Conveyor Injuries & Mishaps Expert Article

The experts at Robson Forensic investigate many industrial mishaps to understand how they occurred and to determine the responsibilities of the parties involved. These investigations involve a range of engineering related aspects from in-running nip hazards to falling objects as well as maintenance related items. 

Coneyor Belt Injury Expert Witness Investigations

Belt Conveyor Systems

Many types of businesses such as supermarkets, warehouses, distribution centers, and factories utilize conveyors in a variety of ways for transporting material and products. When properly designed, manufactured, and installed, conveyors can safely transport material and products without exposing users and others to dangerous conditions.

This article focuses on a style of conveyor that most are familiar with - the belt conveyor.

Anatomy of a Belt Conveyor

Conveyor Belt Anatomy Expert Witness

Belt Conveyor Startup

Typical conveyor installations include a startup process, which takes place after the conveyor is installed and is typically conducted by the installer. The startup process is a comprehensive hands-on review of the entire conveyor system.

Typical steps in the startup process will ensure that:

  • Any temporary installation materials have been removed and the conveyor is free from obstruction(s);
  • Frame is level;
  • Pulleys and idlers are securely fastened, square and properly adjusted;
  • Belt splice is square;
  • Metal is secure and free from sharp edges;
  • Guards and other safety devices have been properly installed and are operating as designed.

A common dangerous condition encountered in our conveyor investigations is the in-running nip hazard. This hazard typically occurs at the line of contact between the rotating pulley and the moving conveyor belt on the in-running side of the pulley.

As seen in the anatomy illustration, these pulleys are found at the ends of the conveyor and are often referred to as rollers. The various pulleys found along the underside of the conveyor can also present in-running nip hazards.

Conveyor Belt Entrapment Expert Witness

Conveyors typically move material along various lengths, and that material can vary in size and weight. Therefore, it is essential that the belt does not slip on the pulleys and that the conveyor motor has sufficient power to drive the belt. To ensure proper operation, the conveyor should be appropriately robust.

Because of this robust construction, entrapments between the belt and pulley are unforgiving and can result in serious injury. It can be difficult, at best, to withdraw entrapped body parts from these hazards.

Industrial Machine Safety

Manufacturers should understand that the safest option is for hazards to be designed/engineered out of the product during the design process. If a hazard is inherent and cannot be designed out of the machine, system, or process, the next safest option is to guard the hazard. Notwithstanding these, the user should be warned or instructed about the dangers of the product.

These steps form the fundamental principles and rules of practice for the safe and appropriate engineering of products and are often referred to as the design, guard, warn safety hierarchy.

Conveyor Belt Safety Guarding Expert Witness

The requirements for overall equipment safety, including guarding, are supported by standards of care from numerous government and industry oversight organizations. The section below references one of the earliest standards on conveyor safety.

Conveyor Safety Standards

As early as 1922, the American Standards Association recommended a safety code for conveyors. After the formation of committees and subcommittees, the first standard was issued in 1947. That standard was designated as ASA B20.1-1947 American Standard Safety Code for Conveyors, Cableways, and Related Equipment. That early standard advised as follows:

602 Pulleys, Sprockets, Sheaves, Drums, Blocks
All mountings for pulleys, etc., when located in a working area where operators (other than maintenance men) are present shall be arranged to prevent the possibility of injury due to hands or parts of clothing being caught between the belt and pulley, or chain and sprocket, or cable and sheave, drum or block. When these mountings are located in areas where maintenance men only have access then such arrangement of frames or guards will not be required if provisions are made to stop and lock out the conveyor before maintenance men work on the conveyor.

This conveyor standard has been revised many times since its inception and OSHA incorporates this standard by reference. Additionally, CEMA (Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association) also provides standards and guidelines for conveyors.

Robson Forensic possesses an extensive technical library that houses standards and reference materials covering the modern industrial era. In many forensic investigations, our experts are able to reference industry specific resources to establish the relevant standard of care at the time that a piece of machinery or equipment was designed, built, or modified.

Workplace Safety & Machine Guarding Investigations

The industrial safety experts at Robson Forensic have designed, built, maintained, and operated a broad array of industrial machinery. Moreover, our experts have investigated countless incidents over the years involving all types of equipment. By retaining Robson Forensic, you are securing the full weight of our collective experience, knowledge, and resources toward the successful resolution of your matter.

For more information, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

Featured Expert

Todd Metcalfe, Facilities Engineering & Industrial Safety Expert

Todd Metcalfe

Facilities Engineering & Industrial Safety Expert
Todd is a Facilities Engineering and Industrial Safety Expert with over two decades of diverse experience in manufacturing and quality engineering for industrial machinery, heavy commercial vehicle… read more.

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