Factory presses are one of the most useful pieces of equipment in a manufacturing or assembly operation. With decades of improvements, factory presses have not only become more efficient and effective, but they’ve also become safer. However, there are still additional measures you should be taking to ensure safety for your press operators and others around the factory floor. Here are a few of the essential safety measures for factory presses that help to make these powerful machines safer for everyone involved.
6 Essential Safety Measures for Factory Presses
Some of the essential safety measures for factory presses utilize technological advancements in the machines themselves, while other safety tips involve safety policies and practices. Both of these aspects are important for factory presses to be both effective and safe.
1. Improved Press Power
The earliest presses, as well as many presses still today, rely on physical power from the operator. While a series of gears multiplies the force applied, these types of mechanical presses still require effort from the operator. Even when this effort is small, repeated use can cause one of the most common workplace injuries: repetitive stress injuries or RSIs. Presses aided by additional pneumatic, hydraulic or electric power help to reduce these injuries substantially, since they no longer require the operator’s power to drive the machine.
Pneumatic, hydraulic, electric, or hydropneumatic presses provide additional power to drive both small and large presses. Some of the largest hydraulic presses can exert thousands of pounds of force on heavy steel to manufacture airplane and rocket parts, while smaller presses can be used to create or assemble small, precise pieces, like jewelry or electronics. Whether small or large, the extra power behind these presses make operations faster and easier for employees.
2. Light Curtains
Light curtains are a great safety feature that help to keep employees around all types of presses safe. Light curtains form an invisible barrier of light in a set area around the press or through an entry or exit area. If beams in the light curtain are disrupted, this will automatically stop or retract the press, depending on the condition. Some types of light curtains can be programmed to ignore particular instances or areas of coverage. This process is called “muting” and is often used in conveyor systems with incoming/outgoing material into a guarded area.
Light curtains are a particularly innovative and important safety feature because they give workers the power to move around the press comfortably as needed, unlike a solid barrier, while still providing superior safety. The invisible light barrier initiates a fault condition if someone trips or stumbles too close to the press, for example, but the arrangement of the light curtains can prevent accidental stops or misfires.
3. Two-Hand Touch Controls
Two-hand touch controls use a simpler mechanism than light curtains, but they are still highly effective. This relatively simple technology requires the operator to contact two separate points around the press in order to start the pressing process. This ensures that the operator’s hands are both secured and out of the press working area before the press cycle can be activated.
Two-hand touch controls can be designed in an efficient and ergonomic way. This ensures that the operator can use the press quickly and efficiently, while also preventing RSIs. This also keeps the operator safe and prevents accidents in a simple, and effective way.
4. Safety Switches
There are a variety of different safety switches on the market to ensure that the working area is free from any outside obstacle before firing, and these often simple devices can provide a great amount of safety assurance for smaller production machines. Our Protectoswitch Safety Switch is a great example of a simple, low maintenance option that can provide an added layer of safety for a variety of equipment such as riveters, punches, spot welders, and staking machines. When installed on your machines, this safety switch drops a probe around the working area when the machine is activated to determine whether or not the machine can fired. If the probe is able to drop to its full stroke, indicating that there is no obstruction, this closes an actuating switch and the machine fires. Safety switches are a great safety measure for ensuring the machine working area is clear before each cycle.
5. Safety Guards with Interlocking Doors
Another option for additional safety with any press machinery is a barrier guarding setup with an interlocking access door. Most models consist of a tongue or key that connects with a mounted receiver in order to signal that the working area is closed off and the press can be fired. If the tongue or key is not inserted into the receiver, the press will not operate, as the guarding is not secure. The guarding can completely surround the working area or be placed solely at the front working area to protect the operator, depending on how your floor is set up. Some devices are physical Interlocking doors that provide assurance that the working area is clear, preventing unwarranted access and other accidents and increasing safety for press operators and others working around press machinery.
Take a look at one of our presses designed with an interlocking counterbalance door in the front working area as an example.
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6. Safety Culture
Though technological improvements like two-hand touch controls and light curtains have improved press safety significantly, a culture of safety is one of the most important ways to prevent injuries or accidents around the press. This requires everyone on the shop floor to be involved and to make safety a priority.
What does it mean to prioritize safety culture? There are a few different elements that make a safety culture effective. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are a few of the most important parts of creating a culture of safety at your workplace:
- Well-Informed: Employees can only be a part of the culture of safety if they are aware of the rules, regulations, and protocols. Proper training, education, information, and communication is essential to maintain a safety culture.
- Easy to Maintain: When safety adherence is both easy and expected, it’s simple to maintain. Employees should have easy access to the things they need to stay safe, such as hard hats, no-slip shoes, safety glasses, protective clothing, and more.
- Positivity, not Punishment: Positivity and rewards for good behavior tend to work better than punishment when it comes to safety adherence. Make it clear that safety is a priority, so employees don’t feel pressure to work around safety measures in order to speed up productivity. Keep in mind that productivity gains that sacrifice safety are unlikely to increase ROI in the long run.
- Internal Self-Assessments: Conducting internal self-assessments at least once a year to evaluate safety performance ensures a certain commitment level to high safety standards. Involving employees in this process is also a great way to develop ownership of safety initiatives and further the safety culture of your workplace.
Modern advancements in safety technology are making extremely powerful equipment increasingly safer for operators and employees on your factory floor. Combining the most updated safety features with a strong work culture centered around worker health and safety is a great way to provide the safest working environment possible when dealing with large production equipment. Looking to add new age modifications to your equipment for enhanced safety measures? Contact our designers for options that could work with your press machinery.