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How To Reduce The Risks Of Operating A Ferrous Scrap Metal Logger Or Baler

Heavy machinery – especially landfill machinery specifically designed to crush and compact like ferrous scrap metal loggers or balers – will always pose a number of safety hazards, ranging from electrical malfunctions or mishandling to common physical risks like falls, impacts, and crushing. Additionally, lesser-known risks related to ergonomics, toxic materials, and operational design can impact the long-term health and well-being of operators. Neglecting these safety issues can increase the unwanted turnover of experienced staff.

Fortunately, once safe working practices are established, most of them become second nature and do not add significant time or effort to normal operations. Those that do still do not require nearly as much time or effort as recovering from downtime caused by an accidental injury.

A good operational safety plan will cover operators, bystanders, and maintenance staff as well as correct usage of the machine itself. Ideally, any plan will start with reading the equipment’s manual provided by the manufacturer and thoroughly training operators on correct operations. Operating ferrous scrap metal loggers or balers correctly not only improves safety and reduces the risk of malfunction, it can extend the longevity of equipment and increase overall efficiency. It may feel like being a stickler, but if you want to achieve optimum production levels, following manufacturer guidelines is the most important place to start.

Operator Safety

Keeping logger/baler operators safe is a multifaceted project that requires collaboration with operators themselves, but many principles are straightforward and easy to set up across your wider operation. Creating a culture of safety empowers your employees to notice hazards before they become accidents and solve problems independently to keep themselves and other workers from being injured. This kind of atmosphere also helps keep expensive equipment in top shape. The following steps can dramatically improve the safety of your operations:

  • Training
    Many potential problems can be prevented by sufficient training. Do your operators know which materials are prohibited from the scrap metal baler and how to identify them? Have they practiced safe loading and unloading? Do they know how to recognize toxic materials and reduce exposure? Sufficient practical training will increase their ability to spot problems and maneuver material in a safe and controlled manner.
  • Inspections
    Operators should inspect equipment at least daily in addition to regular maintenance checks by certified techs. Before turning on the logger/baler, operators should make a quick circuit of the machine looking for leaks, cracks, or other damage to fuel lines, hydraulics, and any moving parts. They should also check for lock-out tags and test that emergency stops, alarms, screens, and guards are all working as intended.
  • PPE
    Personal Protective Equipment may not be the most fashionable, but worn properly, it can save lives. At minimum, logger/baler operators should wear steel-toed boots, sturdy gloves, and safety glasses. Hearing protection, hardhats, reflective vests, and respirators may also be appropriate depending on the location and setup in a particular scrapyard.
  • Electronics
    While operators are not typically interacting with any high-voltage electronics during machine operations, it’s important to make electrical safety foundational to all operations. Liquids should be kept away from screens and panels in the cab, and the surroundings should regularly be checked for standing water and any other voltage risks. For battery-powered logger-balers, this is doubly true.
  • Ergonomics
    Ergonomic injuries may take longer to appear, but they can put an operator on the sidelines (and your scrapyard at risk for a lawsuit) just as easily as acute injuries. Comfortable cabs with seats of an appropriate size for the operator can reduce strain and the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Easy-access cabs can reduce the risk of falls, and climate control can reduce the risks of heatstroke and hypothermia.
  • Weather Exposure
    All employees, but particularly those working outdoors in inclement weather and their supervisors, should know the signs of heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and hypothermia, and be encouraged to take safety breaks in extreme weather without penalty. All employees should have access to water and first aid, as well as know who to alert if a coworker seems fatigued, intoxicated, or otherwise impaired (heat exhaustion can resemble intoxication in its early stages).

Bystander Safety

In some ways, operator safety is the easy part: operators are in control of their machines and are trained to know and avoid specific hazards. Bystanders (mechanics, drivers, supervisors, and even operators of other machinery) may not know what to look for or be aware that they are in danger from the logger/baler. In loud or busy environments, they may not hear warnings or even be visible to the operator. In such cases, prevention and precautions are key.

The most important precaution is the establishment of an “Exclusion Zone” around all heavy machinery, especially ferrous scrap metal loggers or balers with cranes. Built-in material handlers usually have a range of around 25’, and pedestrian access should be fully prohibited within in a full circle of this distance around the machine.

Ideally, a physical barrier should be raised around the exclusion zone, but some kind of visible warning or no-entry line should always be fixed around the perimeter. Good signage protects bystanders from both the crane and debris from the compactor and helps them avoid becoming trapped or stuck. A clear radius around the equipment also gives the operator a better line of sight, enabling them to hit the emergency stop immediately if the need arises. The exclusion zone should be kept as clean as possible to avoid the slippery or dusty ground, tripping hazards, or confusion about where the exclusion zone starts and ends (cleanliness often has the side benefit of improving machine performance and reducing maintenance needs).

Maintenance Safety

Operators are intentionally positioned a safe distance from a ferrous scrap metal logger/baler’s moving parts. During maintenance (especially the removal of jams), mechanics are often in more dangerous positions. This makes maintenance safety protocols among the most important.

In 1989, OSHA codified the “Lock Out, Tag Out” (LOTO) safety protocol, a two-step system where mechanics to lock machines and personally control when they may be restarted (Lock Out) while also alerting others that the equipment is being serviced (Tag Out). Aljon’s logger/baler batteries feature a built-in LOTO system that locks the battery on the machine, making it impossible to start it during maintenance.

Working with heavy equipment is inherently dangerous, and poorly-designed equipment can increase those risks. Aljon takes that responsibility seriously and includes multiple safety features on its scrap equipment, including an emergency stop button in the cab to halt operations instantly.

A safe working environment benefits those working in it, but it also has farther-reaching effects. Carefully planned safety strategies are more likely to be in compliance with local and national regulations. They’re also more likely to impress your insurance carrier, which could result in lower rates. Most importantly, a scrapyard known for safety will attract the best employees and make them more likely to stay with your yard for many years to come.