Automating Pallet Wrapping Boosts Worker Safety - Metal Flow
Contributed by the experts at TAB Industries
Reportable workplace injuries in packaging and shipping at metal production and distribution facilities commonly average $2,000.00 per incident in direct costs alone, according to an informal survey of fab shop owners and others involved in the metals industry. Many of these injuries come from punctures, abrasions and lacerations to the arms due to contact with sharp, metal parts and splintered pallets. Other injuries come from acute and chronic back conditions. Yet all of them occur when workers manually wrap pallet loads in plastic shrinkwrap to ready their metal parts and products for shipping and storage.
One of the most common of these manual wrapping methods involves a lift truck driver raising a pallet loaded with metal parts while two other workers wrap the plastic film over, under and around the pallet and parts by hand. They pass the film roll back and forth in hopes of securing the parts to the pallet while also hoping nothing falls off of the pallet - raised just above their heads. It is not uncommon for a pallet load to top 2,000 lbs. and any load shifting during the wrapping process could cause a potentially deadly imbalance as if a restaurant server lifted a glass of water from a tray causing the other glasses to spill on his/her customers. Wrapping large, round and oddly shaped parts this way presents even greater challenges.
Since it is inherently difficult to safely and effectively secure the parts to the pallet using this manual wrapping method, workers often use extra plastic film to make sure the load stays in place. Sometimes it works. In other cases, workers under-wrap the load, thinking it secure when it really is not secure. This can allow the load to shift when placed in storage racks, leading to accidents upon removal. Despite the inherent safety risks, this approach has been the standard in many plants for years. Load shifting while in transit also invites product damage, rejected orders and costly returns and redos.
As automation helps reduce injury risk at various steps in metals production and distribution, the number of injuries in the packaging and shipping departments becomes more visible and problematic. It is easy to see why a growing number of owners and executives responsible for providing a safe workplace in the metals industry have become increasingly concerned with packaging and shipping and are considering how automation may play a role in improving the situation.
Many of these people are investigating automated pallet wrapping machines to replace the manual method. Horizontal turntable wrapping machines are often considered but since they wrap the parts to the themselves without securing the parts to the pallet, these machines do not adequately solve the problem. Orbital wrapping machines that wrap the plastic film with a vertical orientation, by contrast, are earning substantial attention. One such system developed by a metal fabrication shop owner automatically wraps the plastic film 360 degrees around and under the pallet to attach the load to its pallet and keep it securely in place for transport or storage.
Called the TAB Wrapper Tornado (patent-pending), this orbital wrapper allows the forklift operator to manage the entire wrapping process by wireless remote control without leaving the seat (optional equipment). Instead of requiring workers to wrap the pallet while stooping under a heavy load, the operator simply drives up to the machine until the pallet enters the wrapping ring, then presses the start button. The TAB Wrapper Tornado then automatically wraps layers of plastic film around the palletized load, securing the parts as a sturdy, unitized, weather-resistant load ready for transport to the customer, to another stage in-plant, or for storage. This approach requires only one person instead of three and virtually eliminates human contact with the parts, pallets and plastic film along with the potential for injury. It also wraps each pallet load in less than 60 seconds versus five minutes or more per pallet load when wrapping by hand.
Given the recent advances in automated wrapping machinery, isn't allowing workers to continue incurring painful injuries by manual wrapping methods irresponsible management? Consider that in an actual mock OSHA inspection, the professional safety consultant from OSHA'S Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) cited the TAB Wrapper Tornado for transforming one of the most dangerous jobs in a metals plant into one of the safest jobs. Companies using this approach have eliminated the injuries that used to occur during manual wrapping.
Metal fab shop and distributor TAB Industries manufactures the TAB Wrapper Tornado line of automated orbital wrapping machines in its Reading, Pa. headquarters. For more information, call 610-921-0012; firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.tabwrapper.com.
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