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shovelling or hosing). Together they accounted for more than 50% of the total. Some of the costs associated with these accidents can be easily identified, including medical treatment, lost wages, equipment downtime and potential legal liability.


apparent are the costs of finding and training new employees, subsequent production delays and the supervisory time for investigating / reporting, not to mention damage to equipment or tools.

In 2007, the National Safety Council in the United States estimated the average cost of a work-related death to be around $1.2 million, a figure that’s likely to be even higher now. The accounting included medical expenses, wage and productivity losses and administrative costs, but not property damage.


New advancements include a skirtboard seal design with a primary seal clamped to the skirtboard and an “outrigger” strip to capture fines.

The single most critical element in conveyor safety and efficiency is training, beginning with management. While managers are often too busy to take a course on conveyor systems, they’ll frequently require attendance by an employee who has little or no influence in the decision-making processes that affect the safety and efficiency of the plant. The commitment to reduced risk must be initiated by managers and supervisors, if they expect the troops to buy in to the concept. Many industries require specific amounts of training for new employees, and some demand continuing education, a good practice for reducing risk and maximizing productivity. These programs typically provide an introduction to the work environment, and may also include topics such as hazard recognition, risk avoidance and health / safety. Unfortunately, there are few standards that focus on conveyor training, and in light of the number of conveyor-related accidents each year, it appears that existing programs have not accomplished their mission. As part of a good training program, operators will learn the importance of observing the speed limit and capacity rating on any conveying system, ensuring that design specs are not exceeded. A safety “walk- around” will become second nature any time inspection or repair is performed, so that all tools and work materials are removed before re-starting the conveyor. In a well-designed system, emergency shut-offs and controls will be located close to the belt, with ready access that is unobstructed by debris. It’s important that only competent, well-

18 September 2014 Solids and Bulk Handling

trained personnel -- equipped with the proper tools -- perform conveyor service and maintenance. These individuals should be trusted veteran employees empowered with the authority to shut down a conveyor for minor repair that is likely to prevent a major outage or equipment expense. One way to optimise maintenance is to document standard procedures for performing each task, ensuring that it’s completed in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

A computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) is an excellent tool for archiving these service procedures. The specialised software will administer work orders and manage information, so the maintenance staff can perform tasks according to priority. Most systems will also track expenditures, an essential element in justifying equipment upgrades or purchases.


While it might sound basic, improper belt selection remains a common problem in conveyor systems, decreasing belt life and creating potential hazards. Belt conditions such as cupping and camber are often a result of improper specification, which leads to spillage, mis-tracking and improper loading. Belt selection must be based not only on the system length, width, material conveyed and angle of incline, but also on the parasitic drag of components such as idlers, bearings, belt cleaners and skirt board seals.

In specifying the correct belt, thicker is not always better. It should be selected to deliver the proper pounds per inch of width that it’s intended to carry, as well as the optimum trough angle, aspect ratio and cover material. While many suppliers are simply middle men who will sell whatever stock belt is best suited to the application, a better match will usually be obtained by using a quality software program to design and select the belt according to specific criteria.


One of the primary approaches to reducing risk and improving profitability is to manage fugitive material. There are many ways that fugitive material from belt conveyors can create hazards, the most apparent being that it creates the need for personnel to perform maintenance around moving conveyors. Any time that employees are in close proximity to the moving belt, even minor or inadvertent contact can become a serious injury or fatality in just seconds.


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