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GUARDING AGAINST RISK - Process plays factor in determining ways to protect workers

Mon, Mar 19th 2018 12:00 pm

Process plays factor in determining ways to protect workers

Left, roll lockouts are shown in the activated position, which prevents the rolls from closing. Right, the deactivated position
allows the rolls to close when the roll-stand is engaged in normal  operations.

March 2018 - WHILE MACHINERY makers are continually offering new and improved safety features on their equipment, much of the responsibility for worker safety falls on the processing companies themselves. 

However, some research indicates that not all processors are taking advantage of optional safety devices or properly using the safety fea-tures they do have. According to a recent study of a small number of Canadian injection molding factories, workers are often lax about safety practices during maintenance procedures.

For the study, researchers at Canada's Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) visited six Canadian factories with injection molding machines and peripheral equipment. They found that out of 43 risk-reduction means identified for the study, only five were used at all of the plants. However, most of the plants did have at least one risk-reduction method in place for all identified hazardous situations. 

In examining incident reports, the researchers found some severe lapses in use of protective devices.

"For example, in many cases, there were no guards or else they were damaged, not functioning or incompatible with the work situation," said Yuvin Chinniah, an engineer and the lead researcher.

For sheet extruders, chrome roll stands pose a particular risk due to their pinch points, especially where the primary rollers come together, said Tom Limbrunner, senior VP of applications and technology for Processing Technologies International, a supplier of extru-sion systems. 

"Providing safety as well as reasonable access is often a challenge," Limbrunner said.  While machine manufacturers ensure their designs meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and PLASTICS standards, older machines can present safety challenges. "For example, I see various customers with winding equipment that has a complete lack of guarding, as well as an absence of interlocks," Limbrunner said. Machines with interlocked guards will not run unless the guards are in place. 

Some older machines can be retrofitted with additional safety features, Limbrunner said. How-ever, processors should consider replacing older systems, as the safety retrofits tend to be more expensive the older the machine is.