December 21, 2011
The main topic at the 2011 EDTR Roundtable conference in Wilmington, NC, was safety. Many of the issues involve high forces, metals in motion, and red-hot parts—in other words, topics relevant to any and all tube and pipe producers and fabricators. Editor Eric Lundin summarizes the main hazards and recommended practices for mitigating them.
The processes used to form and fabricate metals involve myriad hazards—complex machines, moving parts, substantial forces, and hot surfaces. The risks are many, so it takes a focused and continuous effort to enhance safety and reduce the frequency and severity of work-related injuries. The most recent Extrusion, Drawing, and Tube Reducing (EDTR) Roundtable conference, held Sept. 18-20 in Wilmington, N.C., and organized by the Tube & Pipe Association International®, focused on best practices for operating metal forming equipment in a safe and productive manner.
Although the subject matter was specific to EDTR processes, the conference had important lessons for any company involved in forming or fabricating metals. The outcome of the conference is a list of suggested practices that apply to any aspect of manufacturing: installing, operating, and maintaining equipment.
Safety doesn’t start when you power up the equipment. It doesn’t start when a piece of equipment is delivered. It starts when you plan to purchase and install a piece of equipment. An early focus on safety can make an installation go smoother and save time down the road.
Many of the hazards in a manufacturing facility aren’t specific to a particular machine or process, but are present throughout the facility.
Slips, Trips, and Falls. Slip, trip, and fall hazards can be present nearly anywhere in any facility, so this is a good place to start.
Hands Off! Purchasing no-touch tools, installing specialized equipment, and developing procedures to prevent employees from making contact with machines and workpieces are key steps in preventing pinch, crush, and burn hazards.
Solitary Confinement. In no case should anyone enter a confined space without using the buddy system. A slip could lead to a fall that could render the person unconscious.
Pickling Steel. Removing surface tarnish and mill scale is usually necessary before working the tube or pipe. One of the most commonly used steel pickling agents, hydrochloric acid, is hazardous to people and equipment.
The most obvious problem caused by a hydraulic leak is a loss of hydraulic pressure, but it can be much worse. Depending on the situation, a leak can lead to a fire. An example is a ruptured hydraulic line allowing the fluid to spew onto a hot extrusion. Be aware that fire-resistant hydraulic fluid (FRHF) oil is fire-resistant, not fireproof.
Nearly everyone is familiar with lockout/tagout procedures. After cutting off the power source, whether it’s electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or some other type, put a lock on the actuator (switch, lever, valve, and so on) so power can’t be applied. If it can’t be locked out, put a tag on it so other personnel know not to energize the equipment.
Several associations, organizations, and government agencies provide hazard and injury prevention information and programs.
www.cdc.gov/niosh (see Hazards & Exposures)
www.osha.gov (see OSHA 1910.39, Fire Prevention Plans)
In 2000 Haynes International’s safety record was nothing to brag about. It had 98 recordable injuries that resulted in 31 lost workday cases (LWDC) and a total of 630 lost workdays (LWDs). At the time, the entire burden for safety rested on the shoulders of the safety manager. The turning point in changing the company’s culture, and improving the safety record, was the hiring of a new chief executive officer, Francis Petro, who brought a new vision of safety to the company. Working safely became everyone’s responsibility; in the new regime, the safety manager was viewed as a safety resource, not the safety resource. Petro’s emphasis on safety continues under the current president and CEO, Mark Comerford, and the current vice president of operations, Scott Pinkham.
Rather than being a formality, the company’s safety program was expanded under Petro and safety became part of the company’s business plan. The company’s goals were safety, quality, productivity, and cost; the CEO emphasized that the goals were in this order, every day, without exception. In addition to a daily safety talk with all employees, the new safety program now includes weekly, monthly, and quarterly safety briefings and monthly safety reviews. The responsibility for safety is on the shop floor, not in an executive’s office; employees report incidents to supervisors, not to the safety manager.
Also, rather than merely tracking safety incidents (lagging indicators), the company tracks the number of safety briefings (leading indicators) to gauge the effectiveness of its safety program. In addition to tracking major events such as recordable injuries and LWDC, it tracks small events such as first aid and even near-misses. Newly hired employees receive four days of safety training, which is organized around various tools or processes, such as proper lockout/tagout procedures, safe use of power tools, ladders, aerial lifts, cranes, slings, mobile cranes, and so on. Other topics are oriented toward environmental factors, such as heat stress and cold weather, and general activities, such as proper lifting, ergonomics, and proper use of personal protective equipment.
The result of this sweeping change showed up in the data. The number of LWDCs has been, for the most part, in single digits since 2000; the glory moment was on the last day of business in December 2009, when it became clear that the company went a full calendar year without any LWDCs.
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