Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Warm weather gives rise to a host of safety concerns that aren’t an issue during fall and winter, such as loose clothing that can be caught in machinery and lightweight shoes that weren’t designed for the shop floor.

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I hope everyone enjoyed his or her Fourth of July holiday. I did my best to not worry about the grandkids and the fireworks, but I wasn’t terribly successful. I sincerely hope that none of you or yours suffered any accidents due to fireworks.

In this month’s column I’d like to discuss a safety issue that’s not at all unique to the gear cutting section of the machine tool community, but affects everyone in the industry. It shows up when business is good, and particularly in the good weather months. This issue is carelessness due to being tired. As our business increases due to the improvement in the economy we expect our employees to produce more, work extra hours, and generally contribute extra effort to insure that we maintain our competitive position. Of course, when this happens in a season of good weather, our employees are also being more active during their non-working hours. They can be participating in activities that are more strenuous than usual, or just spending more time with their children due to the many activities that are available for "out of school" kids. There is also more yard work to consider, as well as yearly upkeep on the residence. All of these factors, and probably a lot more, contribute to our employees not being as rested this time of year as they are during the winter months. Summertime activities can lead to employees being tired during work hours, which can contribute to carelessness and translate into accidents.

Unfortunately there is little we can do about this situation. All of these factors are very real and are going to exist no matter what we do. As employers, we can’t eliminate the work and still remain a profitable business, and as employees we can’t neglect our families or our homes. So we must live with the drain in physical resources and still strive to maintain our productivity. What can be done? Well, we can all take extra care in following the proper safety procedures. That is one step we can take. Possibly an even more effective measure is for all of us–management and employees together–to take extra care in observing our fellow workers. I know there are times when I’m tired and don’t realize the chances I’m taking by trying to hurry my work, and I’m sure that this applies to all of us. By our fellow employees caring enough to observe the way we’re working and pointing out the hazards we may be missing, we can definitely eliminate many of the accidents that occur due to extreme tiredness.

One of the topics in this month’s issue is forgings and castings. Dealing with raw materials of this nature presents a different set of concerns from a safety standpoint. First of all, this material is often rough and by its very nature can have nasty sharp edges and burrs that can cause serious cuts to the hands. This material is often cast iron and can cause nasty infections when there are cuts present on your employee’s hands. Just the handling of these materials can be a serious safety hazard and should be addressed immediately. Another concern when using these materials is the coolant requirements. If you have been cutting steel gears and switch to a cast or forged product, you will likely need to change your cutting fluids for the best results. It is important when changing cutting fluids to research the safety requirements of the new fluids so that you can properly prepare your employees for its use. And do not forget to obtain the MSDS (material safety data sheet) for your safety manual.

I would like to leave you with one final suggestion. In one of my first columns for this magazine I recommended a Web site [www.saftgard.com]. They have been improving their site, and you can now sign up for their monthly newsletter at safety@saftgard.com. One of the nice things they offer are links to many of the sites I’ve suggested that you visit, such as OSHA and others. Pay them a visit and I’m sure you’ll find information that will help you in your own safety efforts.

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is partner and manager of Repair Parts, Inc., and a current member and past–chairman of the American National Standards Institute B11.11 Subcommittee on Safety Requirements for Construction, Care, and Use of Gear Cutting Equipment. McDonald writes this monthly column specifically for Gear Solutions magazine, and he can be reached at (815) 968–4499 or rpi@repair–parts–inc.com. The company's Web site is [www.repair–parts–inc.com].