Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Time is money, as any manufacturer knows, but cutting corners can lead to dangerous situations, so be sure to encourage your employees to work smart, and stay safe.

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In last month’s column I stated my belief that safety could actually be a profit center. It seems that I am not the only one in the machine tool industry who is beginning to feel that way. I recently had the opportunity to read a publication of the Rockwell Automation newsletter titled “Value Stream.” It is an eight-page publication produced by Rockwell Automation Global Manufacturing Solutions that headlines “Safety and Compliance Make Good Business Sense.” In it there is a quote by John McDermott, in which he says that “Investing in safety actually pays back more than it costs.” There are six good articles in this newsletter outlining different aspects of how safety can pay for itself, and more. I highly recommend that you obtain a copy and read it carefully. The Web site is [www.rockwellautomation.com/solutions].

Another item I received recently is a new OSHA Fact Sheet, which emphasizes the priorities that OSHA is placing on young workers in all industries. As we all know, there is a real problem in this country due to the small number of young men and women who are willing to work in the machine tool industries, and it is inspiring to see our governmental agencies actually putting together plans to try to attract additional workers to this area. The organization’s Web site–[www.osha.gov], and particularly [www.osha.gov/SLTC/teenworkers/index.html]–is a very interesting place to visit. Incidentally, there are many other interesting fact sheets offered by OSHA that are available through this Web site, and I would encourage you to visit soon, and often.

Two issues that I’d like to address are saws and honing. These are two areas that small gear shops–and sometimes gear shops that are not so small–consider to be secondary operations, so they spend very little time on the safety and training aspects of the operations. Of course, both of these operations can be very hazardous in all of the ways that any machining operation can be, but they can also present hazards that our employees are not accustomed to dealing with. We often expect our gear cutting machine operators to conduct these secondary operations while waiting for their primary machine to finish a cut. While this can be, and often is, a real time saver–and time is money, as we all know–it also can be very hazardous, as it is human nature for a person who is considered a gear cutting machine operator to feel that these secondary operations are not worth the time and effort to perform them safely. After all, they are being paid because of their knowledge of gear cutting. It behooves all of us to place the proper emphasis on the safe operation of any machine tool that our employee may have occasion to operate. We must be sure that every employee is well trained and oriented in the safety aspects of any machine they are expected to operate.

I would also like to discuss a particular hazard that honing presents. Most of the honing machines I see in the gear cutting shops I visit are manual machines. These machines allow a good portion of the honing oils to be left on the parts after the operation is completed. This presents the same hazard that a part coming out of a gear cutting machine presents. The floor can become slippery and an accident can happen, or the slipperiness of the part itself can cause an accident. While we have discussed this hazard in previous columns, it is appropriate that we bring it up here because the coolants used for both sawing and honing are normally of a less-viscous nature, and therefore more likely to fall off the parts as they are being moved. We should be sure that we provide an adequate drip-off area that does not present a hazard.

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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].