By Jeffrey Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor
The ingenuity many Ohio employers use to overcome workplace hazards is always inspiring. To spotlight these employers, their innovative spirit and their commitment to workplace safety, we sponsor our annual Safety Innovation Awards.
We created the program to recognize innovations that result in risk reduction, cost savings, and potential application to other workplaces, industries or operations. Innovations can range from a newly–created piece of equipment, tool, process or method to an existing one that an employer has improved or uses in a new or creative way.
After careful consideration, we are pleased to introduce the following employers as the four finalists for the 2019 Safety Innovation Awards.
Francis Manufacturing Company (Russia) – Hapman Sand Conveyance System
Francis Manufacturing Company is a family-owned aluminum sand foundry that produces castings weighing fractions of an ounce to several hundred pounds. The sand molding process required approximately 20 workers to shovel sand from floor level into the molding machines. This could require workers to shovel more than 20,000 pounds of sand per nine-hour shift, resulting in significant ergonomic risks for back and upper extremity injuries.
Francis Manufacturing Company worked with Hapman, a material handling equipment company, to design a hopper-conveyor system. Workers now fill the hopper with a skid steer loader, eliminating the shoveling. The conveyor automatically dispenses sand into molds, further reducing upper extremity ergonomic risks.
Since installing the first unit in April 2015, the company has not experienced a musculoskeletal injury in the molding area. Automating the molder’s sand handling has resulted in reduced absenteeism and increased production. Workers have reported increased energy at the end of shifts and have fewer complaints of back and shoulder pain.
J&R Farms (Mount Vernon) – Grain Engulfment Prevention/Retrieval System
J&R Farms is a multi-location grain cooperative with day-to-day operations focusing on storing, drying and handling grain. During unloading, the grain flows downward from the top center of the bin, creating a “funnel” effect, drawing material and objects down to the conveyor where an unloading auger at the bottom of the bin transports the grain outside. Therefore, workers need fall and engulfment protection when accessing grain bins for maintenance or housekeeping.
J&R Farms installed a grain engulfment prevention/retrieval system inside the bins that provides a high anchor point at the bin peak and an anchor point/davit arm mounting sleeve outside the roof access manway. A lifeline and belay line protect workers before entering the bin and while they are inside it. A linear cable fall protection system, across the roof of the control room, provides proper tie-off for workers. J&R Farms also installed tie-off points and temporary anchor slings in several frequently-accessed locations on the outside of the bin as well as a fall protection system under the loadout tank (hopper area). Select entry points also have a bin entry kit consisting of pre-rigged/pre-tied: main line, belay line, haul system, lift bag, two rescue-style padded harnesses and a “Y”-lanyard. Finally, workers can deploy an aluminum davit arm retrieval system to rescue a victim out of a bin and lower them safely to the ground.
Although the rescue system has not been deployed in a rescue to date, workers frequently use tie-off points during maintenance and housekeeping to provide 100-percent fall protection and peace of mind to workers.
TERYDON Inc. (Navarre) – Touch-Screen Tablet Wireless Control (a.k.a. “Lunch Box”)
TERYDON Inc. is primarily focused on designing and manufacturing high-pressure water jet systems, tooling and accessories. High-pressure water jet cleaning exposes workers to serious laceration hazards from direct contact with the water jet and chemical hazards associated with the material they are cleaning. Exposure to slips, trips and falls, excessive noise, and ergonomic stresses are also common when workers are positioning jetting lances, hoses and cables.
TERYDON designed and built a tablet-based controller that allows the operator to control the water jet via a Bluetooth®-connected device. This removes operators from the point of water jet operation, effectively eliminating their exposure to slip/trip/fall, laceration, chemical, noise and ergonomic hazards associated with manual manipulation of the hoses and cables.
Since introducing the innovation in 2013, Lunch Box users have experienced no water jet-related injuries due to chemical contact, water jet lacerations or repetitive motion injuries. Users also report a significant increase in productivity due to the Lunch Box’s ability to simultaneously control multiple water jet lances. It has also eliminated the need for frequent breaks associated with manual water jetting.
Yoder Drilling & Geothermal Inc. (Sugarcreek) – Geothermal Grouter Pipe/Loop Reel
Yoder Drilling & Geothermal Inc. provides installation of vertical, horizontal and pond loop geothermal applications.
Prior to the innovation, workers would manually force up to 200 feet of geothermal pipe down the pre-drilled hole. Additionally, they would also push down the grout hose that back-fills the hole once the pipe is in place. This exposed workers to repetitive strain injuries from pushing/pulling tasks, as well as heat/cold stress and slips/trips/falls from slippery drilling spoils. Yoder worked with several manufacturers to build a hydraulically-powered hose reel to eliminate virtually all manual pushing/pulling. The worker now controls the powered reel from a skid steer rather than pushing/pulling the hose. This also removes them from the slippery ground surrounding the borehole.
Since introducing the innovation in 2016, the company has not experienced any repetitive strain or slip/trip/fall-related injuries. The powered hose reel has increased production and efficiency. Finally, it has allowed Yoder to bid on work it previously deferred because the larger diameter hose a job required could not be manually inserted.
The four finalists will be on hand at the Safety Innovation Awards booth at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2019 (OSC19) March 6-8 in Columbus. Stop by to learn more about the innovations when you’re at OSC19.
We will present awards and monetary prizes to the finalists during OSC19, but the real winners are the employees of these companies. Innovations like the ones above help workers stay safe and healthy, increase productivity and morale, and produce long-term cost savings.