SUNDERLAND – All around the world, waste and recycling is regarded as a high-risk industry. This sector has around six times more fatalities than the industrial average, and, worryingly, the rate is rising..
Most of the accidents relate to moving machinery. In a typical paper recycling facility, the scrap material is loaded onto conveyors, which lead to a shredder or baling press. Although most conveyors have guard rails, there has to be at least one access point where material is introduced. And the access point is the principal hazardous area. What happens if a worker falls onto the conveyor and ends up in the baling press is just too horrific to contemplate. And yet, some of the accidents are caused by people deliberately walking up the conveyor to free a blockage WITHOUT STOPPING THE MACHINERY FIRST.
Traditional methods of preventing this kind of accident include emergency stop buttons, pull-cords, video monitors and a buddy system. But if you’re injured, unconscious or trapped, you may not be able to hit the e-stop or pull the cord. And however vigilant your co-workers may be, their attention can be distracted, with disastrous results.
The recommended solution is to install an automatic personnel protection system. An effective system will monitor when a worker is in danger and stop the machinery, preventing further injury and death.
But the system needs to be absolutely reliable. Because recycling facilities can be cold, damp and prone to high levels of electrical interference, personnel detection has usually got to be fine-tuned for optimum performance. There needs to be a foolproof way of distinguishing human beings from material on the conveyor, and the fact that conveyors are usually constructed from metal can make this difficult.
The most effective way to do this is for each person who works around the hazardous area to wear a detector belt, fitted with transponders. If the worker is detected in the danger zone, the machinery is stopped and further harm or death is prevented, even if the person is injured, unconscious, trapped or concealed.
As the safety legislation requires that employers should do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of their workers, it seems that an automatic personnel protection system is essential in this type of facility and could save your company a heavy fine for non-compliance.
An automatic system has other benefits too. As it eliminates the need for a buddy system, there can be savings on staffing costs. Insurance premiums can be reduced. But surely the greatest benefit is knowing that you’ve done everything possible to prevent an unthinkable accident.
Safetech have been in the automatic personnel protection business since 1986 and since then have acquired a massive amount of experience and know-how. Their latest product is Guardian, which takes advantage of recent developments in hi-tech electronics. The intelligence at the core of Guardian provides sophisticated set-up and diagnostics facilities. And one Guardian system can offer protection for several conveyors, which means dramatic cost savings for customers.
Guardian gives ideal protection for a wide range of processes, including applications in refuse recycling, plants handling paper, board, plastic, metal textiles, furniture and electrical appliances, and many manufacturing and engineering functions. The systems are optimised to cope with high levels of electrical interference and extremes of temperature and humidity.
The concept is very simple – to make human beings distinguishable from material.
Anyone working near the hazardous area wears a Guardian detector belt.
These are light, comfortable and easy to wear, constructed to withstand harsh industrial environments and visually distinctive to help safety enforcement. Unlike some inferior systems, detection is not impaired by body mass and material.
If someone wearing a detector belt enters the hazardous area, a signal is instantly sent to the Guardian Control System, which sounds an alarm and activates the emergency stop procedure, stopping the machinery before the worker is injured or killed.
Guardian is proving very popular and the company has recently moved into new premises to cope with the demand. Safetech systems are protecting lives across Europe and North America. And following several product enquiries from potential customers in Australia and New Zealand, the company now has plans to expand into the southern hemisphere.