1.  Be sure to guard all pinch points. 

The idea of a pinch point seems self-explanatory, but there are actually several categories of areas that could be pinch points. As detailed in OSHA 1910.211(d)(44), these are places where part of a person’s body could be caught:

  • Between the moving parts of a press or auxiliary equipment,
  • Between moving and stationary parts of a press or auxiliary equipment, or
  • Between the material and moving part (or parts) of the press or auxiliary equipment.

Nip points are a subcategory of pinch points that involve rotating objects like gears, rollers, belt drives and pulleys. Although the choice of guard will depend on the specific characteristics of the machine, it remains necessary that all pinch points must be guarded to keep operators safe.

2.  Select the appropriate emergency stop devices.

Since conveyors come in different lengths and layouts, it doesn’t always make sense to use a typical pushbutton emergency stop. This is because workers might not always be close enough to reach the button and stop the system when an emergency occurs.

A cost-effective approach would be to use a rope switch, which offers a range of spans. Rope switch installation is simple and can be done all along the conveyor’s perimeter. This means that a person working at any point of the conveyor will have easy access to the safety device and will be able pull the cord to stop the system if necessary.

3.  Design a working safety circuit. 

All safety input devices, including E-stop pushbuttons and rope switches, must be connected to safety-rated logic devices (either safety monitoring relays or a safety controller). Non-safety-rated devices are insufficient for this purpose and should not be used.

Built-in self-monitoring capabilities and redundant circuits are important for ensuring that the safety function prevails in the case of a component failure like a short circuit. The system should also automatically test the correct opening and closing of the safety devices in each on-off cycle.

4.  Make sure your operators are well trained on safety. 

Once you’ve implemented a safety solution, and it’s been validated and verified, the next step is training. You’ll need to train workers on the important conveyor rules, including general operation and maintenance. You should also consider training on functional safety to make sure that everyone understands how safety devices work and how they should be maintained.

Since many conveyor-related injuries occur when workers are performing maintenance activities, putting clear lockout/tagout policies in place and training them on the use of lockout devices to isolate energy sources for machinery to prevent accidental activation is key.

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