Beyond productivity and profitability, one of the most important priorities of any responsible company is protecting workers and providing employees with safety in the workplace.
While conveyor systems were initially invented to speed up the process of moving materials, the technology later revealed to provide production companies with many benefits. And one of the biggest advantages of using a conveyor system is increased workplace safety.
In this article, we will discuss how conveyor systems help prevent unsafe conditions and minimize accidents in the work environment, along with what to consider when designing a conveyor system for your facility. We will also share conveyor safety tips and talk about the potential hazards associated with conveyors when safety solutions are not put in place.
Conveyor Systems vs. the Alternatives
Repetitive motions like lifting, carrying, and pushing are some of the most common causes of workplace injury. Manual handling of materials forces employees to put strain on their bodies by repeatedly bending, stooping, twisting, reaching, and exerting pressure. Not only does this impact their physical health, but it lowers their morale and affects their well-being. Workers that need to manually move products and materials from one part of the workplace to another is due to the lack of technology that automates the transfer of materials throughout the facility.
Some companies use wheelbarrows, cranes, forklifts, and other machinery on wheels to move products and materials, so workers don’t have to transport it manually. However, heavy machinery, when combined with human error, can have drastic results. Beyond product wastage and property damage, forklift accidents can cause injury or worse, death.
Not only are forklifts unsafe and can cause gruesome accidents, but they also take up space and require safety training and education to learn forklift safety and proper unit handling, particularly how to maneuver through the plant’s narrow spaces. Forklifts also lower productivity because workers aren’t allowed in areas where a forklift is currently in operation. When a forklift is in use in a certain part of a plant, pedestrian traffic needs to be diverted, slowing down operations.
Increase Workplace Safety and Productivity with Conveyor Systems
Conveyor systems are pieces of mechanical equipment designed to automate the transfer of materials from one location to another within a facility. The first conveyor belts moved products and materials from point A to point B in a straight line. Over the centuries, conveyor systems have evolved dramatically and come in all shapes and sizes. They can move materials around curves and from one elevation to another with almost no limitation of height. Mechanical conveyor systems have speed controls, which lower the risk of products becoming damaged due to high speeds.
Most importantly, conveyor systems remove the need for employees to perform repetitive manual moves to transfer items from one area of the plant to another. Conveyor systems not only save workers from making repeated trips across the same routes, but they also remove the need for forklifts and other heavy machinery on the facility floor.
Conveyor systems can carry different weights and move materials through all phases of processing and packaging, minimizing the need for manual handling of bulk materials. Reducing the employees’ exposure to machinery and eliminating laborious tasks leads to higher productivity and reduced risk of accidents.
The right conveyor system also increases workplace safety by maximizing floor space. Depending on the design, conveyor systems can be configured to use overhead space to allow for larger workspaces. More space on the production floor means lowering the risk of collisions and workers causing traffic in tight spaces. It also leads to easier housekeeping and ensuring the facility is kept safe and sanitary.
What to Consider When Designing Conveyor Systems to Improve Workplace Safety
The right type of conveyor for your company will depend on product specifications, like product type, dimensions, weight, and production rate. To optimize your conveyor system for workplace safety and maximize your available space, you can have it custom built to maneuver throughout the plant.
When working with an engineer to design your facility’s conveyor system, you should also consider conveyor safety elements, like pull cords for emergency stops, and covers and guards, like guards railings or a barrier guard that offer fall protection. To ensure occupational health, you should also consider conveyor height, conveyor width, conveyor speed, and ergonomics that improve processes, performance, and productivity.
The reason why conveyor height must be taken into consideration, especially when designing a traditional conveyor belt, is because you may have workers of varying heights. If most tasks need to be performed in a standing position, then the conveyor height should be comfortable enough for tall workers or have an adjustable platform for shorter employees.
Conveyor speed should also be taken into account for conveyor systems that are not enclosed. Your workers need to be able to keep up if their tasks involve handling materials on the production line. Conveyor width should also accommodate the arm reach of an average worker so as not to strain them if their tasks involve repetitive movements.
It’s also important to mention that not all conveyor systems are created equal, and therefore, some conveyors are more unsafe than others. For example, traditional belt conveyors, which consist of a belt and pulleys, may pose potential safety hazards if the belt were to slip under machinery or other assemblies. Because they are exposed systems, they also pose an amputation hazard. Roller conveyors can be dangerous if limbs, clothing, or even hair get caught in the space between the series of rollers. Because screw conveyors involve a revolving shaft with a twisted plate that remains close to the surrounding pipe, hands may be pulled in if not careful.
The safest type of conveyor systems are the ones that are enclosed because they eliminate the risk of foreign objects falling into the machinery or hair, loose clothing, or arms getting pulled in. For example, cable and tubular drag conveyor systems hold materials between discs within an enclosed tube. The enclosed tube is not only crucial for ensuring the materials are kept safe and contamination-free and ensure employee safety, but it also helps the facility stay dust-free. Fine dust on the production floor can be slippery. Therefore, keeping the facility free of dust is a way to prevent workers from slipping and hurting themselves or others. The cleaner the plant, the safer it is for all your employees.
Manually moving products and materials throughout the plant or operating heavy machinery within the facility increases the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. To enhance safety management and improve employee health and well-being, use the right conveyor equipment that meets safety standards. Companies can also increase production and protect their workers from potential hazards by educating them on worker safety, safe operating procedures, and conveyor controls.
When organizations train and show their employees that their health and safety are of critical importance and provide proper training for conveyors operation, the result is a workforce with higher morale and more motivation to be productive.