Conveyor Safety 101: Best Practices for Plant Visitors
Conveyor safety is critical for ensuring workers remain safe and free of injury.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau Statistics reports more than 50 workplace fatalities occur a year where conveyors are the primary source of injury. For this reason, any facility that utilizes conveyors should make safety training a priority for all employees.
But what about salespeople, customers, truck drivers, inspectors, and other visitors to a manufacturing plant or warehouse? How can plant managers ensure safety for those who have not been trained in proper conveyor safety protocol, and who aren’t around the equipment on a daily basis?
Best practices for operations managers to consider:
Preparation & Information: Visitors should be briefed on the conveyor safety protocols in your facility before they are allowed into an operations area. This may be a five or ten minute briefing. Those who have no particular reason to approach conveyors should be instructed to maintain a buffer zone. Those who need close access to conveyors should be briefed on safe behaviors and your company’s expectations.
Inspection: Plant visitors should be inspected for loose clothes, accessories (e.g., watches, bracelets, or rings), or long hair that could be caught before being allowed near the conveyor line. This is one of the most common conveyor-related injuries, and the consequences can be devastating. Any required safety apparel (e.g., vests, earplugs, boots, hair nets, etc.) should be provided or required before plant entry.
Enforcement: Only trained employees or qualified vendors such as external maintenance personnel should be allowed to operate conveyors. Regular, frequent updates and refresher courses should be included in a company’s training program and preventing unsafe acts should be a part of company culture. Visitors should also be informed of safe behavior standards if they are going to be near conveyors. Your employees should be well versed in conveyor safety so that they can help make visitors safe when they are in a conveyor area. In fact, they should be trained to look out for the safety of visitors. They should be authorized to stop people, to interrupt tours, to ask questions, and to otherwise help ensure the safety of visitors. This might also extend to office personnel who are frequently in and out of the plant, but not thoroughly familiar with conveyor equipment and its potential dangers.
Escorts: Visitors should always be escorted when they are near machinery—including conveyors—that might potentially harm them. While it’s not necessarily possible for every visitor to your plant to have the same level of safety training that everyday workers have, it’s critical to ensure they understand the potential hazards and that knowledgeable employees are nearby to assist them and help make their visits safer.
Communication: Plant managers should always be sure to train employees who work in a conveyor area how to operate the equipment and how to properly use the controls and emergency stops. Owners of conveyors should ensure proper labels are affixed to the conveyor warning of particular hazards involved in operation of their conveyors. Employees and plant visitors alike should be alerted to and obey these warnings in an effort to reduce the possibility of injury around conveying equipment.
Reporting: Untrained individuals trying to clear conveyor jams can result in potentially dangerous situations as well as damaged equipment. To avoid situations such as these, company culture should encourage workers to report unsafe conditions or scenarios. Workers (and visitors) who aren’t trained to clear jams or otherwise work on conveyors should be trained to call facility maintenance to clear jams.
Everyone involved in a conveyor-using facility can be responsible for safety, including employees, customers, and other visitors. Preventing unsafe acts isn’t just a precaution—it’s a necessity toward ensuring a productive, efficient working environment and protecting the company’s bottom line.
Additional Resources for Conveyor Safety
- Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association
- OSHA Conveyor Standards
- New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health
About the Author: Scott Stone is a 24-year veteran of the material handling industry at Cisco-Eagle. He can be reached through the company’s website, www.cisco-eagle.com, or by calling 888-877-3861.