Making safety strides around screens

By |  November 27, 2019
Headshot: Austin Gwyther, Unified Screening & Crushing


Austin Gwyther, general manager of Unified Screening & Crushing’s facility in Washington state, has nearly 15 years of experience in the mining industry.

Gwyther worked on crushing spreads early in his career and oversaw parts inventory for FNF Construction. Later, he became a crushing superintendent for Fisher Industries and General Steel & Supply Co.

Through the years, Gwyther saw a safety transformation take place tied to screening equipment. He recently shared some thoughts with P&Q about the progress the aggregate industry’s made when it comes to operating around screens and other processing equipment.

1. Improved equipment design makes working around screens inherently more safe. Gwyther points to tie-off lines around screens and quick disconnects that remove covers for maintenance as examples of design enhancing jobsite safety.

“A lot of times it was pinch points with confined spaces,” he says. “With the quick disconnects, they can get them off easier and still have room to work.”

2. A cleaner work area means a safer work area. Ensuring catwalks are clean and free of clutter and material buildup contributes to a safer environment around screening equipment, Gwyther adds.

“Material or tools on catwalks can be a potential tripping hazard and also a violation in certain locations or sites,” he says.

Keeping up with housekeeping was always rule number one when Gwyther ran pits.

“It seems like it takes a little more time, but it’s easier when you do screen changes,” he says. “It saves you downtime in the long run.”

Producers should also consider the possibility of product contamination if they don’t keep the areas around screens clean.

“Many customers have belts underneath their screens, so when product builds up on the catwalk, it tends to let materials spill over onto the belt, causing oversized material to get into the product,” Gwyther says. “On many jobsites, this will cause the product to be out of spec and fail when tested by quality control.”

Keeping the areas around screens clean not only keeps employees safe, but avoids the potential of product contamination occurring. Photo by Kevin Yanik

Keeping the areas around screens clean not only keeps employees safe, but avoids the potential of product contamination occurring. Photo by Kevin Yanik

3. Performing efficient maintenance minimizes the time spent around screens. Proper maintenance throughout the screening process is critical, according to Gwyther.

For instance, worn-out channel or rail rubber and improper screen tensioning can decrease the life of screens, causing drastically more downtime, expense and time spent around screens.

“Safety has come a long way,” Gwyther says. “As time went on, owners and managers realized screening is the key to the final product and that it can make or break a lot of jobs. When you have the right product, it eliminates downtime and increases safety.”

When Gwyther first started in the industry, roller guards weren’t a thing. The same goes for bearing guards.

But the necessary rules and regulations are now in place, he says.

“That has completely changed,” Gwyther says. “You are required to do that, and it has saved a lot of people’s lives.”

4. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when working around screens is a must. From Gwyther’s point of view, the use of PPE has significantly decreased the number of injuries that occur.

“I can’t stress enough on personal protective equipment,” Gwyther says. “It should be worn at all times.”

Joe McCarthy

About the Author:

Joe McCarthy is a former Associate Editor of Pit and Quarry Magazine.

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