Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Even with pressing production schedules and pending delivery dates, safety should never become a secondary concern.

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“To begin with, kill all the lawyers.” This paraphrase from Shakespeare is apropos, to some extent, in our industry. All of us have experienced the rising costs of insurance, both health and the various policies necessary to run a business. Much of this rise in cost is due to the various settlements and court costs associated with our societies’ willingness to litigate the smallest injury or imagined injury with the hope of a large windfall that will allow them to be “one of the idle rich.” Our lawyers, insurance companies, politicians, and media seem to promote this willingness. We have all heard of the plans to limit liability settlements to someone’s idea of “fair.” I have been hearing this in various safety committees throughout our industry for more years than I like to remember, and I have yet to see one program come to fruition – whether it would help or not.

What I would like to accomplish through this column is to establish a dialog with you, the members of our industry, that will provide us with some real safety information to help eliminate actions of the type listed above, and that also will allow you to actually improve the safety in your facility.

Over the months to come, I will discuss basic safe practices, what we as an industry can do to improve workplace safety, new developments in safety equipment, improving safety on older equipment, and issues with the laws, rules, and regulations that abound in our industry. My background is in the service end of the gear cutting and manufacturing community. I am very involved with safety issues involved in gear cutting, and I am past chairman of the ANSI B11.11 subcommittee that wrote the standard for gear machines. I am still a member of that committee, in fact, and I have also been involved in a number of liability cases on gear cutting equipment as an expert witness for the defense.

Keeping up on all the various aspects of safety in our industry can be a job that many of us would like to ignore due to the time requirements and, quite frankly, because it is not very interesting. In this column I hope you will find a few shortcuts leading to the information that really pertains to our industry, without having to sort through a lot of material that does not apply.

This month we should discuss one of my primary concerns with personnel safety – carelessness. As I visit the various plants involved with gear cutting, I see a common thread in shops both large and small. This common thread is that the operators, setup people, and maintenance personnel have become complacent about their safety. I believe this is due in great part to the fact that we as an industry have done a pretty good job of training our people on their jobs as it relates to production. However, we seem to have neglected the safety portion of the training. I see operators handling sharp cutting tools, both hobs and shaper cutters, without regard for their hands or the tool. Now, I know that none of us who have operated hobbing or shaping equipment can say that we have never been bitten by a sharp tool, but in the shop environment, even a small cut or slice can easily become infected and lead to much larger problems. We must teach our people to handle the tools with the proper respect that they would give a sharp kitchen knife if they were at home. We must provide them with a method of handling these tools that insures they will not injure themselves in the course of their job.

I also notice that many of the setup procedures that should be performed with the power off are in fact performed with the power on. This is a serious accident waiting to happen. What can we as an industry do to prevent these accidents from happening? We will discuss the options that exist in the coming months. I hope that you will find this information valuable, and I look forward to discussing with you the various safety topics that will affect you.

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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].