Archive | Safety Systems / Training

58

2:36 pm
May 16, 2016
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RasGas Pumps Up Production

Setting the pace for the global LNG industry involves many things, including working with experts who deliver solutions that ensure process safety, reliability, and efficiency.

Drilling for natural gas is only the start in getting it to market. It must be super-chilled into liquefied form (LNG) for export. For Qatar’s RasGas Co. Ltd., that chilling takes place onshore, in a processing plant called a “train,” far away from offshore wellheads. One of the world’s leading integrated LNG enterprises, RasGas has seven of these trains, including two of the largest on the planet.

Setting the pace for the global LNG industry involves many things, including working with experts who deliver solutions that ensure process safety, reliability, and efficiency.

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935

8:07 pm
August 6, 2015
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Step Up to Greater Electrical Awareness

Arc-flash power is demonstrated in a controlled setting. The event vaporizes metal, enormously expanding its volume and instantly producing temperatures of 35,000 F or higher. Photo courtesy AVO Training Institute.

Arc-flash power is demonstrated in a controlled setting. The event vaporizes metal, enormously expanding its volume and instantly producing temperatures of 35,000 F or higher. Photo courtesy AVO Training Institute.

The 2015 changes to the NFPA 70E electrical-safety standard include new perspectives on maintenance, use of PPE, and terminology—all of which could have an impact on your operation.

By Rick Carter, Executive Editor 

Electrical-safety standards turn up regularly on OSHA’s Top 10 List of “Most Frequently Cited” violations each year. On the current list, dated October 2014, electrical standards hold three of the 10 positions:

  • #6 — Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
  • #8 — Electrical, Wiring Methods (1910.305)
  • #10 — Electrical, General Requirements (1910.303)

Go back one or several years and you’ll see much the same lineup; only the order changes slightly (though the Fall Protection standard, 1926.501, often leads). To many, this bewildering repetition of rule breaking is akin to failing an open-book test when all questions and answers are fully provided beforehand. How does it happen?

OSHA outlines its violations online at osha.gov, but these terse reports do not address causes. Rather, they highlight the hazard violation: unexpected energization, working near live equipment without training, exposure to electrical shock hazards, and unguarded parts of live electrical equipment. These alone encompass a “who’s who” of what can go wrong in a plant when the focus on safety wavers. They also paint a disturbing picture of the poor safety condition in which plants can sometimes find themselves.

Standard rules, inconsistent adherence

“It really depends on the facility,” said Tim Rohrer, president of Exiscan LLC, a New York-based manufacturer of inspection windows for electrical equipment. “Some are right on the edge of electrically safe work practices and others are woefully behind.”

Rohrer spoke with Maintenance Technology following his presentation on the 2015 changes to the NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace at a recent industry conference. The changes to this go-to standard (outlined in detail last month in Maintenance Technology), represent the latest industry effort to clarify electrical-safety procedures and help make industrial operations safer.

Rohrer suggested that the updating process, in which he participates, can seem like an uphill battle in some cases. “Sadly, some of those companies that are way behind might think they’re complying with 70E,” he said, “but they don’t even own a copy of the standard. In many cases they are just going off of bits and pieces they’ve picked up along the way.” This can lead to multiple electrical-safety shortcomings in key areas, such as failure to use personal protective equipment (PPE), allowing work to be done on energized equipment, and others, as OSHA’s list confirms.

Updated every three years through a four-step process that includes significant public input and review, NFPA 70E now features a greater emphasis on the role maintenance plays in the safe operating condition of electrical equipment. “Maintenance is now front and center,” said Rohrer. “It always has been, but it is more so in the latest revision; it’s referred to more often and more pointedly. For example, when a worker goes up to the equipment, they really have to bear in mind the condition and maintenance of the equipment they’ll be working on. This is pretty huge.”

NFPA 70E 2015, Article 200 states that the equipment owner is responsible for the maintenance of its electrical equipment and documentation of same. This clarification—a responsibility that might have been assumed before—is now spelled out. It reflects one goal of the changes and revisions, which is to leave less chance for either willful or accidental misinterpretation. According to Article 210.5, maintenance is now a focus because “improper maintenance of protective devices can result in increased clearing times, which thereby results in higher incident energy.”

Because of the added emphasis on the condition and maintenance of equipment, it’s Rohrer’s opinion that “if there is an accident and OSHA comes on site, and they decide a person was injured because the equipment was improperly maintained—which is stated pretty clearly in several different ways—this becomes something OSHA can start to look at.” So, whether other causes are ultimately determined to have caused an electrical accident or not, your maintenance procedures may be reviewed anyway, with deficiencies noted and, if necessary, your company fined accordingly. (For the record, OSHA does not have a direct role in creating 70E language, but does provide input through a voting member on the 70E Technical Committee.)

What kind of maintenance are we talking about? It encompasses several areas, from proper labeling and inspection procedures to testing and/or installation procedures for at least the following components:

  • Circuit breakers
  • Fuses
  • Protective relays
  • Substations, switchgear assemblies, panel boards, motor control centers, disconnect switches
  • Transfer switches and control equipment
  • Motors and generators
  • Equipment in hazardous locations
  • Batteries and battery rooms
  • Portable electric tools and equipment
  • Personal safety and protective equipment, including electrical gloves, hot sticks, and flash suits.
While use of proper personal protective equipment is required for working on electrical equipment, other steps—especially hazard elimination—must be considered for maximum protection. Photo courtesy Oberon Co.

While use of proper personal protective equipment is required for working on electrical equipment, other steps—especially hazard elimination—must be considered for maximum protection. Photo courtesy Oberon Co.

The safety goal

Preventing electrical accidents generally means taking the steps necessary to protect workers from shock and to prevent arc flash, the damaging explosion that can occur when high energy meets low resistance. If you’ve never seen what an arc flash looks like, several examples are available for viewing online. Watching just one can give you the best reason yet to ensure your plant’s electrical-safety program is everything it should be, which is also a goal of NFPA 70E 2015.

Interestingly, along with 70E’s added maintenance emphasis is another change that involves the use of personal protective equipment with regard to arc flash. “In the 2015 edition, arc-flash PPE is not required for normal operation of equipment if equipment is properly installed and maintained, all doors and covers are secure, and there is no evidence of impending failure,” said Daleep Mohla, principal consultant with Missouri City, TX-based DCM Electrical Consulting Services Inc.

A longtime contributor to IEEE (Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers) Standards Association Working Groups, and considered an expert on 70E, Mohla currently specializes in 70E training.

Mohla added that “70E also made a major strategy shift in its new approach to electrical-hazard mitigation. Until the 2012 edition, mitigation was based on hazard. In 2015, mitigation is based on risk and risk assessment. It requires stakeholder evaluation and recognition of possible consequences to decide on the acceptable risk and mitigation.”

According to Rohrer, it’s important to know the difference between “hazard” and “risk.” While a hazard is considered “a source of possible injury or damage to health,” he said, the more broadly defined risk “refers to a combination of both the likelihood of injury occurrence and the severity.”

To that end Rohrer suggested that companies and employees consider the hierarchy of risk-control methods (as it appears in ANSI/AIHA Z10 and in NFPA 70E), noting that the most effective controls are featured at the top:

  • Hazard elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering controls
  • Warnings
  • Administrative controls
  • PPE

In this hierarchy, the most valuable action a plant can take—hazard elimination—means de-energization of the equipment. “It’s epidemic that companies are working on energized equipment when they could be shutting down,” said Rohrer. “Whether they’re using PPE or not, the first real prime directive of 70E and any electrical-safety standard is to de-energize whenever possible.”

Electrical-safety programs at world-class operations, he said, routinely prohibit working on energized equipment unless other options don’t exist. “Companies on the leading edge of electrically safe work practices have a policy of not working live,” said Rohrer. “They simply don’t work energized. The first thing they do is de-energize. Yes, there are instances where something absolutely has to be done energized. Certain diagnostics, for example, need to be done while the gear is energized. But, aside from that, they’re de-energizing.”

To be clear, said Rohrer, even after the power to equipment is shut off, “the equipment is still considered energized until you prove it otherwise. So you still have to use your PPE and go in and do a visual inspection, apply your lockout/tagout devices, and then use your meter to prove that it has, in fact, been de-energized. Then you have to lock it out and tag it out.” But he believes that choosing to de-energize is a critical first step in assuring electrical safety.

Naturally, seeking this high level of safety can cause problems when the need to de-energize equipment or shut down lines conflicts with operations’ need to keep things running. This is where planning and scheduling becomes vital. Coordinating shutdowns not only simplifies the process of completing electrical work, it helps avoid the debate that can crop up over the need to de-energize in the first place, a situation that can lead to confusion over standards and poor safety practices.

“There is an infeasibility clause that states you can work on energized gear if it’s infeasible to do the work de-energized,” said Rohrer. “But shutting down a line so you can safely perform work is not infeasible, it’s inconvenient, and a lot of plants mistake the two. They often claim that it’s infeasible to shut down this line to do that work, when, in fact, it’s not. Infeasible means it can’t be done any other way,” Rohrer concluded.

With electrical-related hazards, violations, and injuries showing no sign of letting up, standards groups—and OSHA—are devoting more time and effort to the promotion and enforcement of electrical safety. To keep your operation safe and up to date, ensure that your maintenance team is familiar with key information sources such as osha.gov, nfpa.org, ieee.org, and cdc.gov/niosh. Also make sure that electrical contractors and outside service providers understand how 70E and other key electrical-safety rules fit in with your operation’s exact needs.  MT

Best Practices For Complying With NFPA 70E

  • Design inherently safe work practices
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Arc-flash risk assessment
  • Labeling and hazard communication plan
  • Design and methods review
  • Accurate single-line diagrams
  • Short-circuit and coordination studies
  • Electrical-safety program review and development
  • Arc-flash training program and PPE plan development
  • Documentation
  • Periodic reviews.

Source: Emerson Network Power, Electrical Reliability Services; Exiscan LLC, 2015.

1584

2:35 pm
July 10, 2015
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Train, Audit Electrical Workers — It’s Mandatory

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On-site audits and ongoing training determine whether your electrical workers meet industry qualifications and you’re complying with today’s strengthened electrical-safety standards.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Electrical workers who lack the proper training and skills to do their jobs are a risky business proposition for operations. Research by the Ponemon Institute, Traverse City, MI, has found that in critical facilities such as data centers, human error is a leading root cause of unexpected downtime that disrupts productivity, affects customer service, and takes a toll on the bottom line.

According Wally Vahlstrom of Emerson Network Power’s Electrical Reliability Services group, Columbus, OH, costly equipment failures and unplanned shutdowns are just the tip of the iceberg. Inadequate worker knowledge also increases the risk of electrical accidents. He cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports of 2,000 fatal and more than 24,000 non-fatal electrical injuries occurring over the past 10 years. Arc-flash incidents alone are said to claim one life every workday. “Many of these accidents,” Vahlsrom said, “can be mapped back to insufficient training, which results in failure to follow appropriate procedures or take the necessary safety precautions on the job.”

To help safeguard against potentially deadly consequences, organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Quincy, MA, are strengthening their standards and redefining the qualifications needed to work on or near energized electrical equipment. The latest version of NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, for example, introduces new requirements for determining and validating a worker’s technical proficiency and competence with safety procedures.

Vahlstrom offers the following insight on what more-stringent standards mean for operations and explains how compliance with them can help a plant protect its personnel, equipment assets, and overall business.

The new definition of ‘qualified’

According to OSHA CFR 1910.269, a qualified worker is one who can demonstrate the skills and abilities to:

  • determine what hazards are faced on the job
  • assess the magnitude of those hazards
  • determine the proper work techniques to avoid the hazards
  • select the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate the hazards.

“Demonstrate is the operative word,” said Vahlstrom, “and the same verbiage now appears in the latest version of NFPA 70E.” The 2015 standard states that workers must demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations, and not just be familiar with them.

Specifically, to be considered qualified to perform maintenance on electrical equipment and installations, NFPA 70E indicates that workers must demonstrate the ability to use:

  • special precautionary techniques
  • PPE including arc-flash suits
  • insulating and shielding materials
  • insulated tools and test equipment.

Vahlstrom emphasized that NFPA 70E also mandates additional training for employees who work within the limited-approach boundary of exposed energized electrical conductors and circuit parts operating at 50V or more.

Workers must demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the operation of equipment.

Workers must demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the operation of equipment.

Provide training

OSHA and NFPA provide guidance on the type and frequency of training required to ensure electrical workers meet the qualifications described above. “OSHA has indicated a preference for instructor-led training, as opposed to Web-based formats,” said Vahlstrom, “and NFPA stipulates that retraining (not just refresher training) must occur at least every three years.”

Moreover, all training must be documented, and supplementary training must be provided whenever any new procedures or practices are introduced, or when an audit indicates a need.

Vahlstrom said that, while training programs must be customized to the specific site and work to be performed, incorporating the following elements is a good place to start. At a minimum, a training program should focus on:

  • imparting a thorough understanding of the organization’s electrical-safety policy
  • building knowledge about the existence, nature, and cause of electrical hazards
  • developing the skills to identify electrical and arc-flash hazards and assessing the associated risk
  • ensuring the employee’s ability to select and use appropriate arc-flash PPE
  • ensuring the skills needed to read and follow hazard-warning labels
  • creating awareness of methods for reducing risks while working on live exposed parts.
Auditing worker skills

Vahlstrom stressed the fact that, in addition to providing appropriate training to qualify personnel, organizations must also audit work practices of individual electrical workers.

According to NFPA 70E 2015, “The employer shall determine, through regular supervision or through inspections conducted on at least an annual basis, that each employee is complying with the safety-related work practices required by this standard.” Vahlstrom pointed out that these activities offer an ideal opportunity for managers to observe and document employees’ demonstrated qualifications.

Although these audits are intended to be self-administered, i.e., developed and conducted by in-house staff, for various reasons, some operations look to outside providers for assistance (see sidebar). Whether your site works with such a partner or flies solo, Vahlstrom said it’s important to keep the following seven tips in mind:

NFPA 70E is a guideline. The specifics depend on the facility. A detailed, well-written electrical-safety policy is critical to protecting workers, assets, and the bottom line. While NFPA 70E offers excellent guidance, it is the facility’s responsibility to add the details specific to its own workplace. In other words, the safety policy, training programs, and worker audits should not address only what’s in the latest standards; but also the specific circumstances and conditions that affect worker safety and performance in the unique space.

Know what to look for. Because NFPA 70E is intended to be a guideline, it is somewhat vague in terms of what, specifically, needs to be addressed in annual worker audits. However, a facility’s electrical-safety policy provides a great place to start. Be sure employees understand and can carry out the specifics described in company policy, so an audit checklist should address these items.

Go where work is performed. It’s difficult to assess a worker’s skills and capabilities in a classroom setting. To determine whether an individual worker is truly able to identify a risk, quantify the magnitude of the hazard and properly use PPE. It’s important to observe the worker in real-world environments within the facility. Build on existing audit programs. To comply with OSHA and other NFPA requirements, you are likely already auditing other safety-related programs, such as lock out/tag out. To save time and effort, and maximize resources, you may be able to expand the scope of these existing audit efforts instead of building an entirely new electrical safety audit.

Remember that being qualified for one job does not automatically qualify a worker for another. OSHA and NFPA concur that employees may be qualified for some types of work methods and equipment, but not for others. It is critical for employees to receive job-specific training and demonstrate learned skills needed for each task to be performed. Furthermore, even if a previous employer has determined a worker’s qualifications, it’s up to the current employer to validate the skill sets and provide site-specific training.

Use audit results to refine your company’s training program. NFPA 70E 2015 stipulates the need to provide retraining if an annual worker audit identifies skill deficiencies. Such deficiencies could also indicate a need to overhaul portions of the safety-training program or policy. Should you choose to work with a partner to develop and implement your initial audit, you will benefit from expert advice on how to improve current safety training and better prepare electrical workers.

Maintain as well as train. No matter how skilled a workforce, if electrical equipment is not properly maintained, employees could still be at great risk. Updates to NFPA 70E 2015 address general-maintenance requirements, including the need to keep a single-line diagram up to date and to conduct maintenance on all electrical equipment (not just overcurrent protective devices).

Knowledge is power

Vahlstrom acknowledged that new requirements to qualify employees for electrical work and audit their safety-related skills might seem taxing to some facilities. “But,” he cautioned, “this is one test a site can’t afford to fail.”

Taking a knowledge-based approach to this test, he said, be it in-house or with the support of an outside service provider, will help your operations build a customized audit program that does more than simply comply with today’s stricter electrical-safety standards. “It could prevent injuries or shutdowns. It could even save a life.” MT

Wally Vahlstrom is director of technical services for Emerson Network Power’s Electrical Reliability Services group, based in Columbus, OH. He brings more than 40 years of electrical-engineering experience to his position, where he is responsible for failure investigation work, conformity assessment services, power-system studies, and reliability analysis.

A Knowledge-Based Approach to Compliance

Beefed-up OSHA and NFPA 70E safety standards now require operations to qualify employees for electrical work and audit their safety-related skills. Although such activities are intended to be self administered, some facilities turn to professional electrical engineering or testing providers for support. Typically well-versed in the latest standards, these types of suppliers can also provide assistance and guidance on how to train in-house auditors and how to properly document the annual audit process according to new requirements.

If your site turns to an outside provider for support, make sure your chosen partner:

  • takes the time to thoroughly understand your safety policy and current training program
  • assesses the condition of your electrical-distribution system
  • reviews site-specific standard-operating procedures
  • becomes familiar with each worker’s job scope and responsibilities.

The same holds true for organizations that administer newly required electrical-worker qualification and audit programs on an in-house basis.

Learn more

For additional information, visit these websites:

osha.gov

nfpa.org

ponemon.org

emersonnetworkpower.com

1137

5:39 pm
March 10, 2015
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Safety Products Showcase

0315f5-helmetHard Hat With Back-of-Head Protection

Honeywell’s North Force hard hat offers 24% more back-of-head coverage than standard Type I hard hats, according to the company. The patented shell design of the new design provides increased rear-head coverage without restricting range of motion, while an innovative rear-impact attenuator absorbs force to minimize injuries. The hard hat is suited for upstream oil workers, miners or workers in other industries in which slippery or icy conditions exist. It is constructed of a unique, lightweight shell material that offers high-impact resistance and stands up to extreme temperature changes ranging from -30F to 120F. A six-point suspension system with five adjustment areas allows for a customized, comfortable fit.

Honeywell Safety Products
Smithfield, RI
honeywellsafety.com

APM Software with Process Safety Capabilities

AssetWise APM V7.3 from Bentley Systems, Inc.., is an all-in-one analysis and information-management software platform for asset reliability that now advances process safety. The software is designed to meet the requirements of reliability, integrity, safety, and maintenance managers and engineers in industries ranging from oil and gas, petrochemical, and mining and metals to power generation and other utilities. It ensures that assets are safe and reliable and that they are inspected and maintained to reduce or eliminate risk. Users further benefit from the elimination of unexpected downtime, increased asset availability and utilization, reduced maintenance costs, and support for regulations and safety standards. The software’s new process safety features help users manage the integrity of safety systems and hazardous processes, thereby preventing failures and catastrophic incidents.

Bentley Systems, Inc.
Exton, PA
bentley.com

0315-doorGlow-in-the-Dark Floor Safety Tape

Glow Floor-Mark from Visual Workplace, Inc., is a peel-and-stick, glow-in-the-dark safety product that helps building and vehicle personnel find their way in darkness, whether it’s nighttime, during a power failure, a building fire filled with smoke, a natural disaster or other emergency. It glows brightest for the first 60 minutes, then fades to remain lightly visible for several hours in total darkness. The product is light green when lights are on, and emits a green/yellow glow when lights are off. Its thin, durable profile is designed for industrial environments, and specifically for use near exits, passageways and staircases. OSHA-compliant, the tape is easy to remove, and is available in 1-in. and 2-in.-wide X 30-ft.-long rolls.

Visual Workplace, Inc.
Byron Center, MI
visualworkplace.com

0315f5-signLockout Tagout Stations

RecycLockout Lockout Tagout Stations from Zing Green Safety Products support compliance with 29 CFR 1910.147, and provide the lockout devices needed to control hazardous energy when servicing machinery. Stocked with safety padlocks, hasps and lockout tags, they provide a comprehensive lockout tagout program that ensures worker protection and OSHA compliance. The highly visible stations can be mounted near servicing areas, and keep necessary lockout devices available to authorized personnel during critical maintenance/repair operations. They have the added benefit of being manufactured with UL-validated high-content recycled materials that support sustainability initiatives and LEED credits.

ZING Green Safety Products
Oswego, IL
zinggreenproducts.com

0315f5-sign2Reflective OSHA Safety Signs

Using reflective-sheeting, highway-sign technology, safety signs from Lyle Signs can be seen during the day, night or in dark or dimly lit conditions. The signs will not crack, peel or fade, and can be applied indoors or outdoors. The reflective technology used on the signs is designed to make them brighter and more easily seen from greater distances, alerting employees to potentially life-saving information.

Lyle Signs, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN
lylesigns.com

0315f5-monitorPersonnel Mustering Application

Apprion’s ION Mustering Application provides real-time information about the status of employees and contractors to locate personnel immediately and communicate with them to ensure safety. The app uses WiFi, GPS or RFID tags to provide continuous, accurate situational awareness and visual confirmation of personnel safety. It also includes mustering-area entry logs for rapid confirmation, and procedural documents and event logs for future safety audits.

Apprion
Mountain View, CA
apprion.com

0315f5-thingLightweight, Versatile Respirator

The Versaflo Powered Air-Purifying Respirator TR-600 from 3M is designed to endure heavy use and long wear. The lightweight unit is engineered to increase comfort, and its ergonomic design fits close to the body, allowing for greater movement in tight work spaces. It offers multiple airflow rate options for user comfort, and belts designed to be wide and contoured with flexible air channels to minimize heat buildup. The TR-600 has two lithium-ion battery options that allow for up to eight hours of use. Audible, visual and vibratory alarms reflect filter and battery status.

3M
Saint Paul, MN
3M.com

0315f5-thing2Enhanced Safety Instrumentation System

An enhanced version of the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system (SIS) from Yokogawa (ProSafe-RS R3.02.20) offers improved connectivity with the ProSafe-SLS SIS, enabling the status of both systems to be monitored onscreen by operators of the CENTUM VP integrated production-control system. The new version also offers enhanced support of widely used open communication protocols, improving connectivity with other companies’ SCADA software. The company’s two SISs—the programmable ProSafe-RS and the solid-state ProSafe-SLS—allow users to select the system that best meets their facilities’ requirements. For customers who use both, the new solution allows the status of both systems to be monitored in an integrated manner.

Yokogawa Electric Corp.
Sugar Land, TX
yokogawa.com

0315f5-boxGas-Detection Data Platform

The GasGard 100 Control System from MSA is a scalable, high-performance data-acquisition and -logging platform for data acquisition and control for fixed flame and gas detection. Open Ethernet connectivity with Web-based configuration and data-monitoring functions allow GasGard 100 Controllers to provide monitoring and historical logging functions. View real time trends via Web browser from any PC without special software. The Gasgard 100 Control System provides fully integrated measurement, display and recording platforms, that when equipped with the company’s line of transmitters and sensors, forms a complete gas-detection solution.

MSA Safety
Cranberry Township, PA
msasafety.com

Online Source for Safety Information

Grainger’s online Safety Resource Center includes safety news as well as information about trends in safety and regulatory issues. It also offers access to the distributor’s Field Safety Specialists team of experts who can help customers solve safety challenges, offer cost-saving proposals and recommend program-standardization strategies.

W.W. Grainger, Inc.
Lake Forest, IL
grainger.com

1242

6:17 pm
February 17, 2015
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Proper Risk Assessment Will Keep You in Compliance

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The RIA R15.06 machine-guarding standard that took effect last month has important implications for manufacturers. 

Assessing risk has always been an important safety consideration when developing and implementing industrial machinery. Thanks to the passage of the Robotic Industry Association (RIA) R15.06 standard in 2013, risk assessments just became even more important: They are now mandatory. But while the standard officially took effect January 1, 2015, many professionals responsible for plant safety have long conducted risk assessments for increased safety as a matter of practice.

The basics of machine-guarding risk assessment

Understanding and assessing these risks—and ensuring compliance—is not a simple task. The OSHA machine-guarding standard, which includes robotic welding (29 CFR 1910.212), consistently falls in the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in any given year. Considering the many regulatory changes now taking effect, there is a real potential for confusion and uncertainty.

The first step for facility/safety professionals is to identify and understand all codes and regulations applicable to their facility and operation. They should next examine the prevailing machine-guarding choices for those applications in order to validate their safety system and its components. Although many guarding methods and products are available, not all can be applied universally.

Every machine-guarding application has its own set of unique challenges and associated risk. The choices a facility manager makes for one application might not be the same—or appropriate—for the next. In most cases, safety-conscious managers would not guard an industrial robot the same way they would guard other equipment, because the risk associated with each differs greatly. Risk may even vary between similar operations, depending upon employee exposure and other factors.

This new RIA R15.06 standard references ISO 10218-1 & 2, which addresses robots, robot systems and integration. It requires superior hazard identification accounting for not only robot motion, but the task being performed. Additionally, it requires validation and verification of the safety systems employed, and of the designs that incorporate protective measures for the robot cell and the operator. Because every robot system is different, requiring risk assessments is an important step in protecting employees.

An automated barrier door or roll-up curtain can be a good way to reduce risks posed by robotic welders. These arrangements eliminate exposure to dangerous machinery movements and hazards like smoke or debris from the welding process.

An automated barrier door or roll-up curtain can be a good way to reduce risks posed by robotic welders. These arrangements eliminate exposure to dangerous machinery movements and hazards like smoke or debris from the welding process.

Risk assessments and safety-rated motion

Some of the biggest changes we will see with this industrial robot standard have to do with safety-rated motion and allowing for advanced programmable safety devices to be utilized. This means software will now be allowed “safety-rated” control of various aspects of the robot’s function, limiting the area in which the robot operates and the speed of robot motion. This is a departure from older standards in that programmable safety controls were not allowed.

Thanks to technological advances in safety controls, these long-overdue applications can now safely be implemented. In the past, engineers designing these systems guarded for the maximum space, speed and load of the robot. With these changes, the physical footprint of new robot cells should shrink. Coupled with the proper point-of-interaction safety devices, significant floor-space savings can be realized.

More quantitative regulations

The change in RIA R15.06 is part of a larger movement toward more quantitative regulations being implemented in the U.S. and across the world. This started several years ago with the move from EN 954-1 to ISO 13849-1 and EN 62061.

Essentially, ISO 13849-1 provides a clearly defined set of rules to follow when designing the safety system as applied to industrial machine control systems. Officially defined as “safety of machinery, safety-related parts of control systems, general principles for design,” this regulatory shift was made necessary by advances in technology for safety control systems and methodology.

The ISO 13849-1 standard is more quantitative than the old EN 954-1. It applies common sense and forces facility managers to validate their safety systems, whereas EN 954-1 was conceptual and only required facilities to apply safety devices (controls) properly specifying non-programmable, out-of-date technology.

Increasingly complex manufacturing processes require more complex systems to monitor their safe operation and keep machine operators safe. Automated processes, robotics and even time-tested processes all require considerable attention to assure those processes can proceed efficiently and safely. ISO 13849-1 is making for a much safer manufacturing environment because it accounts for the regulatory gaps that were starting to show in the older standards.

Because every robotic system is different and has its own set of guidelines, it’s important to understand those guidelines before a system is implemented. Specifications such as space and cycles need to be known. Integrators of new robotic systems will be required to perform these risk assessments in an attempt to identify potential dangers and ways to limit and eliminate them.

Guarding point-of-operation

When performing a proper risk assessment, point-of-operation guarding is probably the most involved aspect. It is easy to place perimeter guarding around the entire process. However, in most situations a machine operator needs to interact with the process by loading or unloading materials (such as metals to be welded) and operating the machine.

Point-of-operation is where things get tricky. Many details must be considered, including process layout, system limits, and the need to identify the hazards to be eliminated and risks reduced. Once the severity of a potential hazard has been determined, the frequency or duration of exposure and the possibility of eliminating or limiting exposure can guide the choice of the proper machine-guarding device. Also, using the distance formula identified in OSHA guidelines can help in this selection. Per this formula, the safeguarding device has a prescribed location based on several factors, including secondary hazards that might harm a machine operator.

Presence-sensing devices and barrier doors

Light curtains, laser scanners and other presence-sensing devices are a commonly used and widely accepted method of machine guarding in manufacturing facilities from Tier 1 automotive to small machine shops and fabrication facilities. The automated process ceases once the safety device’s infrared beam is tripped. In many instances these devices provide acceptable safety. However, they’re not always the best choice in all applications, especially after a risk assessment is performed.

While light curtains can limit exposure to the hazard, a fast-acting automated barrier door or roll-up curtain may be a better choice. This is because they can eliminate exposure to both the dangerous movement of the machine and secondary hazards produced by the process, such as smoke, flash, splash, mist or flying debris associated with automated welding operations. Coupled with safety interlocks, automated barrier doors and roll-up curtains provide safeguarding that can be seen (unlike the invisible infrared beams of presence-sensing devices), thus reducing the opportunity for accidental work stoppage. The physical separation they provide is a clear visual indicator that the machine operator needs to be on task.

Due to the nature of a properly interlocked automated barrier door, certain aspects of OSHA’s safety distance formula become moot because there is no depth penetration factor, thus allowing the safeguard to be placed closer to the hazardous area. That means less space dedicated to a “safety zone,” which, in turn, can reduce the manufacturing cell’s footprint. The smaller safety zone may also make for a better ergonomic situation for the machine operator by limiting required motion and help increase productivity.

Regardless of the safety device selected for machine-guarding, facility managers need to remember to perform a proper risk assessment to keep their workers safe and to remain in compliance with RIA R15.06. MT

This article was prepared with information supplied by Eric Esson, Rite-Hite Machine Guarding, Milwaukee, WI. The information is provided without warranty as a general reference only regarding the use of the noted product(s).

1460

9:56 am
December 1, 2014
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5 Steps to a Safer Manufacturing Facility

1214f5-1
A plant’s maintenance practices, attention to workplace safety and levels of employee morale and productivity are more closely linked than you might think.

A manufacturing facility can be a dangerous place, especially if management doesn’t enforce strict safety protocol and maintenance checks. In general terms, your facility should be stocked with equipment for quick action when a safety hazard is spotted. Your personnel should understand when to act on a perceived danger and when to stand down. Moreover, you should understand the importance of regular maintenance and inspections.

As Tom Bonine of National Metal Fabricators (nmfrings.com) notes, “Workplace safety is not only crucial for worker morale, it’s good for business.” He points to five simple steps you can take to help make your facility a safe place to work:

1. Identify unsafe areas. “That includes the usual suspects,” Bonine explains, “as well as seemingly safe spots that can become dangerous without regular maintenance.” Search the following areas:

Electrical outlets, panels and cords. Cracks, tears and exposed fibers can pose huge safety risks. They can result in electrocution (one of the leading cause of worker deaths in manufacturing) or fire.

Engines, welding areas and other fire hazards. Fire spreads quickly and can cause injuries, death and a significant amount of damage.

Gas lines. The symptoms of gas exposure can be subtle at first. When you notice them, it can be too late. Gas leaks are also the cause of some of the most dangerous and uncontrollable fires.

Confined spaces. Workers can become trapped or simply pass out from a lack of oxygen. You should look out for areas with poor ventilation or places where a worker can be out of sight for extended periods of time.

All machinery. Poorly maintained machinery can malfunction and seriously injure the operator or others in the vicinity.

To ensure that your staff is never in doubt with regard to safe practices, post safety checklists conspicuously throughout your facility.

2. Prioritize tasks. Once you’ve identified problem areas, you must decide what to do about them. If the problem poses an immediate danger—for example, an exposed wire or a gas leak—evacuate the area and remedy the problem immediately. If operations can continue adjacent to a less severe safety risk, make sure all workers understand the issue and are able to steer clear of the danger.

In general, high priority should be assigned to fire, gas and electrical problems. Likewise, if anyone has actually been injured, the problem should receive your immediate attention. Lower priorities, though they should be addressed as soon as possible, are those that do not pose an immediate safety risk to workers. This may involve equipment that can be temporarily taken off line or places that can be safely avoided without posing a risk (such as confined spaces).

3. Take action. If it can be fixed, fix it. Don’t hesitate. Still, Bonine cautions, it’s important to know your limitations. If you don’t have an expert on staff, contract with one to address the issue. If it is a machinery maintenance issue, contact the OEM rather than taking action into your own hands.

Make a checklist of repairs based on your identified safety priorities, and let your entire staff know when each problem has been addressed. “Communication with your workers,” Bonine emphasizes, “is absolutely crucial to help prevent workplace accidents.”

4. Establish a schedule for maintenance.
You should have two types of maintenance schedules, Bonine says:

  • For larger machinery and structures, schedule regular maintenance checks. All equipment should be tested and repaired as necessary. This is also true for idle equipment that you might use later.
  • For any piece of equipment used regularly by staff, be sure personnel are familiar with daily checklists to ensure the equipment operates properly. The ability to troubleshoot equipment problems is key. Workers should be trained on how to identify anything out of the ordinary within their environment. As the “boots on the ground,” they are your best shot at identifying safety hazards early.

5. Always follow up. According to Bonine, following up “boils down to checking and double-checking. If something is working properly today, make sure it’s still working properly tomorrow.”

For example, he says, if a machine is checked for malfunctions at the end of the day, have the morning shift check it before it’s fired up again. And if a problem is identified, be sure that the right people are notified and that the problem is fixed. Make a note that that particular piece of equipment had malfunctioned previously so your staff knows to watch for future malfunctions.

As noted, communicate all progress to your staff so they know when equipment is down for maintenance and should be avoided. Poor communication can be one of the biggest risks to the safety of personnel.

Bonine’s approach to these matters is straightforward: If you understand the risks associated with manufacturing and are prepared to respond, you can boost the confidence and productivity of your employees while keeping them safe. To that end, he says, “Know what to look for and how to respond, and always keep your staff fully informed.” MT

Tom Bonine is President of National Metal Fabricators. Established in 1944, this Chicago-area firm offers custom fabrication, angle rings, welding and bar milling services.

1273

2:44 pm
November 21, 2014
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5 Steps to a Safer Manufacturing Facility

footprint1114A manufacturing facility can be a dangerous place, especially if management doesn’t enforce strict safety protocol and maintenance checks. In general terms, your facility should be stocked with equipment for quick action when a safety hazard is spotted. Your personnel should understand when to act on a perceived danger and when to stand down. Moreover, you should understand the importance of regular maintenance and inspections.

As Tom Bonine of National Metal Fabricators notes, “Workplace safety is not only crucial for worker morale, it’s good for business.” He points to five simple steps you can take to help make your facility a safe place to work:

1. Identify unsafe areas. “That includes the usual suspects,” Bonine says, “as well as seemingly safe spots that can become dangerous without regular maintenance.” Some places to start include:

  • Electrical outlets, panels and cords. Cracks, tears and exposed fibers can pose huge safety risks. They can result in electrocution (one of the leading cause of worker deaths in manufacturing) or fire.
  • Engines, welding areas and other fire hazards. Fire spreads quickly and can cause injuries, death and a significant amount of damage.
  • Gas lines. The symptoms of gas exposure can be subtle at first. When you notice them, it can be too late. Gas leaks are also the cause of some of the most dangerous and uncontrollable fires.
  • Confined spaces. Workers can become trapped or simply pass out from a lack of oxygen. You should look out for areas with poor ventilation or places where a worker can be out of sight for extended periods of time.
  • All machinery. Poorly maintained machinery can malfunction and seriously injure the operator or others in the vicinity.

Post safety checklists throughout your facility so that your staff knows what to look for.

2. Prioritize tasks necessary to fix them. You’ve identified problem areas, and now you must decide what to do about them. If the problem poses an immediate danger — for example, an exposed wire or a gas leak — evacuate the area and have the problem remedied immediately. If operations can continue adjacent to a less severe safety risk, make sure that all workers understand the issue and are able to steer clear of the danger.

In general, high priority should go to fire, gas and electrical problems. Likewise, if anyone has actually been injured, the problem should receive your attention right away. The lower priorities (though they should be addressed as soon as possible) would be ones that do not pose an immediate safety risk to workers, or places that can be safely avoided without posing a risk (such as confined spaces).

3. Take action. If it can be fixed, fix it. Don’t hesitate. Still, Bonine cautions, it’s important to know your limitations. If you don’t have an expert on staff, contract with one to address the issue. If it is a machinery maintenance issue, contact the OEM rather than taking action into your own hands.

Make a checklist of repairs based on your safety priorities identified earlier, and let your entire staff know when each problem has been addressed. “Communication with your workers,” Bonine emphasizes, “is absolutely crucial to help prevent workplace accidents.”

4. Establish a schedule for maintenance. You should have two types of maintenance schedules, Bonine explains:

  • For larger machinery and structures, schedule regular maintenance checks. All equipment should be tested and repaired as necessary. This is also true for idle equipment that you might use later.
  • For any piece of equipment used regularly by staff, be sure personnel are familiar with daily checklists to ensure it is operating properly. The ability to troubleshoot equipment problems is key. Workers should be trained on how to identify anything out of the ordinary within their environment. As your “boots on the ground,” they are your best shot at identifying safety hazards early.

5. Always follow up. According to Bonine, “This boils down to checking and double-checking. If something is working properly today, make sure that it’s still working properly tomorrow.” For example, he says, if a machine is checked for malfunctions at the end of the day, have the morning shift check it before it’s fired up again. And if a problem is identified, be sure that the right people are notified and that the problem is fixed. Make a note that that particular piece of equipment had malfunctioned previously so that your staff knows to keep an eye out for future malfunctions. As mentioned earlier, communicate all progress to your staff so that they know when equipment is down for maintenance and should be avoided. Poor communication can be one of the biggest risks to the safety of personnel.

Bonine’s approach to these matters is straightforward: If you understand the risks associated with manufacturing and are prepared to respond, you can boost the confidence and productivity of your employees while keeping them safe. To that end, he says, “Know what to look for and how to respond, and always keep your staff fully informed.”

Tom Bonine is President of National Metal Fabricators. Established in 1944, this Chicago-area firm offers custom fabrication, angle rings, welding and bar milling services. 

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