Trends in ... plant safety

Keep safety a priority

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Plant safety encompasses a wide range of products and equipment, including safety signs, lockout/tagout devices, loading dock safety equipment, spill kits and industrial vacuums. Here, industry insiders discuss new technologies and how workers can help avoid hazards in this wide-ranging field.

Improvements

Matt Brenner, vice president of sales for Rockford, IL-based Rockford Systems LLC, spoke of improvements to laser scanners: “Laser scanners were once very expensive, difficult to program and temperamental in some manufacturing environments. Today, laser scanners are affordable, can be easily programmed with expanded memories for quick recall of preprogrammed settings and have been engineered with different modes for use in problematic environments.”

However, Brenner noted that laser scanners are widely misused. “Quite often, integrators do not program the field of coverage (area being monitored by the scanner) at the proper safety distance,” he said. To help prevent this, Brenner recommends conducting a safeguarding assessment and stop-time measurement testing.

Plants and the manufacturing industry are implementing robotics and automation at a “blazing place,” and technological safety systems are being emphasized, said Steve Kunik, production manager for Erie, PA-based US Netting Inc. “Gates and netting barriers provide static, much-needed safety in automated environments and are often overlooked,” Kunik said.

Misuse

In regard to trailer restraints for loading docks, Rich Schlesinger, manager of U.S. distribution sales for Carrollton, TX-based Entrematic, noted that a common cause of misuse with equipment is when a worker is unfamiliar with the operation of a trailer restraint and doesn’t properly engage it before loading or unloading a trailer. But solutions are available.

“This can be addressed through training, of course,” Schlesinger said, “but the foolproof way is through a master control panel. A master control panel provides the ability to ‘interlock’ the equipment so it is impossible to load or unload a trailer unless the restraint is properly engaged.”

This takes the guesswork and the human element out of the process, he added.

Words of wisdom

Don’t let cost cloud your vision on what safety should be. “We notice that businesses are negating the ideas of safety for cost,” said Paul Galla, president of US Netting, adding that thin, cheap and difficult-to-use products can end up doing more harm than good. Instead, “correct issues by performing due diligence on products you’d like to use to protect employees,” he said.

Also, don’t cut corners. “Too many employees feel they must take risks and expose themselves to hazards to do their job,” Brenner said. “Good safeguarding companies can usually find a way to greatly reduce operator exposure to machine hazards.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association.

Coming next month:
Protective clothing

Safety signs and labels

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