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Keys to staying safe around screening equipment

By |  January 11, 2023
The type of screen media operations use is a factor in their site safety. Photo: P&Q Staff

The type of screen media operations use is a factor in their site safety. Photo: P&Q Staff

Potential hazards are present in every aggregate operation – including in and around screening equipment. 

Screen media, for instance, can do serious damage to those doing necessary changeouts. Employees, however, can take several precautions to avoid accidents on the job.

Considerations

A keen sense of awareness, for instance, is critical to ensure employees stay safe around equipment.

“Being aware, not being complacent and assuming [because] I was there yesterday that this is still completely safe is something that makes a huge deal to people,” says Chad Hackett, president of Durex Products. “We hear the complaints on guards and [other] things being in the way, but those are there to keep you safe. Even though it makes the job a little more difficult, we’d rather have those there than cause serious injury to you.”

Additionally, employees can feel pressure to change media quickly because operators can be eager to get plants back up and running. But rush jobs are more likely to result in injuries versus ones that are done diligently and with safety in mind.

Still, some changeouts are easier than others. The type of media used and the way systems are set up are not only factors in an operation’s efficiency, but its safety.

Alex Caruana

Caruana

“Make screens simple and easy to deal with,” says Alex Caruana, national sales manager for Canada at Polydeck. “This ensures when it’s time to work on them, it’s likely to get done quicker and more accurately.”

Hackett agrees the type of media used is a factor in an operation’s safety.

“Wire screen media panels aren’t relatively heavy compared to other things in the industry,” he says. “But they’re still 300- to 350-pound handles. Between that weight and the awkwardness, it comes down to having enough guys there to handle these screens.”

Screening equipment, after all, is elevated within operations. So making sure support equipment is available goes a long way to keep employees out of harm’s way.

“It’s making sure they have equipment or cranes to put those screens up into the area rather than trying to haul them up decks,” Hackett says. 

The alternative without support equipment is not much fun, Caruana adds.

“Changing punch plate or wire cloth can be quite the task,” he says. “It’s large, heavy and unruly to handle. If employees haven’t done it before, think of moving a 4-ft. x 8-ft. section of sharp, heavy, floppy metal inches from the edge of a machine while balancing on 1/2-in.-wide rails with openings below.”

Personal protective equipment (PPE) obviously plays a role in employee safety, as well.

“Even the gloves [employees] wear are important,” Hackett says. “Screen media, by nature, is cut to size and has very sharp edges on it. So if something slips, that sharp wire can slice right through even fairly decent leather gloves.”

Lars Bräunling, director of product technology and development at Major, also sees tremendous value in the use of PPE around screening equipment.

“Screen media is sharp, and it can be harmful if protection isn’t used,” he says. “Some screens, however, are lighter and manufactured with a shroud of metal to cover the hooks to heighten safety.”

The bottom line

While safety should always be top of mind for operators, Hackett believes aggregate producers are largely on top of this area.

Still, accidents can happen without a moment’s notice. So preparation and attention to detail are an employee’s best friends.

“Preventive maintenance (PM) and lean thinking are things we didn’t do much of 20 years ago,” Hackett says. “As that’s progressed through manufacturing and the production industries, those PM programs are by far the most important thing to keep equipment and the employees safe.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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