2 high hazard conveyor priorities - just in time for the machinery safety blitz

Jan 12, 2016

ConveyorMinistry of Labour inspectors will be on high alert for conveyor belt violations during the safe operation of machinery blitz running from January 18 to February 26. Here's a tip for any workplace with a conveyor: most injuries occur during cleaning and maintenance. In fact, two Ontario firms were recently fined $60,000 each after workers were injured while cleaning conveyor belts.

"It's often when we do things out of the ordinary that injuries happen," explains Jennifer MacFarlane, a key account manager for WSPS. While conveyor-related injuries occur less often, "the injuries that do occur tend to be more severe," continues MacFarlane. Ministry of Labour statistics show that between 2005 and 2008, two Ontario workers died and 48 were seriously injured in conveyor incidents, resulting in 74,459 lost workdays and a cost of more than $7.3 million.

The following are the two most common causes of conveyor belt injuries during maintenance and cleaning. Make them a prevention priority:

  • lack of guarding around in-running nip hazards in the areas of head drums, tail drums and drive mechanisms
  • improper lockout

"MOL Inspectors take a 'zero tolerance' approach to any contraventions found under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations," advises MacFarlane, "and so should your business." Here are conveyor safety steps you can take to prepare for the blitz.

  • Carry out a fresh hazard assessment of the conveyor belt, identifying all in-running nip hazards, pinch points, shear points (where a moving conveyor part meets or passes near a stationary point such as a wall), spill points (where material could spill from a conveyor), and power transmission interfaces that require guarding. Talk to employees and supervisors about areas they have concerns about. Document your findings.
  • Ensure guarding is in place for all identified hazards. Use the AUTO test, says MacFarlane, to ensure it is adequate for the job. "Simply put, if people can reach Around, Under, Through or Over your control to access the moving parts or other hazard, it is not adequately guarded."
  • Correct any guarding deficiencies using in-house expertise or outside contractors.
  • Revisit your lockout procedures. Lockout is required during both scheduled and unplanned maintenance, and while cleaning equipment and clearing jams or materials. Update the procedures if required.
  • Ensure workers are trained and supervised on lockout and other related conveyor safety procedures. Keep training records up to date.
  • Ensure all new employees understand your commitment to "zero" injuries.

Going forward,

  • Explore ways to maintain and repair conveyors so that workers aren’t tempted to remove guards and other protective devices, or reach into dangerous spots.
  • When introducing a new conveyor, ensure it is designed to reduce the frequency of under-conveyor clean-ups, conveyor maintenance, removing jams, etc.
  • Update your lockout procedures and training program on a regular basis.
  • Encourage your joint health and safety committee or representative to check on conveyor hazards during their monthly inspections.

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