Elevating safety around conveying equipment

By |  December 28, 2019

Douglas Manufacturing’s Paul Ross, a board member at CEMA (the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association), will be celebrating 25 years in the industry in 2020. P&Q recently caught up with Ross, the president at Douglas, to talk conveyor safety in the aggregate industry.

headshot: Paul Ross, Douglas Manufacturing Co.


How would you generally characterize aggregate producers’ approach to safety around conveying and material handling equipment?

Approaches can vary in effectiveness and intensity from company to company. We are very fortunate in that the vast majority of our customers recognize that safety is a top priority. When we consider the industry at large, we can see that industry associations such as NSSGA (National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association) and CEMA focus on the importance of safety and work with their members to help ensure that effective programs, processes and practices are a deep and essential part of the culture and not just symbolic in nature.

Where would you rank material spillage in terms of a hazard tied to conveying and material handling, and what measures do you see the most successful producers taking to avoid safety issues in this area?

Material spillage is a significant concern because it has to be cleaned up, which usually involves personnel working near the moving parts of the conveyor. In fact, the majority of costs with maintenance are associated with belt spillage and fugitive materials.

It is, thankfully, one that is handily addressed by supporting the belt at the transfer point, adopting proper transfer point designs, by loading the belt efficiently and effectively cleaning the belt. When done correctly this helps reduce or eliminates the need for cleanup, which puts people close to the conveyor and results in improved safety.

Photo by Pit & Quarry staff.

Photo by Pit & Quarry staff.

As with most issues, improving safety also improves productivity so producers will realize a net positive result not just in safety, but in productivity when the issue of fugitive materials is addressed.

The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) says the construction and maintenance of guards is one of its most frequently cited standards in crushed stone and sand and gravel mines. As you and your Douglas colleagues venture into aggregate operations, do you see any systemic guarding issues that need to be rectified? What’s the nature of some of the more common guarding hazards you see?

Effective guard design, installation and maintenance is a cornerstone of an effective safety program and is often an area where significant improvements can be made without too much effort or expense.

This process begins at the plant level, where the conveyors are in service. A best practices plan for conveyor guarding should be developed and implemented with the input of all concerned to help ensure that the most effective guards are put in place and properly maintained.

Most companies have pulleys sufficiently guarded, but one area we see left exposed is the return roll guards. Depending on the location of the rolls, they should be guarded to help prevent personnel from coming in contact with the pinch point at these locations.

Housekeeping is one area in which MSHA frequently cites producers. What impact do you think poor housekeeping has on safety tied to conveyors?

Housekeeping is a very important issue for our customers and their plants. My experience in recent years has been that plants are trending toward placing a higher value on this and making it a priority. More often than not, I find myself complimenting our customers on how well they are doing at housekeeping. This is a challenging goal given the nature of the business we are in. It requires constant effort and a high level of dedication by the entire team to make it happen.


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