I tend to be forgetful. I like to tell the story that there are three sure signs that you’re getting old. The first one is that you start to forget things, and I don’t remember the last two. The reason I bring this up is because just recently I was reviewing a machine that our company had just rebuilt for a customer, and during this process I realized that, while I always check the machines for proper operation and specifications and looked at it for any obvious safety concerns, I was not paying attention to signage. There were some damaged and partially unreadable safety notices affixed to the machine that I had not yet addressed. I bring this up to point out that we all have a tendency to ignore missing or damaged safety warnings that are normally affixed to the machine by the manufacturer. These notices, whether they be paper, plastic, or metal signs, really are an excellent source of safety training for your operators. When they become unreadable, either due to damage or being covered by grime, we tend to not be too concerned. I suppose we think that our operators had the opportunity to read them when they were readable, so it’s no big deal. We forget that new operators never had this opportunity, or if the operator is like me (forgetful) they are a reminder that can save a serious injury.
The signs I am referring to are not always safety specific, but sometimes provide operating instructions. I’m sure that we have all seen machines on which the nameplates on pushbuttons are worn beyond being readable. Think of the dangers that exist if an operator pushes the wrong button simply because he can’t read the nameplate. It is so simple to replace these damaged signs, and we are really making a big mistake by ignoring the damage. The signs can be purchased from the original manufacturer, from many companies that specialize in safety signage, or simply duplicated at the plant. Most computers have a word processing program that is quite capable of producing these signs on paper, at least, and a paper sign is easily attached to a metal or plastic plate and protected with clear covers. We should all be aware of this problem and repair any damaged signage in our facility. The cost is minimal, and the potential savings are great. By the way, this is another item that can be a factor in a court case, as we have discussed in previous columns.
One focus of this issue is raw materials. What are the safety hazards that can be inherent in raw materials? I can think of a few. One of the most obvious is storage. When we receive stock that is in excess of the amount that is immediately required at the machine, we must store it. Most of the smaller gear shops don’t have a lot of storage room, or even safe racks for storing this material. Materials left on the floor or otherwise poorly stored create a hazard as we move around in our shops. Most of the raw materials used to make gears are rounds or bars. If these are not properly stored they can roll and create a hazard when they are not where you expected them to be.
Another concern with raw materials is handling. Weight, length, and cutoff burrs are all a concern we need to be aware of. Another concern with raw materials that often is not well addressed is incoming inspection. I know that I usually tend to trust my supplier to supply what I order. However, if by mistake a piece of material I receive is too hard, marked incorrectly, or simply not the right material and I don’t correct the surface footage, the results can be dangerous. We all need to check and make sure that the raw materials we purchase are what we expected once they’re delivered.