Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Proper cleaning procedures and an awareness of ergonomics can limit injuries and improve worker morale.


This month, my column is kind of a “hodge-podge” of thoughts on various techniques that I’ve seen used in plants over the years, along with other random thoughts that you might find useful.

Cleaning the Chips out of the Machine –First of all, I have found that using compressed air to clean the work area in the machine is not only detrimental to the machine, but a huge safety hazard. The chips, being in a confined area, want to go everywhere except where you want them to, and maybe even in the operator’s eyes. Chip cleaning in the work area of the machine should be flushed with coolant or wiped, if necessary. The hint here is to install coolant flush hoses.

Air Hoses —This leads to my next thought, which concerns making sure that air hoses are not within a distance that they will reach inside the work area of the machine. It seems to be something of an industry standard to use air to clean machines, parts, and tooling. I’ve already told you about the machines, but cleaning the parts with air while in the work area of the machine presents the same hazards outlined in the first section. If the parts are removed from the machine before they are “blown off,” the flying chip hazard just reaches out to fellow workers and adds the problem of blowing coolant all over the place. This is not environmentally friendly, and it can be hazardous by creating slippery surfaces. Again, the option of a coolant flush hose has the most potential for solving this problem. The tooling is another area that can be cleaned between loads with a coolant flush, and maybe a wipe-down with a clean shop rag.

Drain Pans —Okay, now what do I do about all the coolant on my parts when I remove them from the machine work area? The neatest arrangement I’ve seen involves a drain pan clipped to the side of the machine that’s convenient to the work area. This drain pan should have a hose or tube that returns the coolant to the tank via the filter. Typically, this is accomplished by gravity rather than having to install additional pumps. Designed for your operation, this not only allows the coolant to drain, but also eliminates the typical hazard created by the coolant dripping on the floor as the parts are removed. The drain pan has to be large enough to hold the parts for the amount of time it takes for them to drain adequately.

Ergonomics —The last safety issue on my mind this month is ergonomics. I think this is a scary word that someone invented to justify their job. In my mind it just means that we don’t want our operators put in a position to hurt themselves due to the job they’re doing. In our industry the primary concerns are related to lifting and reaching. It should be fairly easy to identify and correct problems of this nature. However, I think that a clean work area can be the best incentive to an employee. It promotes safety and gives the employee a less stressful feeling and a measure of comfort, which in turn will help with productivity.

I am really behind in my reading, but I’ve found a very good article in the December 2002 issue of Cutting Tool Engineering by M. Chris Osment that is titled “Keeping OSHA at Bay.” I believe that everyone in our industry would find this article to be very informative. I also discovered an interesting commercial Web site [www.saftgard.com] that concentrates on safety and related equipment. Maybe you’ve run across some helpful reference materials that you’d like to share with our readers by sending a message to the e-mail address listed below. This column is all about communication, so we’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject of safety.