An increasing number of warehouses are using conveyor systems to move products to and from different areas of the facility.
These systems are often in motion and present certain safety challenges, particularly in a fast-moving and hectic environment, and during busy periods. There are always pinch points where fingers or limbs can get stuck and injured, if not amputated, and moving conveyor belts offer rich grounds for hair and loose clothing to get entangled.
There are more than 50 workplace fatalities a year where conveyors are the primary source of injury. Because workplace accidents account for nearly 25% of all warehouse workers' compensation claims, management should consider the following:
Entanglements are the most common conveyor-related injury, and they can be dangerous. Insist that workers with long hair keep it covered and secured so it cannot get tangled in machinery. Workers should also avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing, watches, bracelets, or rings.
Don't stand on equipment
It is never acceptable to stand, sit, step, or ride on a conveyer. In fact, workers should never touch the machinery. There are plenty of places where someone can get caught and pinched in a conveyor system. For some it might be tempting to ride on top of one, but it can cause serious injury or even death.
Additionally, most conveyors were not built to hold an adult human's weight. Being on top of one can damage it.
Stay clear during powering up
If the machinery has been shut down for the night and a new shift is starting, or if the equipment has just been repaired or serviced, employees need to stand clear of the conveyor when it is being powered up.
Under OSHA regulations for conveyors, the system must be equipped with a warning signal that is sounded prior to the machinery being started up. Make sure you train your staff to immediately step away from the conveyor when they hear that alarm.
Don't touch safety guards
Employees should never remove or modify guards and safety divides on the conveyor. They are there to protect workers and any alterations that are not recommended by the manufacturer could result in injury.
Employees or outside parties that service or repair conveyors should be the only ones who are authorized to remove guards or safety divides in order to reach machinery and moving parts that need to be covered during operation for safety reasons. Anybody servicing the machinery needs to power down and lock out conveyers before working on the conveyer. It should not be turned back on until the protective features are back in place.
Understand the system
All employees that work near a conveyor should know where the stop and start controls are located, in case of emergency. Employees should be trained in how to stop and start the system, and in what instances they should stop the conveyor.
Make sure that all controls are clearly marked.
Observe lockout/tagout rules
Nobody should service the conveyor until the motor is disconnected. Likewise, maintenance should not commence until electrical, air, or hydraulic power sources are disconnected or blocked out.
Use lockout/tagout systems to prevent equipment from being powered up while maintenance or repairs are underway.
No other modifications
Employees should not modify or use conveyor controls inappropriately. You should have a regular inspection schedule to ensure that none of your workers have modified or disconnected any controls.
If you do plan to modify the system, management should approve any changes.
Train your workers in safety
You should have a well-planned and thorough safety training regimen for employees on how to operate the conveyor safely. Hold regular refreshers for staff to ensure that they keep safety top of mind.
Urge staff to report safety issues
To head off problems before they injure someone, you should stress to your employees that you have an open-door policy for reporting unsafe conditions to supervisors. This includes instances of:
Employees should be allowed to report issues anonymously, so they are not singled out by other staff for "tattle-telling."
With conveyors a normal feature of many busy warehouses, employees who work near or around them should be trained in all safety issues to ensure they don't injure themselves or a co-worker.
Employees should also know how to respond in case of an emergency.
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