Posts Tagged ‘Plant Safety’

Winter is coming: check your Dock Seals.

September 28, 2010

Dock Seals keep out the cold

Yes, the fall weather has finally arrived and it’s good to take some time off to enjoy it.  As we all know, the winter months will soon be upon us. For manufacturing sites and distribution centers, dock doors are a huge drain on heating bills. Every time a truck pulls in to load or unload, the dock door comes up and all the heat goes out into the winter air. A dock seal creates a barrier between the truck and the dock opening to prevent the huge loss of warm air.

Dock Seals are a very reasonable investment, ranging from $700 to as much as $2000.  In the dock seal world, “you get what you pay for” is the rule. Buyers should take a close look at the performance versus the cost. The performance of dock seals range from as low as 250 cycles, a cycle being each time a truck pulls in/out, up to 10,000 or even more cycles.

If you have a dock that only gets 1-2 trucks a day, then a lower cost dock seal may be all right for you. For high traffic docks, high-performance materials are a better investment. Make sure your vendor lists a cycle rating for any seal quoted. Please keep in mind that higher performance seals also use pleating, double stitching, weather resistant wood backing and other features to extend the life of the seal and prevent damage.

So, now is the time to take a look at the dock seals on your building and get the repaired or replaced before the cold weather sets in.

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The Challenge of the Aging Workforce

September 24, 2010

I am a big fan of CBS Sunday Morning. I finally watched the episode that aired a couple of weeks ago and that program contained a really interesting story about BMW. They have recognized that their workforce is aging and that they may need to make some changes to accommodate older workers. By 2020 16% of the population will be over 65 years of age, so this is a problem common to all US companies.

BMW took one production line and staffed it with people approximately 47 years of age, since they expect their workforce average age to be 47 in 2017. They just talked to the people on the line and asked how the company could make improvements for them. The company purchased custom shoes for everyone on the line and installed wooden floors, since aching feet were a universal complaint. They also added lighted magnifiers for people that were inspecting parts and new computer screens that offer larger type. One man requested a place to “stretch” when he began to feel fatigued, so they built some bars on a nearby wall so he can go over and limber up.

In total, BMW spent a measly $50,000, including lost time. Here’s what they got in return; Absenteeism dropped below the plant average; Productivity increased 7% and defects dropped to ZERO. The program was so successful, that they are expanding it to other production lines and other plants. That’s a great productivity plan for any company.

Work Positioning Can Be A Big Challenge

July 30, 2010

Work positioning

Work positioning is a big challenge for many industrial manufacturers. I have seen countless tool and die makers hunched over worktables that are just too low. Often, the size of the piece makes it very difficult to work with even if the height is adjustable.
Many assemblers of bigger items, such as lawn mowers also have problems reaching the entire assembly. These poor postures result in back, neck and shoulder injuries. In addition, eye problems are common, since the worker blocks out the light needed to see the project.

There is a super product from Ergotech called an Ergo Chief. This is a motorized height adjustable pillar outfitted with a slotted turntable that easily accepts mounting of any tool, fixture or work part. It has foot petal controls for the height and rotation speed. The controls are variable speed so the user has accurate control of speed and rotation and can even reverse rotation at any time.  The Ergo Chief handles loads up to 400 pounds. This product is also available for welding production lines.

For applications where less movement is needed, Ergotech also offers the Ergo Master, a manual height-adjustable pedestal that can be set to any position in a 360 degree hemisphere. If you have an application where height adjustment is the only need, then the Ergo I is a very economical tool to improve work positioning challenges. For production lines handling larger products, such as auto assemblies, there is the programmable Ergo Control that offers 3-axis positioning of workloads, up to 13,200 pounds!

Ergotech products are engineered and manufactured in the United States. They have a number of exceptional products. Check out their website at http://www.ergotech.com.

Solving Drum-Handling Hazards

July 19, 2010

We received a product bulletin today from Valley Craft concerning their new power Drive Drum Handling equipment and I though it would be a good subject for the blog.  Handling drums is a major problem for many companies. Drums are big, heavy and often full of some kind of chemicals that should not be spilled. I have worked on numerous drum-handling projects over the years, often after an injury has occurred.

A large number of the cases I have seen involved moving drums by hand- 1 or 2 people tip the drum and then roll it slowly where it needs to go. It’s really hard to get a drum off of or onto a pallet. I have also seen a number or injuries caused by moving a drum with a drum dolly. It’s a lot of weight to “break over” so that the load is on the wheels, and this often leads to back, neck and shoulder problems.

You can get an attachment for your forklift that will handle drums with ease, but a lot of companies just don’t have the floor space to operate a forklift in the area where they store and access drums. A simple way to handle drums in limited space is with a Roto-Lift or Roto-Grip from Valley Craft. These machines look like a pallet stacker, but come with an attachment that clamps around the drum to lift it. The straddle style fits on the corner of a pallet, so you can easily lift or place a drum on a pallet. There is also a counterbalanced version, which eliminates the outriggers and makes the lift more maneuverable. Using these lifters make drum-handling a one-person job and greatly reduce the chance of injury, dropping or spilling a drum. The Roto-Lift and Roto-Grip will also rotate the drum so the contents can be dumped.

The new versions are fully powered, so the machine does the pushing during travel. Any operator can move up to 1000 lbs. with the power drive wheels and full hydraulic lift functions. The use of the power drive decreases injury risk by another 50%. These lifts have the added benefit of easy maintenance.

More on Investing in Ergonomic Mats

July 13, 2010

  

Hog Heaven Mat is Industrial Tough

 

I actually got some positive feedback for my blog! I had written a blog about the importance of good ergonomic matting and I am going to add a bit more evidence. In the last year, one customer has added 1368 square feet of matting to their building. The cost for these mats has been $9,300. This investment has cost the company less than half of the projected cost of a back injury! 

One of the mats that we prefer is the Hog Heaven mat from the Andersen Company. This mat has as static dissipative nitrile rubber surface, which is resistant to oils and chemicals. It performs very well in Industrial environments. The top is textured for slip-resistance. This mat will not curl or crack and it has four OSHA colored safety borders available. The mat has a gentle bevel around the edges, which removes the tripping hazard created by some mats. It is also safe to use in welding production areas. The National Floor Safety Institute has certified this mat as slip resistant. The mats come in standard and custom sizes, so there are hundreds of configurations. Best of all, the manufacturer faithfully ships standard or custom mats in 5 days or less, so you don’t have to wait long.

We think this mat is the most comfortable one on the market and it a great value. We have a number of Hog Heaven mats that have been in service at customer locations for over 5 years, without a complaint! 

  

Freight Elevator or Vertical Conveyor?

May 24, 2010

A potential customer called today with a dilemma.  He has a new building going up and will need a way to move material to a second level of the building.   He has been told that he will need a freight elevator, but he doesn’t have the budget.  He asked if we had any solutions.

An affordable alternative to a freight elevator is a Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor or VRC.  This equipment is designed to move materials, not people, so it is much less expensive (1/3 the cost) of a freight elevator. 

The VRC is generally designed for the application, to the load sizes, weights and characteristics of each operation.  We have worked on lifts as small as 30″ x 30″ up to giant VRC’s big enough to lift 2 cars.  One or more stops can be designed into the lift, with entries and exits on various sides of the platform, so they are very flexible.  We have even used VRC’s to replace old, outdated freight elevators.   Many VRC’s are used in applications where people have been transporting materials up stairways.  That can be a really expensive injury!

Some time ago, I had a customer call and say that they had been lifting barrels to a mezzanine level with a forklift and that they had dropped a barrel.  It caused a huge incident, with the local fire department, HAZMAT, EPA and the associated clean-up.  They were lucky that no one was hurt.  We quoted and installed a VRC for them.  They were so happy with the improvement in safety and productivity that they bought a second VRC for another location. 

A VRC can be a big savings, not only in the initial project cost, but in the longer-term for process improvement and a much higher level of safety.

Safety Railing and Bollards

April 20, 2010
I had a call from a prospect today about safety railing and bollards. They have an application where they need the protection of a rail or bollard, but they need to be able to remove them easily when moving large equipment through the plant. There are a couple of solutions to this problem.
Safety railing is available with removable rails. This allows access to electrical panels or other plant

Utilities. The rails fit into a slot so that they can just be lifted out. Normal rail systems would be bolted, and could be removed, but would require some tools and time.

There are also removable bollards in a couple of styles. Both versions require a base, which is placed down into the concrete. One style has a flange that projects up out of the concrete several inches. The bollard snaps over and locks onto the flange. The second style is flush with the floor and the locking mechanism is below the floor. The bollard fits into the sleeve and has a twist lock. This style also has a cap, so there can be a completely flush floor when needed.

Another style of bollard is collapsible. These bollards have a pin at the bottom, which pulls out and allows the bollard to fold to the floor. This leaves about a 3″ profile. These are nice if you regularly need to move

The bollard, but they are more “visual” and offer much less impact resistance than other bollards.

We get a lot of complaints about bollards and the damage to forklifts. Bollards protect vital areas of the facility, but they can cause major damage to lift trucks. Damage can be minimized by using a foam cover on the bollard. That won’t help if the forklift hits it at top speed, but it certainly helps with the scrapes and minor impacts.