusetts passed the Nation’s first factory inspection law. It required guarding of belts, shafts and gears, protection on elevators, and adequate fire exits. Its passage prompted a flurry of state factory acts. By 1890, nine states provided for factory inspectors, 13 required machine safeguarding, and 21 made limited provision for health hazards.

Safeguarding HistoryOn the national level, Congress passed a federal employers’ liability law in 1908 that made it more expensive for companies to have a machine accident on their books. Thanks to the new law, worker injuries that once cost companies $200 to resolve now cost almost $2,000. In 1910, the state of New York created a workmen’s compensation law that forced companies to automatically compensate for workplace injuries, eliminating the need for families to take corporations to court. By 1921, 43 more states had followed New York’s lead and established their own compensation laws. Compensation laws and other liability costs suddenly made workplace injuries an expensive proposition for many employers.

What followed was a slow but steady increase in machine safeguarding. Manufacturing companies began to work to create safer production equipment, and managers began getting tasked with identifying machine dangers.

In 1913, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics documented approximately 23,000 industrial deaths among a workforce of 38 million — a rate of about 61 deaths per 100,000 workers. Although the reporting system has changed over the years, the figure dropped to 37 deaths per 100,000 workers by 1933 and 3.5 per 100,000 full-time-equivalent workers in 2010. A major contributor to the trend in fewer deaths was machine safeguarding.

Safeguarding HistoryAfter WWII accidents declined as powerful labor unions played an increasingly important role in worker safety. Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) became a requirement with gloves, masks and aprons given to workers. Posters were hung throughout the plant floor reminding workers of their responsibility to think and act in a safe manner. Basic guards and safety mats became common features around industrial machinery. Also, the American Standards Association published its “Safety Code for Mechanical Power Transmission Apparatus” in the 1940s. Very similar to OSHA 1910.218 it was written to serve as a guide for machine manufacturers in guarding systems. The National Safety Council found that the injury frequency rate dropped from 15 injuries per 100 full-time workers in 1941 to 9 in 1950. By 1956, it reached a decade low of 6 per 100 workers. As impressive as those numbers were, the on-the-job death toll in the 1950s remained a stubborn 13,000-16,000 workers annually.

Nixon Signs OSH ACTIn the 1960s economic expansion again led to rising injury rates with 14,000 workers dying each year. An additional 2.2 million workers were injured on the job. Resulting political pressures led Congress to establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970. On December 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which gave the Federal Government the authority to set and enforce safety and health standards for most of the country’s workers. This act was the result of a hard fought legislative battle that began in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson unsuccessfully sought a similar measure.

In the House, Representative William A. Steiger worked for passage of his bill by saying: “In the last 25 years, more than 400,000 Americans were killed by work-related accidents and disease, and close to 50 million more suffered disabling injuries on the job. Not only has this resulted in incalculable pain and suffering for workers and their families, but such injuries have cost billions of dollars in lost wages and production.”

Machine Safeguarding AssessmentsWhen the agency opened for business in April 1971, OSHA covered 56 million workers at 3.5 million workplaces. Today, 105 million private-sector workers and employers at 6.9 million sites look to OSHA for guidance on workplace safety and health issues.

Safeguarding technology and requirements have come a long way since the industrial revolution. Advanced light curtains, interlocked guards, laser-guided systems and presence sensors are now commonplace. Despite this progress, the lack of machine guarding has been named to OSHA’S Top 10 Most Cited Violations List virtually every year since the list began. In 2018 OSHA handed out nearly 2,000 violations to companies for failing to have machines and equipment adequately guarded, underscoring how much work there is left to do.

In many respects, we take today’s focus on machine safety for granted. However, by reviewing history we can see how it has benefited society by radically reducing accidents and deaths.

Safeguarding History

Minimize Conveyor Injury Risks with Safeguarding

While conveyor belts are integral facets of the distribution process and most warehouses could not function without them, they also pose the potential to cause serious injuries and sometimes even fatalities. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that over 40 workplace fatalities a year are the result of conveyor accidents, along with 9,000 injuries.

While in motion, conveyor systems have inherent and obvious dangers. Belts continuously move at speeds up to 600 feet per minute or 10 feet per second. There are many pinch-points within their machinery, any of which could cause an injury to a worker. Common employee injuries incurred working with conveyors include arm and hand amputations, finger lacerations, burns, scrapes and broken bones. Even when employees are being careful, accidents can happen. It’s easy for loose clothing, jewelry or hair to get trapped in conveyor belts. If workers aren’t paying attention, they could get caught in the machine.

Every conveyor belt injury in a warehouse is costly, affecting worker morale, availability of trained labor, lost production, and increased overhead due to insurance premiums, along with mountains of paperwork, lawsuits and possible fines from government regulatory agencies. Conveyor belt injuries account for nearly 25% of all workers’ compensation claims. Safeguarding conveyors protects employees from injuries, and companies from potential financial ruin.

Safeguarding Conveyors
Safety considerations for conveyor design are detailed in ASME B20.1-2018: Safety Standard For Conveyors And Related Equipment.

ASME B20.1-2018 applies to the design, construction, installation, maintenance, inspection, and operation of conveyors and conveying systems in relation to hazards. The conveyors covered can be bulk material, package, or unit-handling types installed for permanent, temporary, or portable operation. OSHA has also issued its own standard 1926.555(s)(1), General Conveyor Safety Requirements. In many cases, local municipalities and equipment manufacturers will require standards above and beyond ASME and OSHA be met.

Because conveyor designs vary, each conveyor should be evaluated to determine what primary safeguarding methods and energy control practices are required. For instance, a chain conveyor introduces the hazards of nip points when a chain contacts a sprocket. As a result, the primary safeguarding method would be enclosing the moving chains. If this isn’t possible, barrier guards can be installed around moving points so that nip and shear points can be eliminated by a guard. Secondary guarding options would include safeguarding by distance or the use of awareness devices.

Rather than concentrate on specific details of unique conveyor designs, for the purpose of this article, we are going to look only at three basic requirements of conveyor safeguarding: emergency stops, guards and motor starters.

Emergency Stops: The only conveyors that don’t require emergency stops or “e-stops” are ones mounted more than eight feet above the working surface, since those are guarded by their elevation, a situation called “guarded by location.” Conveyors that are accessible to operators must be equipped with e-stops.

conveyor belt safeguarding
 
According to both ASME B20.1-2018, remotely and automatically controlled conveyors where operator stations are not manned or beyond contact shall be furnished with emergency stop buttons, pull cords, safety-rated limit switches or similar emergency stop devices. As a general rule of thumb an operator should be able to stop any conveyor within his or her line of sight by activating the nearest emergency stop. ASME also requires that all emergency stop circuits should fail in the event of a power loss to the emergency stop circuit. Employees must be familiar with the location and function of e-stops to allow them to make fast decisions on using them. E-stop training should be provided to all employees regarding where they are located, when to use them, and how to access them.

As for restart, OSHA requires that “emergency stop switches shall be arranged so that the conveyor cannot be started again until the actuating stop switch has been reset to running or ‘on’ position.” ASME goes further, requiring that the starting device be locked out or tagged before any attempt is made to remove the cause of the stoppage. Besides having the activated emergency stop switch or pull cord reset, an audible warning signal must be sounded immediately before starting up the conveyor.

Depending upon the size of the conveyor, multiple start buttons may need to be activated. Modern conveyors may feature a Human Machine Interface (HMI) that allows operators to remotely identify the location of the tripped emergency stop on a display. Once the local emergency stop has been reset, the system can be remotely restarted via the HMI.

Finally, e-stops should never be modified for any reason by unqualified personnel. Monitor e-stops to ensure employees have not misused, modified, or disconnected them.

Guards: ASME B20.1-2018 requires conveyor with accessible nip points on spools and pulleys be guarded to prevent contact by a worker, and that a conveyor have guards or sideboards to prevent material from falling from the conveyor into areas occupied by workers if the falling material presents a hazard of impact injury or burn. Barriers, enclosures, grating, fences, or other obstructions that prevent physical contact with conveyor components are considered to be guards. When the guard is used as the primary safeguarding method, a guard opening scale can be used to ensure no employee cannot reach under, over, around, or through the guard. Any openings created by the guards must be checked for compliance with ANSI/CSA safety standards. Hand railing is not acceptable to limit access to a pinch point as it can be breached easily.

Most serious accidents and fatalities involving conveyors result from inadequate guarding. Guards are sometimes removed by plant employees for maintenance purposes, or because they obstruct an employee’s access doing work, exposing sharp machinery, gears, chains, and moving parts that are extremely dangerous. To help ensure worker safety, lock out conveyors when in service, and operate equipment only when all approved covers and guards have been reinstalled.

Lockout/Tagout: Conveyors are widely thought to not require a lockout/tagout procedure, which is incorrect. According to the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147, OSHA expects that all equipment with more than one energy source, including energy that can be locked and energy that must be dissipated manually, must require a machine-specific procedure. Conveyors have both electrical energy and kinetic energy. Additionally, adjacent equipment feeding the conveyor can cause a hazard if still running during conveyor service. According to OSHA data, workers who operate conveyors, packaging equipment and printing presses experience the highest number of accidents associated with lockout/tagout failures.

Lockout / tagout
 
Whenever a conveyor is under repair or maintenance, it must be stopped with power sources locked out and tagged out. Exceptions may be given to conveyors that need power for testing or making minor adjustments. For more about “alternative LOTO measures” consult ANSI/ASSE Z244.1 for expanded guidance beyond OSHA’s regulatory limitation to tasks that are “routine, repetitive and integral to production operations”. Following the Hierarchy of Control model, ANSI/ASSE Z244.1 provides detailed guidance on if, when, and how a range of alternative control methods can be applied to result in equal or improved protection for people performing specific tasks.

When it comes to conveyor service, maintenance work should only be carried out by fully trained, highly qualified professionals. These professionals will ensure proper lockout/tagout procedures are followed, and to block or disengage all power sources to the conveyor — electrical, hydraulic, air and gravity. Keep in mind that even the best trained technicians are occasionally injured by a conveyor. Untrained staff should never attempt a conveyor system repair.

As with any industrial equipment, conveyors are capable of causing grave injuries if not safeguarded according to established standards. However, it is equally important that employees working around conveyor systems are trained regarding potential hazards. Constant vigilance and a safeguarded conveyor are vital to keeping your warehouse and facility safe.

Valve Safety Trains Require Regular Inspections, Maintenance and Training

Thermal processes are used to alter the physical, and sometimes chemical, properties of a material or coating. Two common examples of thermal processing would be high-temperature operations such as heat treating, and low-temperature operations, for instance drying or baking. Heat treating involves the use of heating or chilling, normally to extreme temperatures, to modify a material’s physical properties — making it harder or softer, for example. Many industries use baking, drying or other lower temperature heating processes to modify aspects of a material or coating. Additionally, facilities may have incinerators for oxidizing pollutants, or air heaters for tempering climate air. Applications for thermal processing are virtually endless.

At the heart of all thermal processes is a valve safety train. These fuel-delivery devices maintain consistent conditions of gasses into furnaces, ovens, dryers and boilers, among others, making them crucial in assuring safe ignition, operation and shutdown. Equally important, they keep gas out of the system whenever equipment is cycled or shut off.

Valve safety trains are critical to the operation of combustion systems. Despite being used daily in thousands of industrial facilities, awareness on their purpose and function may be dangerously absent because on-site training is minimal or informal. To many employees on the plant floor this series of valves, piping, wires and switches is simply too complex to take the time to understand. What is known can be dangerously misunderstood.

A valve safety train isn’t a single piece of equipment. Instead, it has many components including regulators, in-line strainers (“sediment traps”), safety shut-off valves (SSOV), manual valves (MV), pressure switches, and test fittings logically linked to a burner management system. Flame-sensing components make sure that flames are present when they are supposed to be, and not at a wrong time. Other components may consist of leak-test systems, gauges and pilot gas controls. At a minimum there are two crucial gas pressure switches in a valve safety train, one for low pressure and one for high pressure. The low gas pressure switch ensures the minimum gas pressure necessary to operate is present. As you would assume, it will shut off fuel to the burner if the gas pressure is below the setpoint. The high gas pressure switch ensures an excessive pressure is not present. It too will shut off fuel if the gas pressure is too high. Both switches must be proven safe to permit operation. Additionally, there will be an air pressure switch to ensure sufficient airflow is present to support burner operation. Some systems have supplementary pressure switches, such as a valve-proving pressure switch. Switches such as these are typically used to enhance safety or provide other safety aspects specific to that application’s needs. A multitude of sensors within the valve safety train — pressure switches, flame detectors, position indicators — and isolation and relief valves work together in concert to prevent accidents.

Valve safety trains must be compliant with all applicable local and national codes, standards, and insurance requirements. The most common of these for North America are NFPA, NEMA, CSA, UL, FM. Annual testing and preventive maintenance are not only an NPFA requirement, but also oftentimes required by insurance agencies, equipment manufacturers, and national standards, including ANSI, ASME, and NEC.

Understanding of fuel-fired equipment, especially the valve safety train, is necessary to prevent explosions, injuries and property damage. The truth is, although valve safety trains are required to be check regularly, they are rarely inspected, especially when maintenance budgets are cut. And while codes require training, they offer very little in terms of specific directions.

Don’t wait for a near-miss or accident to inspect and/or upgrade your valve safety train. For more information on Rockford Systems Combustion Safety Solutions, please visit or call 1-800-922-7533.

Please read our extensive set of Combustion Safety Questions & Answers HERE.

Please read our Combustion Safety press release HERE.