Conveyor Safety & Conveyor Defects
A conveyor is a mechanical material handling device that moves goods and materials from one location to another in a predetermined path of travel. Conveyors are especially useful in applications involving the transportation of heavy or bulky materials. Conveyor systems allow quick and efficient transportation for a wide variety of materials. Besides being productive, conveyors reduce the risks of back injuries, knee, shoulder and other orthopedic injuries.
However, despite their benefits, conveyors cause a high number of serious injuries and fatalities. Every year workers are seriously injured or killed as a result of defective conveyors in the following industries: quarry, redi-mix, bag palletizer, retail, general manufacturing, warehousing, metal working, pharmaceutical, food handling, auger, marine terminals, bulk flow feeders, mining, and food processing. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics dozens and dozens of workers are killed by defective conveyors every year in America. Hundreds of workers are seriously injured each year due to defective conveyors.
Most people that work around conveyors on a day to day basis have no idea of the death and disfigurement that could potentially be caused by defective conveyors. In order to avoid these risks workers need to know about key conveyor safety features.
Conveyors should be designed to minimize pinch points and hazard points. Pinch points and hazard points should be guarded by location. Guarding by location refers to making a potentially hazardous location inaccessible to workers. Simply put, the system should be designed so workers can not reach the pinch or hazard points.
If the pinch point is accessible to the worker then a safety pop out roller should be used. A safety pop out roller literally pops out when pressure is applied. The pop out roller pops up to eliminate the pinch point.
Conveyor systems should always be fitted with guards. Guards prevent access to the pinch point. These include head drums, tail drums, pulleys, feed chutes, gravity conveyors, belt conveyors, gravity tension devices, shaft drives, etc.
Emergency stops should always be used with conveyors. The emergency stops should be placed within reach of the pinch point. For example, emergency stop cords can be fitted along the length of catwalks and walkways. Netting or other protective guarding should be installed to protect against falling products, especially in areas where employees or pedestrians may be walking.
Screw Conveyor Safety
There are several different types of screw conveyor systems, including screw conveyors, screw feeders and screw-lifts. Screw conveyors should be guarded to prevent worker contact with turning flights. The conveyor housing should enclose all the moving elements. Feed openings for shovel, other manual or mechanical equipment should be designed so the conveyor rotating and moving parts are enclosed and restrict access to the conveyor. For example, the conveyor opening should be covered with suitable grating. If the nature of the material is such that a grating can not be used, then the exposed section of the conveyor must be guarded by a railing or a fence.
Electrical interlocking devices should be used. If the conveyor must be opened for inspection, cleaning, maintenance or observation, the electric power to the motor driving the conveyor must be locked out in such a manner that the conveyor can not be restarted by anyone until the conveyor cover or guards have been properly replaced.
FED - OSHA Conveyor Regulations
Workers need to realize that conveyors are covered by Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations. 29 C.F.R. 1926.555 pertains to conveyors. Section 1926.555(a)(8) all conveyors in use to meet the applicable requirements for design, construction, inspection, testing, maintenance and operation as prescribed in ANSI B20.1 - 1957, Safety Code for Conveyors, Cableways and Related Equipment.
If your employer or work place has conveyors which contain any of the hazards discussed herein, then you need to protect both your health and safety and the health and safety of your fellow co-workers. Obviously, it is usually best if safety issues can be resolved by a worker - management dialog. However, that is not always possible or practical. If that is the case, then you may consider filing an OSHA complaint against your employer. Federal OSHA regulations give complainants the right to request that their names not be revealed to their employers.
CAL - OSHA Conveyor Regulations
For example, California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 3446 concerns augers and Section 3999 concerns conveyors. Under California Code of Regulations Section 3999 (b) employers should place a guard on all tail pulleys on conveyors. The guard should be installed so that an employee cannot reach behind it and get caught in the nip point between the belt, chain, drum, pulley, or sprocket. These laws are in place to protect workers. If an employer refuses to provide a safe place to work, an employee needs to file a complaint with either Fed OSHA, or CAL OSHA, for example.
OSHA Discrimination Protection
If you are discriminated for bringing up conveyor safety to your employer or for refusing to work when faced with an imminent danger or serious injury then you should file a discrimination complaint with OSHA. In those states with approved State OSHA plans, such as CAL-OSHA, workers should file a complaint with both State and Federal OSHA.
Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.