Safety Steps

Kerry Clines

June 1, 2011

Conveyor Safety

Establish and follow safe work policies and procedures when working on or near conveyors.

By Kerry Clines, Senior Editor

An accident report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released in early May stated that one of two fatalities at aggregates operations during the first part of 2011 involved a belt conveyor. According to the report, the employee was cleaning a trap metal magnet on a belt conveyor when the conveyor started.

In response to that fatality, MSHA issued the following best practices for avoiding conveyor accidents.

• Establish policies and procedures for conducting specific tasks on belt conveyors.

• Ensure that persons are task trained and understand hazards associated with work performed.

• De-energize and block belt conveyors against motion before working near a drive, head, tail, take-up pulleys, and magnets.

• Lock out-tag out all power sources before working on belt conveyors.

• Maintain communications with all persons performing the task. Before starting belt conveyors, ensure that all persons are clear.

• Provide and maintain a safe means of access to all working places.

• Sound an audible alarm if the entire length of the belt conveyor is not visible from the starting switch.

Conveyor safety begins with a good plant design. If a new plant is being constructed or modifications are being made to an existing facility, the plant design and the selection of proper equipment are essential. Adequate capacity and structural strength are a must, but the design should take into account haul roads or travel paths that may pass under the conveyor.

The most critical component of conveyor safety may be to have a good safety program in place and have good buy-in from employees. Even with guards and protective devices on equipment, there are still opportunities for people to get hurt. Employees have to make good, sound decisions concerning safety.

Many operations have safety programs in place that stress decision-based safety. Employees with good safety records are recognized for their achievements. Peer observation is encouraged in some of these programs. One employee will watch another perform a task and point out unsafe acts or things that could be done better.

Near-miss reporting is one of the best learning methods used by numerous producers. Once a hazard has been identified, trends can be spotted and corrections can be made.

The most common belt conveyor accidents occur when a miner is:

• Caught between a conveyor belt and an idler or pulley;

• Caught in a drive chain or gear drive; or

• Trapped between major components of a system.

The most common hazards associated with conveyors are:

• Fall of person;

• Falling materials or objects;

• Fire;

• Electrocution;

• Slip-trip-fall injuries; and

• Strains/sprains.

The Small Mine Office developed a series of weekly ToolBox talks that can be used by small mine operators and others to hold safety and health discussions for employees at their mining operations. These ToolBox talks were developed in consultation with members of the mining community. To get the free app, enter into your browser.

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