A Samco Case Study in Plant Safety
By Jim Austin, Targeted Content Inc., for Samco Machinery
TORONTO, June 2015 – Many are not eager to talk about safety until something goes wrong. Obviously by then it’s too late. The set-up, operation and maintenance of roll forming equipment requires a keen safety awareness for anyone working in the same facility. Manufacturers like Samco Machinery can be an effective resource for customers with expectations of providing a safe working environment for their employees.
Samco Machinery manufacturers roll forming equipment, much of it custom equipment, for a variety of industries: transportation, energy, storage, consumer products and construction. The legal requirements for producing safe equipment in the province of Ontario are strict, stricter than the requirements of many places customers will be running the equipment. That’s OK with the folks at Samco Machinery.
Samco Machinery completed a move into a new 164,000 square foot Toronto plant in 2013. Setting up a plant to accommodate product flow is important, but it’s just as important to do it with safety in mind. This expertise goes a long way to helping customers in their own plants.
“We set up the plant to best suit product flow,” says Gerry Birmingham, VP of Engineering at Samco Machinery. “Then we assessed hazard potential.”
For instance, in shipping bays, guard rails were installed to keep pedestrians safe and lines were painted on the floor to indicate safe walkway areas and restricted areas. “Those markings are great for your employees and are helpful to plant visitors as well,” Birmingham says. “You’ll have customers or other visitors in the plant who are often distracted during a walking tour by their surroundings, paying not as close attention to what’s in front of them. You have to make sure they stay safe. You want to keep these walkways away from potentially dangerous areas like transition areas, pits and rail tracks.”
Consider where the installation of electrical equipment and cords are going to be located so they do not create tripping hazards and Birmingham suggests installing transformers “up and out of the way.”
Fire extinguisher, eye wash and first aid stations should not be afterthoughts during the design and layout process. These areas should be highly visible and accessible in work areas.
“Believe it or not, lighting plays a part in safety,” Birmingham says. “In the new plant, we’ve upgraded to High Efficiency lighting so there is plenty of light in work areas, no dark spots in areas where someone is working.”
Air quality is an important consideration to short- and long-term health of employees. The new Samco Machinery plant has an exhaust system that also removes hot air during the summer months. To protect the hearing of people in the plant, noise generating machines are situated strategically so noise will be toward a wall or away from employees.
“We also made sure there are clear paths for evacuation in the occurrence of a catastrophic event,” Birmingham says. “You hope it never happens, but you have to be prepared for anything.”
In the Samco Machinery plant, main aisles shared by pedestrians and forklifts are wide enough so pedestrians can safely pass. “Floor space is very expensive when building a plant, so space must also be used efficiently, with safety in mind,” Birmingham says.
There are adequate “staging areas” for material waiting to be transferred to another process within the plant. They are not always being used to capacity, but these areas are important, with the goal of keeping material out of the way.
“Samco visits a lot of customer plants,” says Birmingham. “We’re manufacturing and installing equipment so are occasionally introduced to some innovative ideas they’re employing at their plants.”
One customer performed an ROI on situating all of its heat exchangers in a central area to manage the heat being produced for summer and winter advantages. “The initial cost was high, but the return easily justified the investment,” he says. “Between what we learn from our customers and what we learned in our two previous plants, we have created an even safer and efficient working environment.”
Now in a larger plant featuring larger and longer lines, with fewer operators required to run equipment, taking advantage of modern communication vehicles (in-plant paging, walkie-talkies, cell phones, etc.) has increased efficiency and safety. Operators no longer have to walk from one end of the line to the other, or from one end of the plant to the other.
Roll forming machines do more at higher speeds than ever before, requiring operators and anyone around the equipment to pay close attention to what’s going on. Now, integrated roll forming lengths are increasing, some more than 150 feet long. These lines contain machines for stamping, punching or pre-punching, packaging, bundling and other material handling stations.
“Even though these lines are growing, they may only require only one or two operators,” Birmingham says. “Ultimately, they’re responsible for knowing what’s going on all the way down the line. Safety is very much a part of the planning process when installing any machine or line.”
Samco Machinery staff provides training for all machines and is available for consultation should questions arise after delivery.
Before any Samco machines are delivered to customers, they are cranked up and run at the plant. Samco engineers and technicians are exploring the machine during operation to make sure everything is running correctly … making sure nuts are tight and every forming station is working properly and safety devices are in place.
“To do that, these devices have to be in places where operators out in the field will hopefully never be,” Birmingham says. “It starts with special awareness to the elimination of potential hazards to the operator.”
The intent is to make sure there is a safety solution for common operating scenarios and situations. For example, where there is a hose that can burst, there must be guarding of some kind may be necessary to protect anyone who may be in the vicinity. If product at any stage of the line becomes jammed, what happens to it? Does it drop to the ground or shoot up to the ceiling? Provisions are put into place to maximize safety.
Training is provided with all machines and once delivered will ensure proper and safe operation. That’s the best way to guarantee the customer is getting a machine that increases efficiency safely.
Safety should never be an afterthought.