3 steps to enhance safety around belt bearings

By |  August 24, 2018
photo courtesy of THE TIMKEN CO.

Make sure to review your equipment safety protocol with your maintenance team. Photo courtesy of The Timken Co.

When it comes to bulk material handling by conveyor belt, six of every 10 safety incidents occur during maintenance, according to the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association, and 25 percent of fatalities are linked to activities involving equipment upkeep.

Keeping proper service procedures in mind, here are three key ways to safely maintain conveyor belt roller bearings at quarries.

1. Lock out, tag out, block out – without exception

Conveyor belts can store a surprising amount of potential energy, even after the belt has come to a complete stop. This energy results from belt stretch or bulk material resting on an inclined or declined section.

Commonly during conveyor repairs, the counter weight is lifted to reduce tension on the belt and, depending on the job, it might be necessary to relieve local tension, as well. In any event, engineered belt clamps should be used on both sides of the repair operation to evenly distribute tension and firmly grip the belt in place.

Spend time reviewing safety protocol with your maintenance team for each equipment type, and always lock out power sources, block out any potential energy source and require tag-out by all individuals carrying out the work.

2. Extend maintenance intervals with solutions

With greater production rates to meet and more machines to maintain, what often gets overlooked is equipment working with higher tonnages or at faster speeds can have greatly reduced maintenance intervals. For example, doubling the load on a bearing can reduce its service life to just 10 percent of the manufacturer’s stated value.

As production doubles, repairs and maintenance pile up, which takes a toll on technicians, leading to mistakes and increasing the safety risk to personnel.

Think about easing bearing maintenance with product solutions that can extend replacement intervals. This can help increase production rates without overburdening equipment maintenance.

Bearings with superior sealing capability can prolong the time between maintenance activities. For instance, housed units use a primary seal on the inner rings and, in addition, may use secondary seals and even a grease seal that’s located between the primary and secondary seals. By keeping more contaminants out, the bearing is more likely to achieve its optimal service life.

It is advisable to work closely with your bearing supplier to review best practices and schedule hands-on training sessions to familiarize personnel with the equipment.

3. Make lubrication a priority

A steady supply of clean grease or oil will keep bearings operating as intended. However, regular lubrication is the most neglected part of proper care. While it can be tempting to put off bearing re-lubrication for more mission-critical tasks, this can have consequences.

Consult your supplier to determine an optimal re-lubrication schedule for your conveyor bearings based on the specific demands of the job. Remote lubrication systems are available to automate this process where grease fittings are hard to access. This ensures a consistent and precise supply of lubricant to the bearing. Most importantly, remote lubrication systems help keep your people out of harm’s way.

If maintenance activities are starting to spiral out of control because your conveyor bearings are not delivering years of dependable performance, consult your supplier for options to remedy the issue. It may be due to ineffective lubrication, or you may require a bearing with superior sealing capabilities.
Conveyors keep quarries working around the clock. With so many working parts, a little extra care goes a long way toward ensuring the safety of everyone who maintains them. Following these simple steps can mean thousands of dollars in savings for your business and a safer bottom line every employee will appreciate.

Ryan Fernandes is a senior industrial application engineer for The Timken Co.

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