Operator safety is a major consideration when selecting automated powder handling equipment.
Manual packaging can be a laborious, repetitive and monotonous task, frequently carried out in a dusty, noisy, or otherwise unpleasant environment. Workplace injuries under these conditions can be frequent – lifting, repetitive strain, breathing or respiratory problems, hearing loss and others. Lost time at work, human error, high staff turnover, shift rotations and mandatory breaks are all a constant drain on productivity and efficiency.
Installing an automated powder handling solution can address a number of potential safety issues and simultaneously improve productivity, the work environment, and employee morale.
When installing an automated solution, important considerations must be addressed to ensure the equipment is suitable and safe for use. These considerations include:
Is the powder handling equipment simple to operate?
Automated filling, discharging and conveying equipment must be simple to operate. These machines must be straight forward and have intuitive controls. Complex controls mean frustration and more chance for errors that can result in accidents.
Powder handling equipment safety and guards:
This is a critical area. Equipment manufacturers should be well aware of regulations governing machine safety and should have taken actions to ensure the safety of their products.
Some questions to ask include:
- Is guarding fitted and is it adequate?
- Are interlocks fitted where required and are they positively acting?
- Do fixed guards require tools for removal?
Nevertheless, the end user should consider all aspects of and functions relating to the machine, production, cleaning, maintenance and other items. They also need to consider the accessibility for each task. It is very easy to enclose a machine for safety but will doing so make critical actions like cleaning and maintenance time consuming and difficult? This can not only result in more downtime and less productivity but provides the exact environment where frustration leads to the removal or disabling of guards and exposing more serious hazards.
Questions to ask include:
- Is the enclosure locked?
- Are all enclosures fitted with electrical warning signs?
- Are they free from debris and foreign objects?
Consider your staff. Involve them in the process and ensure that they are correctly trained and competent. This not only involves operators, but maintenance technicians, cleaning staff, and anyone who comes into contact with the equipment. Ensure they have proper procedures and that they understand their responsibilities as well as the value of the powder handling system to your business. When automating a traditionally manual process, operators are often cynical or sometimes even hostile to such a change. With involvement and training, you will achieve a better, more productive and safer environment.
When considering safety on your new powder handling system, don’t just look at the number of emergency stop buttons, or how much mesh surrounds the system. Consider your employee who will be operating and maintaining the system. Involve these employees in the process and make them want the equipment as much as you do. Remember, by moving to automation in the first place you are taking the biggest step to improving health and safety for your workforce.