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How does safety factor into shop layout?

News | September 1, 2009 | By:

Well-organized shops take safety into account when they’re arranging equipment, creating pathways, and designing work processes. Luckily, the graphics industry is not terribly high-risk; but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

“We’re pretty fortunate in that most of our material is either fabric or aluminum,” says Vincent Marler, executive vice president-operations, Moss Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill. “We don’t have many accidents, but probably our most naturally dangerous area would be our frame shop where employees are cutting and welding.”

Moss’ Elk Grove Village plant manager, John Cooper, says his shop has auto-cutters, but also does a fair amount of cutting by hand. As a result, he’s seen a few cut fingers in the stitching area—but he solved the problem by installing guards on all the rulers. Machines and tables are also set up so that users don’t have to reach far for parts and their work position is ergonomically friendly, reducing the possibility of repetitive injury over the long term.

“As far as weight, we don’t get anything too dangerous,” says Marler. “We did put in a new truss system in Chicago which does the larger structures; it’s hydraulic and will lift. Also, safety belts and harnesses. We do a lot of lifts here, and we require the employees to strap themselves on lifts.”

Forklifts have the potential to damage equipment and hurt workers, but in general risk can be limited by laying out the shop so that motorized equipment is confined to a limited area. Additionally, operators can put up gates or blockades to make sure other personnel don’t wander into the danger zone.

“There’s only a small area that [the forklift] can operate in, and that’s right around where the stock is kept,” says Paul Glynn, vice president of operations, Designtex, Portland, Maine. “We have two loading docks—that’s where our shipping and receiving area is located. Right next to receiving is a big rack that receives all the roll goods before they get opened, or at least most of them. And then further away from that is the back wall, with all the rigid substrates lined up. The forklift really only travels over, I’d say, 70 or 80 feet.”

Jamie Swedberg is a regular contributor to Fabric Graphics.

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