When an investigation discovered that a large UK food manufacturer failed to install a safety guard that could have prevented an engineer from major injury when he was trapped while conducting a conveyor belt inspection, the company was hit with a massive fine. This lesson serves as a reminder that every food and beverage processor must plan and implement appropriate safety procedures.
As safety requirements evolve, older equipment may require additional safety measures to comply. The answer to resolving safety concerns may not always be to shut equipment back behind barricades. Food processing safety experts commonly recommend safety light guards to instead of a physical guard because they make maintenance and cleaning procedures easier, which enables a more efficient and hygienic facility.
Light curtains and light grids create streams of light that are an invisible emergency stop trip. Interrupting the beams signals the equipment to either shut down or limit movement. While light curtains have been used in the food and beverage industry for over 50 years, wide use could help prevent more accidents. Light curtains feature many beams of light that are close enough together to detect a finger and are ideal for short safety distances while light grids feature one to four beams and are used for longer safety distances. Regulations for safety distances are provided in C-standards such as EN 692 for mechanical presses. If no specific C-standard is available, EN ISO 13855 is used.
A light curtain should be installed to eliminate trapping or crushing risks. To achieve this, no gaps can be below, reachable from above or on the sides of the light curtain. (Light curtains are available in a variety of lengths.) There should be a maximum of 75 mm between the light curtain and the machine to account for a person potentially standing between the light curtain and equipment.
Safety should be a top priority in any food processing plant environment. The world of safety regulation is a complex one and companies may benefit from outsourcing the task to experts rather than risk non-compliance and potential fines.
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