A positive approach to safety
23 January 2013
There are many tools available which can enhance plant safety, from everyday workwear to key items of plant equipment that can be purchased and repaired to high levels of safety classification. However to realise the full p
For most industrial and manufacturing companies health and safety has become an established part of their business processes. Yet all too often, health and safety practices are based on a simple assessment of risk, with accident prevention measures and basic employee training the only initiatives that are put in place. Although this approach complies with legislation it is often based on a premise that health and safety practices are a necessary encumbrance to a business.
By comparison, more enlightened companies are recognising that by adopting a positive risk reduction strategy they can both comply with legislation and improve their productivity and profitability. At a simple level, this approach might involve, for example, selection of exactly the right hearing protection or identification of the best hand protection for different tasks to reduce fatigue and personal injury.
However, a positive risk reduction strategy goes far further, encompassing factors ranging from inventory management systems to control the issue of the correct equipment, through to product innovation for easier handling, efficiency and performance, and appropriate machine maintenance and repair techniques.
Take, for example, the requirements for motors that operate in hazardous areas.
The ATEX labelling scheme provides a vital indication of the level of protection offered and the zones in which the motor is suitable for use but the judgement as to whether a repaired motor remains ATEXcompliant is more complex and may require help from a specialist. To maintain safety, operators must be sure that a repaired motor is as safe as a new one, so it is important to enlist the help of a partner that offers an accredited repair service. ERIKS for example provides a reliable repair service, being one of the first companies to have a motor repair workshop approved to undertake ATEX repairs, and because we both repair motors and sell a range of new units designed and certified for use in hazardous locations, we can offer a truly unbiased service.
Of course, safety legislation covers not only key items of plant equipment such as motors, it also embraces workwear, or PPE, and since many engineering operations function in the presence of some particularly aggressive elements - chemicals, molten metals, high pressure fluids, dust, gas - PPE therefore covers a wide range of product areas, from the more complex (for example, breathing apparatus) to the more common, such as eye, foot and hand protection. Here, even a better specification of an item as simple as a glove can enhance safety; for example, gloves must be flexible enough to allow the engineer to manipulate tools with dexterity while still offering adequate protection against hazardous substances.
Similarly, goggles, ear defenders and respiratory protection can improve an engineer's ability to concentrate and work effectively, while a poor specification can have the opposite effect, especially if these items must be worn simultaneously but are incompatible.
In addition to protective clothing and accessories, safety in the engineering workplace can be strongly supported by condition monitoring tools. For example, ultrasonic equipment offers a highly effective level of defence against any malfunction that could pose a threat to safety, such as steam and gas leaks, worn bearings and discharges in faulty high voltage systems.