Terry McDonald: Site Safety

You can save money by purchasing remanufactured equipment, but don't cut corners by trying to install it yourself, and also remember to train those who'll be operating it.


In my experience, many gear manufacturers purchase used equipment for their shops. While this is a feasible method of acquiring the equipment we need to stay competitive, it can present an unexpected list of safety issues. One issue is that we tend to believe that we are capable of installing the equipment ourselves. As well trained and knowledgeable as our employees are, it is not likely that they have much, if any, experience in moving and installing machinery. This is a job best left up to qualified riggers. There are many hazards when moving equipment—as well as the hazards of electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical installation—and untrained can inadvertently be hurt or create future safety hazards. I realize that when purchasing equipment that is new to us, the cost of proper installation can be less than appealing considering the expense of purchasing the equipment in the first place, so any money we can save on installation is very attractive. But do not put yourself or your company in a position that could easily cost you much more due to unsafe installation.

The next issue is a lack of setup and operation training. When purchasing new equipment the manufacturer will normally include installation supervision as well as training in proper setup and operation of the equipment, but when you buy used equipment it is usually up to you to provide those services. In fact, in many instances you are not even provided with the original manufacturer’s manuals and guidelines, so you are not only in charge of the installation and training, but trying to do it without any of the information that is usually provided with new equipment.

Another safety issue to consider is machine maintenance. New machine manufacturers usually have a suggested maintenance schedule for their equipment that, again, does not normally come when you buy used equipment. As we all know, proper maintenance is one of the biggest safety issues with any equipment. Don’t get me wrong, acquiring good used equipment is always a sensible method of increasing your capacity at a cost that makes sense. But from a safety standpoint we have to consider all the costs, which as you can see can add up beyond the actual purchase price of the equipment. All of these items discussed here are almost always available for used equipment and can be found with a little research. And while they increase the cost of the equipment, they will save your company in the long run by providing a safer work environment. When purchasing a used piece of equipment for your shop I highly recommend that that you cover all your bases, including installation, training, and maintenance.

Remember, these guidelines apply not only to equipment purchased for your shop, but also office equipment. While office equipment does not normally raise a red flag in the safety community, it can still be a source of hazards for our employees. There are hazards involved in office equipment that are often overlooked from environmental issues to ease of use.  Used office equipment has the same lack of information, training, and maintenance instruction that your shop purchases have, and you must plan for the same type of hazards. Just think how many extension cords are running around your office. Besides tripping, overheating, and fire hazards, how many other problems can these cords cause to the equipment you just acquired? We often expect our office employees to just know how to operate the new technologies that we purchase to improve our business without providing the training necessary to use them properly—and without hazard to themselves, their fellow employees, or to the business. When we invest in this new technology, we must also invest in the training so that it is used to its full potential. This is no different than what we expect from upgrading our shop equipment.

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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].