Hey Prairie Dawg: Let’s talk about “Safety Guarding” on my equipment

Prairie Dawg Practical by Tim Holmberg, DEMI Equipment

Why does it seem that I can never be just right or have everything I need be guarded or covered with the proper guarding when it comes to these Mining Safety site visits? I’m referring to safety guarding of critical moving parts or pinch point areas of most all machinery operating within a production installation today. These operations are becoming more sophisticated and often require a full time Internal Safety Coordinator position making sure all equipment is safe and secure. This position also is in charge of keeping daily logs with the operators and maintenance personnel and holding daily briefings to promote as safe as possible conditions when working within inches of these rather dangerous moving and twisting parts. Safety guarding is always one of those unknown subjects that can get ugly fast, especially if there is a disagreement in interpretation as this can get extremely tense between an owner and an authoritative governing officer in figuring out a workable solution.

A few years back I spoke with an old timer who grew up without much regulatory restriction or safety education. When I asked what had happened to his hand — I had noticed he was missing all his fingertips on the entire right hand— he went on to explain his story and then as he was finishing up simply ended with these very words “well that won’t ever happen again.” I knew full well what he meant. What a terrible realization that his fingertips, once wrapped in bandages and heading to the emergency medical center, will now be missing the remainder of his life. Sad to think that if only the factory guard cover back then had possibly been just a little more protective or possibly better initiated for the exact location the equipment was being operated, this incident may not have ever happened. On the other hand it may have had just passed an inspection with perfectly allocated guarding or easily be considered an accident that might never happen again. But if it is blatantly recognizable that it could then it is the owner of the equipment’s responsibility to get his investment better guarded for the exact site-specific application it is being operated in. Can you believe some factory positioned guarding is either removed or modified in an attempt to get a bit more accessibility to the daily housekeeping chores of maintaining and keeping a plant clean of piling up debris?

• When it comes to MSHA— and I know this may sound somewhat crazy– but think of them as your friendly policeman, someone who ultimately is trained with many safety aspects actually resulting from previous accidents or injuries in other settings. Consider these individuals as a second set of eyes trained specifically to look for danger associated specifically with mining- and aggregate-based production equipment and how it is being operated. Generally, these officials have once worked as a miner or had experience training workers on safety programs within an organization he or she now may be visiting and policing for infractions or courtesy preliminary inspections.

• These officials are often rotated so that it does provide extra efforts in recognizing a potentially harmful situation that their very own coworker or officer may have completely missed or overlooked. Because of this rotation, our aggregate producing organizations will inevitably be safer places to work daily.

• Site-specific guarding will always be the best effort in making sure the big crushing mining operations are doing their part into keeping all safe who enter these unforgiving dangerous machines.

• Most manufacturers are aware that they are required to provide certain guarding when building a specific processing plant but will often acknowledge that they can’t meet all expectations of the representing dealer, buyer/producer and inspectors, all while maintaining a fair and competitively priced plant. However, nine times out of ten the manufacturer is always willing to work with the representing dealer or even the producer to create any necessary guarding and have it resemble a more factory fit and finish appearance with matching paint characteristics and all. There are also many secondary level aftermarket manufacturers that will estimate these additional ongoing guarding requirements. Many will provide a service of installation and even maintenance as an alternative to the producer hiring a maintenance crew and burdening them with custom fabrication work.

Guarding within an operation can either be an item that is purposefully ignored or disliked because of the interpretation being complex and rather daunting. On the other hand, it can be not that big of deal if handled on a more consistent basis by a dedicated person who is characteristically savvy with challenging updates. Either way, guarding is here to stay and becoming a larger part of each organization’s safety programs. So embrace the challenge and remain proactive in the process of keeping your employees protected and returning home without incident.

Please, if you enjoy these random aggregate and quarrying equipment based subjects, tune back in for more topics to come. Send me a subject or topic you would like brought to light and any associated questions you would like to have discussed and I will gladly provide my best answer based upon my specific point of view and personal experience. Questions or Comments? Tim Holmberg prairiedawg@pdpractical.com. Or simply write me a letter and we will send you a t-shirt or ball cap:
Tim Holmberg
2915 Idea Ave.
Aberdeen, SD 57401

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