10:11 pm, Monday 30 April, 2012
WorkCover NSW has issued an alert to remind workers of the potential dangers when using rotating machinery.
WorkCover has in recent weeks been advised of several incidents where workers have been seriously injured as a result of entanglement in rotating machinery. Such incidents include the following:
A worker received serious hand injuries using a bench drill when a glove became entangled on the spindle.
A worker using a lathe had three fingers amputated when a glove became entangled on an item he was polishing.
A worker’s arm was amputated below the elbow after a sleeve became entangled on the spindle of a paint stirring machine.
A worker sustained critical head injuries from being pulled into a lathe after a sleeve became entangled on an item he was polishing.
A worker received serious injuries to the arm and shoulder after his shirt became entangled on a spinning power take off.
A worker received serious leg injuries after his jeans became entangled on a stump grinder.
Each of the incidents described above are the result of a workers’ clothing becoming caught on a rotating component. However, it is apparent that entanglement incidents of these types can occur:
regardless of the level of experience of the worker; and
regardless of whether the plant incorporates guarding, if it still allows access to the rotating machinery or work piece.
Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) that uses plant must ensure that any risks to the safety of workers because of the plant are minimised as much as is reasonably practicable.
When assessing risks associated with rotating machinery, you should first establish whether the plant is appropriate for the task, and assess whether the task or the plant could be replaced with a lower risk solution. Consider whether the power or momentum of the working plant results in a risk of entanglement, and whether alternate methods can be used that do not place workers within reach of rotating machinery.
PCBU must also develop safe work methods in consultation with workers, and provide workers with the necessary information, training and supervision required for them to follow the developed safe work methods.
Entanglement is a potential hazard of most rotating machinery, and so safe work procedures should include measures to minimise the risk of injury to workers who operate or work nearby such machinery.
In minimising the risk, consider the following:
Identify the rotating components on an item of plant, and assess whether these components present a risk of entanglement.
Where a risk of entanglement exists, minimise the risk as far as is reasonably practicable.
Consider whether the plant can be eliminated – eg by automating a manufacturing process by using CNC milling.
Consider whether the plant can be substituted – eg by polishing manufactured items with a linisher or at a workbench, rather than using emery cloth with a lathe.
Consider whether machine guarding or exclusion zones can be used to provide a barrier between the worker and the rotating components. Note that where guarding is used, it should not introduce new hazards such as pinch points, sharp corners and edges.
For some operations, it may be unavoidable that a worker will have some exposure to rotating components – eg manual machining on a lathe. In such cases, ensure that these workers have received the appropriate training and that they’re using the plant correctly and for the purpose for which it is designed. Only authorised workers should perform these operations, and systems of work should be put in place to prevent unauthorised access.
Ensure that all safety devices, such as tool mounts and rests and guarding that separates the operator from the rotating item, are being used. Safety devices should be tamper proof.
Be aware that rotating components can still be a hazard to workers who aren’t directly operating the plant. Any exposed rotating component is a potential source for entanglement. Assess the need to use emery cloth on items rotated by a lathe. It may be possible to achieve the desired finish using other means. Where emery cloth is needed, consider using a backing board or mounting the cloth on a purpose designed tool to minimise the likelihood of the cloth wrapping around the item.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and sleeves, may be a way of reducing the risk from certain hazards in a workplace, such as contact with sharp edges, hot surfaces or limiting exposure to dangerous chemicals or atmospheres. Be aware, however, that PPE can also increase risks in some operations, in particular the risk of entanglement with rotating components.
Where PPE is used at a workplace, it should be appropriate for all tasks that are being performed. Where different tasks require different PPE, the safe work procedures should specify this, and there should be measures in place to reduce the risk of workers accidentally using incorrect PPE.
When operating rotating machinery, sleeves should be tight fitting and long hair should be tied back. Jewellery and other loose articles, which may also be a source of entanglement, should be removed.
As a general principle, wearing gloves when operating rotating machinery should not be allowed. If the nature of the work means wearing gloves is unavoidable (ie due to associated risks that cannot be controlled by other means), the gloves should be form fitting and selected to reduce the risk of entanglement so far as is reasonably practicable. ‘Riggers’ style gloves are not recommended.
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