Conveyors are widely popular in manufacturing, automotive, food processing, commercial fishing, paper and printing, and various other industries. They are the ultimate means to boost productivity, efficiency, and workflow.
However, proper care is required when working with machinery, as even a little neglect and carelessness can risk workers' safety.
Some of the primary reasons behind conveyor belt hazards are loose items stuck in the system, neglect of timely maintenance, not limiting authorization access to certified personnel, and abiding by the Lock-out/Tag-out protocols during system fix.
If not paid attention to or fixed correctly on time, the faulty conveyors can result in extreme outcomes, including shearing, crushing, or entangling of limbs leading to limb trauma, amputation, or the worker's death.
Henceforth, knowing about the safety measures and precautions is extremely important to ensure the working personnel is unharmed and the machinery functions correctly.
The following guide covers all about Conveyor Belt Safety for your employees , including a detailed insight into which conveyor parts can lead to hazards. We'll also go through the Dos and Don'ts of conveyor safety tips to safeguard the working personnel and the machinery in the surrounding.
So, without further ado, let's dive right in!
How Dangerous Are Conveyors?
Conveyors have many types - belts, screws, chains, rollers, gravity conveyors, and more. Despite this, their basic purpose remains the same: to assist in the transportation of goods.
This transportation brings significant benefits to the industry, for it eliminates the labor work, provides them comfort, and leads to more profits.
However, like any machinery, conveyors can also lead to severe injury trauma if the fault is not detected and fixed on time.
Human contact with the belt conveyors can cause the worker’s fingers, hands, or other limbs to be dragged in, crushed, or sheared entirely, resulting in blood loss, bone breakage, serious limb trauma, amputation, and even a lost death.
These hazards can also cause the worker bruises, fractures, strains, sprains, spinal injuries, chemical burns, skin damage, blood loss, and body burns. You should also forget the property damage and harm to other equipment devices in the surroundings.
As a result, understanding the various parts of a conveyor and the expected hazards can provide a detailed insight into when and how to maintain the machinery. Besides, proper safety measures and precautions should be followed for workers’ safety.
What are Some of the Common Hazards Involving Conveyors?
The conveyor is made of various parts, and each requires caution. However, careless and inattentive behavior can lead to dangerous accidents and severe injuries. If not paid attention on time, the consequences can be life-threatening.
The following is a quick chart of some common conveyor belt hazards , including various parts of a conveyor and associated risks with each:
|Pinch Points||Also known as Nib Points, pinch points are rotatory parts in a machine providing a common meet point for two individual conveyor surfaces/rollers.||Dragging in, crushing, or entangling limbs leading to amputation or death.||These are areas where alive (fingers, hands, hair, etc.) and inanimate objects (loose clothing, jewelry, rings, etc.) can get caught up, harming both the workers and systems. The resulting damage could be as little as a mere blister or as severe as limb trauma, amputation, or the worker's death.|
|Assembly Areas||Assembly areas in a conveyor are placed between a fixed and mobile part.||Shearing or crushing of limbs leading to intense friction of skin against the surface and extreme blood loss.||These areas where reckless human contact can crush limbs (fingers and hands) and extreme pressure can even lead to bone breakage.|
|Sliding Parts||Steel beds that work with return rollers in a conveyor allow the smooth running of the conveyor belt across the surface.||Shearing or crushing of limbs due to pressure between parts and extreme blood loss.||These are the areas where incautiousness can result in pressing down of body parts between the sliding parts, and the resulting injury can involve limb crushing, shearing, or amputation.|
|Fallen Materials||Items placed on a conveyor always risk falling down the trail.||Bruises, fractures, strains, sprains, spinal injuries, chemical burns, amputation, and death.||Especially if the items being transported are heavy or dangerous, a sudden fall from the trail to a worker operating nearby can lead to muscle injury, bone breakage, and even death.|
|Electrical outlets||Create a stable connection between the electrical equipment (conveyors powered by engine/motor in this case) and the electrical grid.||Skin damage, blood loss, body burns, death. Also, property damage and harm to other equipment devices nearby.||Electrical outlets that aren't working and old, out-of-date equipment can result in an explosion of the conveyor. Conveyor Belt fires and explosions can burn workers' bodies, lead to severe limb trauma, and lost lives. Workers may go through amputation due to serious body damage and may not be able to return to work afterward.|
Dos and Don'ts of Working With a Conveyor
Now that we have covered what dangers a conveyor imposes on workers, let's learn the safety precautions workers should follow to avoid those hazards.
The following are the Dos and the Don'ts of conveyor safety for workers in a factory:
Dos: What to do to Avoid Conveyor Hazards?
Daily Inspect Conveyor Controls
A well-functioning conveyor system depends on perfectly integrated electrical controls, which, if starts malfunctioning, can lead to severe consequences.
Regardless of how easy the automation is, a minor change can lead to significant issues. If someone has tempered, modified, or disconnected the conveyor controls, accidents are likely to happen due to errors in system operation.
Thus, make sure to:
- Daily inspect if the control conveyors are functioning correctly.
- Review controls that are not working smoothly and take measures to fix them immediately.
- Avoid operating on the conveyor or nearby it if an error is suspected.
- Place emergency stop signs in prominent and easily accessible areas to avoid unhanding of conveyors in sensitive locations.
Beware of the Surroundings
Apart from daily/timely inspection, workers should also look for any possible fault in conveyors and report as soon as possible.
Fixing a problem at the right time will ultimately save the expected dangers later (loose guards, a worker stuck in the conveyor/riding a conveyor).
Thus, workers should be made aware of the following to implicate reporting the possible faults in the equipment:
- Workers should report any potential risk or operational issues immediately to management.
- If saving a person in danger risks the safety of others, reporting the person in charge is the safest option instead of jumping into the danger yourself.
- There may not be enough time to save the person involved in risk. So, clearly stating who needs help and whom they can reach out to is extremely important to avoid delaying taking appropriate actions.
- Before workers can operate in the conveyor area, proper training on when and how to report safety hazards is mandatory.
- Workers should also be informed of possible risks involved in the work and how to avoid them.
Limit Authorization Access to Conveyors
Conveyors may seem easy to install/operate, yet allowing every worker to access the operating controls can dangerously increase the errors and potential risks. Thus, those who don't know how to handle the equipment safely should be kept away from the operation/management areas.
Since handling machinery can be hazardous to those unaware of the operating controls or not adequately trained, the operational personnel should be highly selective in who can access the control system. Such an approach promises the safety of both the workers and the effective working of the conveyor system.
The following are some of the ways risks and accidents can be avoided in the work field:
- Only certified staff should be allowed to operate or maintain the conveyor.
- No unauthorized worker should be given access to operate the conveyor.
- When a fault is reported in the system, only the certified, trained maintenance personnel should fix it.
- Staff authorized to operate conveyors should receive proper training on the operation of the conveyor, major and minor defects, and how to fix them safely.
- The authorized users should stay timely updated with the latest advancements in the field and beware of recent risks.
Follow Lock-out/Tag-out Protocols
In conveyors, the term "Lock-out/Tag-out" are safety protocols that refer to:
- During maintenance, the conveyor with the possible risks is fully shut down.
- The conveyor system is not operate-able in any way until the repair is finished.
Following Lock-out/Tag-out is a MUST to avoid any hazards in the working area. It ensures workers' safety because if the machinery is not fixed correctly, it can harm, injure, or even lead to workers' death.
Thus, the following precautions should be followed:
- The repairing personnel should be fully aware of the required Lock-out/Tag-out Protocols regarding conveyors.
- The Lock-out/Tag-out Protocols and the machinery maintenance should be performed only by properly trained, certified maintenance personnel.
- Workers should not be allowed to visit the maintenance area as it can injure them.
- Workers should not be given access to work near conveyors unless the maintenance personnel performs the performance test.
Don'ts: What NOT to do to Avoid Conveyor Hazards?
Avoid Taking Losing Objects In the Conveyor Working Area
Whether the conveyor moves in straight lines or different directions, loose items are in direct contact with dangers imposed on workers near conveyors. It is because:
Belt conveyors transport items, but certain other items can also get stuck in them, leaving the conveyor belts to jam, malfunction, or blow up.
These loose items may include:
- Loose clothing like ties, bows, and cloth belts
- Minor hair accessories like bobby pins, etc.
To avoid loose items getting stuck in a conveyor and making it jammed or causing any other danger, one should take the following precautions:
- Loose inanimate items (hairpins, small clips) should NOT be allowed within the premises of the operating conveyor area.
- Wearing jewelry items should be prohibited (watches, rings, bracelets) to reduce risks of metal/plastic/other material interaction with conveyors.
- Long hair should be kept out of the way; they should be tied securely and tucked under caps to avoid flying to conveyors.
- Loose clothing items like ties or bows should be tucked inside the shirt or disallowed entirely.
Avoid Workers' Access to Pinch Points
As stated earlier, pinch points are hazardous, and they can injure workers' fingers, hands, and other body areas leading to limb trauma, amputation, or even death.
Pinch points are where loose hair, jewelry, and clothing items can get stuck, jamming, malfunctioning, or exploding the conveyor. Conveyors are full of moving parts like these, including gears, belts, and chains, which can be unsafe and risky for workers.
So, the following are preventive measures for workers exposed to pinch points in conveyors:
- Avoid loose hair, jewelry, and clothing items in the working area.
- Inspect all the pinch points before and after a working day to avoid any possible damage later
- Conveyor guards should not be given authority to bypass, install/uninstall, or modify pinch points.
- Workers should not be allowed to enter dangerous areas; an easy practice to implement is to keep guard openings small.
Avoid Working "ON" Conveyors
The golden rule is simple: conveyors are supposed to move items, not humans. Certain items can blow up a conveyor, so workers should take great care not to use conveyors as a transport means.
Pinch points in a conveyor are dangerous; if a garment/loose cloth is caught in these points, it would be shredded to pieces within seconds. Similarly, human fingers, hands, and other limbs are always in danger of getting badly injured or amputated.
Hence, the following must be avoided to reduce severe injuries during work:
- Workers should be strictly prohibited from sitting, standing, or walking on conveyors.
- Workers should be adequately trained to handle pinch points in conveyors carefully.
- Conveyors should NEVER be used for riding.
- Place emergency stop signs for the dangers of sitting, standing, or riding to remind workers of the potential risks.
Beware of Conveyor Guards
Conveyor guards are one of the most crucial parts of a conveyor system.
Besides enriching the system's aesthetics, they are responsible for safeguarding workers and other personnel from the risks and dangers of sharp metal edges on conveyors. And though conveyor guards add another layer of safety to the system, they can also inflict severe risks if not correctly mounted.
So, inspecting conveyor guards is equally important in ensuring the workers remain safe during work operations. The following precautions are vital in this regard:
- Daily inspect that all the conveyor guards are in their respective places.
- Workers should NOT be allowed to temper, modify, or install/uninstall conveyor guards.
- NEVER operate or start a conveyor if a guard is not securely mounted.
- Limit the workers' exposure to guards by keeping the guard openings' small.
Conveyor Belt Safety for Your Employees - The Quick Guide
The following list provides a quick insight into conveyor safety for working personnel:
- Long hair should be tied up/properly secured
- Loose clothing items should be secured inside the shirt
- Loose clothing, jewelry, and hair items should not be allowed
- Inspect all the pinch points before and after a working day
- Daily inspect that all the conveyor guards are in their respective place
- Daily check if the control conveyors are functioning properly
- A conveyor with a sharp pinch point should not be exposed to workers
- A conveyor with an unsecure mounted guard should not be operated until fixed
- Only authorized operating personnel should be given access to bypass, install/uninstall, or modify pinch points
- Only the certified, trained maintenance personnel should fix a faulty conveyor
- Workers should not be given authority to bypass, install/uninstall, or modify pinch points
- The Lock-out/Tag-out Protocols should be followed properly for a faulty conveyor
- The conveyor should be fixed and tested by properly trained, certified maintenance personnel before operating it
- A defective conveyor should not be started/operated before it is appropriately fixed/tested
- Guard openings should be kept small to stop workers from entering
- Workers should not be allowed to enter dangerous areas
- Emergency stop signs for dangers of sitting, standing, or riding should be placed in the working area
- Workers should NEVER sit, stand, or walk on conveyors
Our Final Words
Undoubtedly, conveyors eliminate manual labor, boost efficiency, and speed-up productivity. However, they also increase risks to the workers' safety and can be threatening if not timely maintained.
A faulty conveyor can lead to fingers or hands dragging in, crushing, or shearing of a worker. The injury can be serious enough to result in limb trauma, amputation, or even the worker's death.
Thus, following Lock-out/Tag-out protocols, permitting only the authorized staff to control the conveyor, and limiting working personnel's access to operational controls are necessary to ensure conveyor safety and keep everyone safe in the area.
Also, loose cloth/jewelry/food items should be kept away from conveyors, as they can get stuck and jam the machinery.