Before OSHA was created in 1971, an estimated 38 workers were killed on the job every day. Today, that number is down to about 12 fatal injuries per day. While this is a drastic improvement, workplace safety still has a long way to go. Manufacturing companies in particular have taken huge strides by adhering to several common practices for machine safety. For example, most workers know to wear safety glasses, avoid loose clothing and jewelry while operating machines, clearly label fluids, and follow lockout/tagout procedures. But still, there are a number of risks that are far less obvious – and unfortunately very common. What’s worse, some of these are known hazards that machine operators recognize but dismiss because they are unsure of a way around them. Accident prevention starts with a general awareness – so let’s take a look at three risks in particular I’ve seen in past years:
Risk 1: Forgoing Ear Protection
Ear protection in the workplace is not typically a requirement. Yet hearing loss or impairment is extremely prevalent, even in work environments with relatively low (but constant) decibels. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational illness in manufacturing, accounting for 1 in 9 recordable illnesses in the U.S. More than 72 percent of these cases occur among workers in the manufacturing sector. To prevent this, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends removing hazardous noise from the workplace wherever possible and using hearing protectors in areas where dangerous noise exposures cannot be controlled or eliminated. Implementing standards for noise control will not only reduce occupational hearing loss, but create a better work environment where it’s easier to concentrate. For more information on hearing loss prevention programs, check out these resources from NIOSH.
Risk 2: Reaching Inside or Climbing Inside a Machine
Despite the potential risks, there are a number of scenarios that may require a machinist to reach or climb inside a CNC machine. A common example is a machinist who needs to swap out a three-jaw chuck. Rather than climbing inside, it’s best to use a crane or lift system to assist the machinist in lifting and installing the chuck. Another example can be seen when using a manual-style back counterbore tool, which requires a machinist to attach the blade by hand. This practices poses significant risk – operators may forget to take the cutter off after a cut (which can be harmful to both the machine and operator), and cutting fluids create slippery surfaces that lead to accidents. To prevent this, solutions like the Autofacer® are extremely effective, as they eliminate the need for operator intervention. Learn more about how the Autofacer® increases manufacturing safety.
Risk 3: Overriding Door Safety Interlock
Related to Risk 2, a CNC machine’s door safety interlock feature is designed to prevent machinists from climbing inside the machine when it’s running. However, despite the known dangers, there are a number of reasons that prompt operators to override this feature. For one, machine windows may have very poor visibility: they get cracked, worn, or sprayed by fluids, leading operators to open the door during a cycle to keep an eye on things and ensure programs are running smoothly. In doing so, parts can come loose and fly out; or the machine itself can break. Operators may also override a door lock for something as standard as topping off coolant while a machine is running. Ideally, no scenario would be important enough to warrant overriding the door safety interlock. At the very least, be sure you are aware of the risks involved, and you’re doing what you can to implement safer policies and workarounds for these common yet risky practices. Safety features and procedures exist for good reason, and should be enforced whenever possible. The more comfortable employees become in overlooking them, the more they are exposed to harmful workplace risks.
Keep in mind, safety is and always has been a top priority for our team at Steiner Technologies – and we design our tools and solutions with the most discerning standards in mind. If you are interested in learning more about Steiner’s custom solutions, and how they contribute to a safer (and more profitable) environment, we’d love to connect with you.