Keys to Operating a Safe Fabrication Shop
Fabrication Shop Safety
Safety plays a large role in the operation of a successful and profitable business in the stone industry.
Unsafe workplaces inevitably drive up costs. This in turn, reduces productivity, and in some cases even results in injury or death. In this article, we are going to talk a bit about some keys to operating a safe fabrication shop. To do this, we will explore some basic areas that are key to fabrication shop safety.
Equipment & Vehicle Safety
The first key to safety that we will take a look at is the
safety of vehicles and equipment used in the business. Stone fabrication involves many pieces of equipment. Additionally, successful and productive shops often have a number of vehicles used by employees. These "machines" are safety hazards just waiting to happen if the individuals operating them do not carry it out properly.
Professionals working in the stone and hard surface industry are surrounded by equipment. Whether in the shop or at an install location, there is equipment for working, handling, and installing natural stone, engineered stone, and other hard surfaces. Here is a list of just some of the equipment that is regularly used in the industry:
- Core Bits
- Slab Lifters
- Storage Racks
- Diamond Blades
- Vacuum Lifters
- Transport Carts
- Surface Treatment Chemicals
These pieces of equipment have the potential of causing harm to the operator if not used safely. Even worse is the thought of an operator injuring someone else be cause of improper use of a piece of equipment in the shop or on a job site where an installation is being performed. Therefore, equipment operators should be properly trained on how to run the equipment they use.
There are several potential safety hazards associated with
diamond blades. Think for a moment about what is actually involved with using diamond blades. A circular piece of metal is being spun at thousands of rpms as the edges of it are colliding with the edge of solid rock or another material that could throw debris. Clearly, this equipment, along with the saw on which it is mounted, have safety protocols. And blades are not the only kind of tooling that can cause projectiles. Think about the force involved when using core bits to cut holes into those same materials.
Any time a chemical is used for treating a surface, bonding materials together, or even cleaning an area, there is the potential for harm if the substance is not handled properly. Chemicals such as
surface treatments and bonding adhesives must be properly handled and used.
The very idea of having to use a machine to lift an object intimates to the individuals involved that there is danger. The object being lifted is so heavy it cannot be handled by people. In shops, equipment such as
vacuum lifters and slab lifters are used for moving, positioning, and adjusting materials. Operating these lifters in a way that is safe is very important. Worn rubber or a broken part of the machine cna result in the material being dropped or mishandled iin a way that causes injury to someone.
There is never a time when safety is put on hold when it comes to working with stone and hard surfaces. The simple fact that the material is so heavy means that proper material storage and transport equipment is necessary. Using unsafe
stone transport racks could result in disasterous consequences. And even if the material is not being handled, the weight of a slab of granite just sitting on storage racks could trun otu to be harmful if the equipment cannot support the weight of the stone.
These are jsut a few examples of times and situations where equipment can and does become unsafe when it comes to working with natural and engineered stone sheets and slabs.
Delivery and Installation Vehicles
Anytime a vehicle is being used it must be done so in a safe manner. This is especially true if the vehicle is being used for a stone fabrication shop or distributor. Whether the vehicle is a delivery van, fork lift, or installation truck it must be operatd safely. Furthermore, maintaining the vehicle is also important. Tires that are in disrepair or other mechanical issues could result in injury or even death should something malfuction during operation.
Employee & Personal Safety
Inanimate objects are not the only keys to operating a safe fabrication shop. Employee and personal safety are also important. Keeping employees safe in the work environment is addressed in a couple of ways.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
In addition to keeping the work environment safe, fab shops train and follow up on the use of
PPE. Ensuring proper safety equipment for workers and protecting their eyes, ears and appendages are as important as keeping the air free of harmful dust. A good supply of personal protective equipment and a well stocked safety cabinet contributes to this goal.
Evironmental & Workspace Safety
The work environment is a key area of safety. Keeping the workspace and the evironment free from hazards allows workers (and others that might pass through the area) the security of knowing that the shop is safe.
Ensuring a Safe Work Environment
Ensuring a work environment that is safe goes hand-in-hand with equipment and vehicle safety that we previously mentioned. Aside from those aspects though, there are other ways in which a work environment can be safe.
One method of ensuring employee and persoanl safety is but taking dust control measures. Having a dust management plan in the shop means taking steps to improve air quality. Shop dust contains varying degrees of
respirable crystalline silica which has been deemed a safety issue. Because of this, stone fabrication shops (and other types of businesses for that matter) implement safety standards that reduce this kind of harmful dust. This is accomplished through the use of dust collection systems and water filtration systems.
Health of Workers
All of the above factors that we have considered up to now contribute to the overall health of the workers in the shop, on job sites, during sales calls, and in work vehicles to and from locations. The overall health and lives of the workers are important to fab shop owners.
As we ahve considered in this article, fabrication shop safety involves more than just posting a sign or a poster on the wall. It involves being familiar with several keys to operating a safe fabrication shop and then following through to ensure it gets carried out.