Terry McDonald:Site Safety

Equipment must be designed to accomplish the task at hand, of course, but it's important that operator safety be taken into consideration as well. In addition, signage can play a valuable role in ensuring workplace safety.

There is an important safety subject that comes up so rarely that we tend to ignore it, or even to forget about it. This subject is safety signage. A lot of us have made a tour of our shop at some point, often when we first opened the business, and posted the signage that we felt was necessary. We then figured we had complied with the intent of the regulations and promptly forgot about them. We realize that the regulations have changed over the years, of course, and we might have even added some signage when we heard about a new requirement, but have you considered the changes that have occurred in your own shop? Each time we replace or add a piece of equipment there are new signs that we should be posting. Every machine in our facilities should have the appropriate signage pertaining not only to operation, but also to the personal protective gear required when running the equipment. It is also required to have lockout/tagout points identified, as well as any special requirements pertaining to this particular piece of equipment. Often a sign stating that all of the protective guarding furnished with the equipment must be used would be an appropriate addition.
Another area that is often missed simply involves changes in the shop layout. Are all of the signs that we used to have in place still there, and are they readable? By changing the layout of our shop, have we created a situation where safety signage is not posted where it needs to be? What about things like fire extinguishers; are they well marked so a new employee would have ready access to them? Is there enough space around fire doors and electrical cabinets, and are they well marked so that we do not inadvertently create a hazard? I often notice that flammable materials such as oil storage and propane storage aren’t labeled clearly. Also, when lubricants are present, be sure that the proper Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are on hand. Although we have discussed the safety aspects of proper lubrication a number of times in the past, as new products in the lubrication field are introduced—as well as advancements made to new machinery—it would be wise if we reviewed our safety standards concerning lubrication on a regular basis. Simply keeping up to date with the MSDS forms is something that has to be reviewed on a regular basis, and if you find there have been changes it is definitely a clue that further review is necessary, and that appropriate labeling posted. 
So take a moment to make sure that your signage is up to date and legible. Often in a shop atmosphere the signs become dirty, torn, or otherwise unreadable in a shop atmosphere, and it behooves us to remedy such situations immediately. Not only will it help protect our employees, it will make our insurance carriers happy, and it may even reduce our insurance costs.
One of the subjects in this month’s issue is workholding. You may wonder how safety procedures factor into workholding. Actually, safety is a major aspect of workholding in a gear shop, or in any machining operation, in fact. When designing workholding devices it is the first consideration, of course, that your design securely and properly holds the part. Of no less importance, however, is the safety of the operator when loading and unloading parts. You must take into consideration things such as pinch points, sharp corners or edges, ease of handling the part, consideration of handling the part when it has been cut, and access to the tooling. Another prime consideration is the ergonomics of the operator when loading and unloading the tooling. I am sure that all of us have seen machine setups where, although the workholding tooling being used is sufficient to securely hold the part while it is being machined, it is very difficult at best to load and unload. These are some of the things that often get overlooked in the design of proper workholding devices. 
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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].