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How to ensure a safe spring start-up

By |  May 9, 2022
Matthew Armstrong, business development analyst at Major, highlights several key factors to keep in mind to ensure producers have a safe spring start-up. Photo: P&Q Staff

Matthew Armstrong, business development analyst at Major, highlights several key factors to keep in mind to ensure producers have a safe spring start-up. Photo: P&Q Staff

Spring often starts with a flurry of activity for aggregate producers.

In the rush to get through preparations for the season, though, eager crews can forget that safety and efficiency require patience. This is especially true when it comes to maintenance tasks, such as screen changeouts.

To reduce impacts on productivity, crews often feel the need to get repairs done quickly. However, hasty repairs can hinder operations.

Employees in a rush take shortcuts, resulting in lower quality repairs or, worse, accidents. Performing preventive maintenance before peak season begins can help alleviate the pressure on crews by limiting spring repairs.

Here are three areas where operations and employees can work together to ensure a safe spring start-up.

Pick the right partner

Safe media changeouts start with proper training, and before production starts is a great time to refresh training and review safety protocols.

In early spring, arrange for training and other on-site technical services with reputable OEMs and dealers. This is critical to ensure the team has the knowledge and support needed to do the job safely and efficiently when the time comes. Some manufacturers offer customized training on-demand to teach screen maintenance best practices to plant managers, operators and maintenance crews.

Utilizing other services, such as vibration analysis, can also help identify maintenance issues early, allowing crews to plan ahead and limit downtime throughout the year.

Stock up on parts

Spring technical service visits offer a great opportunity to discuss maintenance schedules and parts needs for the year, as well. This can help producers determine exactly which parts to keep on hand, and what incentives might be available for pre-ordering critical spares, such as screen media.

It is important to thoroughly review production numbers to establish core media usage. From there, develop a plan with a screen media manufacturer or dealer to have at least two media changeouts readily available. Some manufacturers offer screen media stocking programs to ensure products are readily available.

A well-curated stock of spare parts increases efficiency during spring start-up and limits downtime throughout the year – even during unplanned maintenance. This relieves pressure and allows crews to take their time for safer, more efficient changeouts.

When it’s finally time to perform spring maintenance, apply the same thorough planning. Create a checklist of the tools and parts necessary for the task at hand – adding a few extra bolts, washers and nuts to account for accidental droppage. A well-stocked toolbox allows for limited trips up and down the vibrating screen, reducing safety risks and fatigue for crews.

Safe screen media changeouts start with proper training, and before production starts is a great time to refresh training and review safety protocols. Photo: P&Q Staff

Safe screen media changeouts start with proper training, and before production starts is a great time to refresh training and review safety protocols. Photo: Major

Practice safety

Regardless of training, preplanning and other steps operations may take, safe screen media changeouts inevitably rely on the individual performing the work. Following proper handling procedures is the only way to ensure proper changeouts.

Part of the safety protocol must include wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and following safety guidelines for site-specific conditions.

High-dexterity work gloves, for example, are necessary PPE for screen media changeouts. Sharp edges on the tail end of screens and at the hooks can cut workers’ hands, not only posing a danger to the individual but further delaying the operation resuming production.

Although it should never be thought of as a replacement for PPE, some screen designs can help reduce risk of hand injuries.

In addition to PPE, workers should never attempt to change screens alone. Working in pairs ensures available help should an individual get into a dangerous situation. Due to their size, most screens require two people to lift and maneuver safely. Take advantage of lifting equipment, such as zoom booms, to further reduce risk of injury.

Workers should also be diligent about other safety measures, such as proper lockout procedures or wearing safety harnesses if the vibrating screen is high off the ground.

While these steps may seem time-consuming in the moment, they can prevent serious and even life-threatening injuries.

Ongoing safety commitment

Even in the rush to get production started, safety must be a priority for crews and management.

There is no way to totally relieve the pressure that comes with a delayed spring start due to maintenance, but operations and employees can take steps to minimize these risks.

Planning ahead, working with reputable partners and practicing safety might take extra time, but these steps will help the season get off on the right foot and provide long-term benefits throughout the year.

Matthew Armstrong is a business development analyst at Major.


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