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Leading Edge in Conveyor Safety

By Steve Nuttall Sales Director Sovex

Telescopic boom conveyors are essential to the swift and efficient running of most modern warehouses, post depots and distribution centres. Primarily used to load and unload lorries with loose and unpalletised parcels, they extend and retract, facilitating swift, efficient loading and unloading. However, if misused, misapplied or neglected, telescopic boom conveyors can be dangerous.

Telescopic boom conveyors are different to standard conveyors and present additional risks. The telescopic sections create nipping points (areas of the machine that could trap parts of a person) where they retract, and the chains underneath that drive them can be hazardous. Telescopic boom conveyors often extend and retract quickly, which can increase the chance of accidents (e.g. forklift collision) if workers are not made aware. Employers must understand these differences and implement the proper safety procedures.

Conveyor safety comprises three basic areas:

1. Equipment
2. Staff training
3. Environment Equipment

In the UK, telescopic boom conveyors fall under the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. These specify work equipment must be suitable for use, maintained in a safe condition and regularly inspected to ensure it stays this way.

All a telescopic boom conveyor's controls should be accessible and clearly marked. This will allow workers to identify them immediately and shut the conveyor off in an emergency. Only qualified personnel should modify controls.

Fully enclosed boom conveyors protect operators from dangerous moving parts and nipping points. Some conveyor models incorporate physical safety barriers known as guard plates, which cover dangerous areas (e.g., where the telescopic sections retract). These must be in place before anyone operates the conveyor.

Alarms and lights alert workers a telescopic boom conveyor is about to become active. This is inexpensive and highly effective.

Regular inspections will help keep conveyors clean and in good working order. Only qualified engineers should carry out maintenance and repair work. Conveyors must be switched off and isolated while this takes place.
Staff Training Misuse and not following procedures are common causes of conveyor related accidents, so anyone who works on, near or around them must undergo rigorous training. This may include seminars, courses and awareness sessions.

It is imperative that people do not climb, sit, stand, walk or ride on boom conveyors at any time. This is common sense, but conduct of this nature causes accidents every year, resulting in serious injuries and equipment damage.
Long hair and loose clothing can entangle in the conveyor mechanism and are extremely hazardous. Anyone entering the site must bind long hair, tuck in ties and roll up loose sleeves. Visitors must receive a safety briefing before being allowed near boom conveyors. Anyone who works on or around a telescopic boom conveyor must be familiar with its controls. They should be encouraged to report unsafe conditions, such as wobbly guards and people nearby with loose hair or clothes.


The area surrounding the boom conveyor must be free of obstructions and clean. Tools, parcels or rubbish lying around can lead to trip hazards and fires. Well-lit work areas provide good visibility and reduce the risk of accidents. Clearly marking routes to, from and around conveyors will help avoid confusion.

Warning signs heighten awareness and greatly improve safety. Signs should be legible and positioned where people can easily see them.

Boom conveyors improve efficiency and throughput, but accidents can cause serious injuries, which endanger an employee's health. Associated costs, including lawsuits, lost productivity, rehabilitation and training replacement staff, are high. Companies that take steps to improve safety benefit from safer, more productive working environments and reduced costs.
Training employees properly, making them aware of the dangers and ensuring they follow operating procedures will go a long way to keeping work areas safe and protecting a business.

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