Conveyors are important material handling equipment for industrial and commercial businesses. They can be found in applications for virtually every industry, including manufacturing, mining, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, automotive, aerospace, packaging, agricultural, computer, semiconductor, warehouse, mail and delivery services, and many others. In addition to speed and efficiency improvements, conveyors have reduced accidents related to manual material handling processes.
Like any other piece of equipment with moving components, conveyors can be unsafe if installed or operated improperly and they do not conform to specified safety regulations and codes. These potential safety hazards apply to conveyor maintenance as well as conveyor operation.
Conveyors are often critical components of the operation of larger systems or manufacturing cells. An unexpected conveyor shutdown can lead to costly work stoppages. To avoid these interruptions and expenses, conveyors should be subjected to routine preventive maintenance. Conveyors that are continually maintained will have long lives and continue to run efficiently and safely over their service life.
Routine Maintenance Inspection
Belt and chain tension should be checked and adjusted as needed to prevent excess wear, twisting or improper engagement with the pulleys or sprockets. This applies to both the conveyor belt as well as to the belt or chain used to drive the conveyor. Drive chain take-up should also be inspected and may need periodic adjustment since the chain tends to lengthen as wear occurs.
In addition to the drive chain take-up, other drivetrain components should be inspected to make sure they are in good operating condition.
Lubrication of bearings and chains is important to reduce friction and excess heat generation and wear. Automatic lubricators can help ensure that all critical components are kept properly lubricated.
Contamination can lead to damage or premature failure of belts, chains, bearings, sprockets and motors. It also poses a potential risk to the product being handled by the conveyor. Conveyors should be checked and cleaned for chipping paint, dirt, excess grease or other fluids or materials.
Other items to check for include excess wear or vibration of rollers and other moving components, damaged belts and broken or compromised o-rings. Any sensors or guards should also be checked to make sure they are present and are in good working order.
Maintenance personnel should always observe the following precautions when working on a conveyor.
- Never perform maintenance while a conveyor is in operation. The circuit breaker disconnect should be locked out before commencing with maintenance operations.
- Never touch moving conveyor belts, pulleys, rollers or other components.
- Make sure all tools and personnel are clear of any moving parts before restarting the conveyor.
- Keep conveyor surroundings clear of debris and clean up any lubricant spills before working on a conveyor or restarting it.
- Always replace safety guards before placing a conveyor back into service. Never operate a conveyor with an open or missing chain or belt guard.
- Look for and remove any sharp edges, protruding objects or other hazardous conditions.
- String any hoses or drop cords to avoid trip hazards.
- Always shut down a conveyor before removing any jams or foreign objects.
- Always wear safety eyewear when operating compressed air or working on a conveyor. Do not direct compressed air in the direction of yourself or other personnel.
- Always use the proper tool for the job and carry tools in a toolbox or pouch.
Conveyor maintenance should only be carried out by trained personnel. Failure to follow proper safety precautions can lead to serious bodily injury.