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Bindery Safety/Ergonomics -- Finishing Without Incident

February 2004
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

Equipment in the bindery, as it is in many other manufacturing sectors in our country and around the world, can be extremely unforgiving.

An error or a relaxed attitude toward the handling of certain finishing equipment can easily separate you from yours in a hurry.

Fingers, heads and lives were parted with in the commercial printing industry during 2003, according to Gary Jones, manager of environmental health and safety at the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF). While rare, these accidents are attention getters:

* One young operator lost three fingers while adjusting knives on a three-knife trimmer unit on a saddle stitcher. Someone started the unit while he was still working on it.

* One employee was killed in an incident with an automatic palletizer. The worker wanted to make an adjustment to the electronic eye inside the palletizer. The person skipped proper procedure by scaling the safety fence around the machine. "The electronic eye saw the person, thought it was a bundle and crushed him to death," Jones says.

* Another fatality occurred when a worker, escorting a roll of paper on an elevator, was crushed to death when one of the brakes grabbed, shifting the elevator and jarring the large roll into the employee.

* Two foreign workers were decapitated in separate accidents in Germany and Great Britain, both involving the delivery end of a sheetfed press. In both cases, the press was started while the operators were still inside the delivery end, cleaning it.

Fluke accidents can't be anticipated, but instances where machinery used on a daily basis results in a loss of limb or life because of improper handling can and should be avoidable. Jones also notes that there are generally more injuries that occur in the bindery than in the pressroom.

"The one thing I see is a general lack of respect for the potential hazards of operating the equipment," he states. "Especially from the machine guarding perspective—altering or removing the machine guard—or not using lockout/tagout or other safety procedures when performing maintenance or other routine tasks. I've seen people lift a guard because they're relying on the interlock switch to protect them from injuries.

"When you play chicken with a machine like that, it's not a matter of if, but when, something will happen. Interlocks are only part of the overall safety system on the equipment and should not be relied upon as the sole safety measure. For minor operations, the stop button should always be used, and for major operations, the equipment should be locked out."

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