Does Your Staff “Jiggle the Handle”?

For Safety’s Sake, Flush These Problem Areas Away

By Mike Burk

Is there anyone you know who would not understand if you said to them “don’t forget to jiggle the handle”?

Throughout our lives, we hear these words regarding a piece of house-hold equipment that is defective and does not operate properly. Many of us heard these words when we were first trained on the use of the equipment and just old enough to operate it on our own. People have done this for days, weeks, months or even longer. Some do it so often that it becomes a habit, a normal routine, and repairs are never completed. Some are bold enough to remind visitors that they too must remember to take this task upon themselves when they operate the defective equipment.

It can get worse. There are times when, even after many jiggles, the equipment still does not operate correctly. Unauthorized and untrained people suddenly feel empowered to open the equipment and attempt to make temporary repairs. Although completion of this procedure by the unskilled is usually not dangerous, it can lead to embarrassment and permanent damage.

Shake Off the Jiggles

Now, think about your production department. Most likely there is more than one situation where an associate is required to “jiggle the handle” on a piece of equipment to allow it to start, stop or operate correctly. There are probably many handles, switches, valves or safety systems that do not operate as designed. Operator-interface components may have become worn or defective. The vibration of the machinery may cause loose connection or contact that forces the equipment to shut down. If associates must actuate controls multiple times, bypass or alter components to keep the production line running, immediate repairs are required.

Any control or operator interface that is intermittent or requires a jiggle to operate can create an extremely hazardous situation. An inconsistent condition on automated systems may cause the equipment to stop suddenly or start up without warning. The equipment may appear as though it has been shut down safely. In reality, it may have stopped due to the change of status of an intermittent contact. The danger level is increased even higher if an associate has bypassed a component to keep the equipment running. These conditions reinforce the need to always follow lockout/tagout procedures if a machine has stopped suddenly or anytime a machine is being serviced. Never allow unauthorized and untrained people to attempt to make temporary repairs.

Intermittent operations of contacts, gate switches, light curtains or their connections on safety circuits must be reported and repaired immediately. Safety circuits that do not operate consistently could allow the equipment to start up without notice while an operator is performing routine procedures. All these operator interfaces must be part of preventive maintenance program and checked on a regular basis.

Energy Matters, Too

The appliance at home that doesn’t shut off without a jiggle can be a substantial waste of resources, resulting in higher cost of utilities. The same is true of the equipment on the door and window production floor.

Glass washers that don’t shut off the incoming fresh water waste hundreds of gallons. Air tools that don’t shut off completely or have loose fittings or connections cause the air compressors to run much more than needed. Heated ovens and roll presses that don’t shut down or go into an idle condition due to faulty or modified conveyor switches waste large amounts of electricity. Intermittent temperature controls or inoperable fans can cause overheating in electrical enclosures and failure of internal components. These and many other wasteful conditions may exist because of the need to repair inconsistent controls

Look for theses unsafe and wasteful conditions in your facility. Conduct audits, survey your operators, managers and safety teams to locate intermittent controls. Create a reward or recognition program for those who report safety and machinery issues that are inconsistent. Train new employees on the correct operation of the equipment. Never teach new associates how to bypass or defeat defective controls.

In other words, never “jiggle the handle.” Fix it.

Mike Burk is the North American technical representative for Sparklike.

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DWM Magazine

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