A guide to industrial shredder safety

Industrial shredder safety has always been a priority in the waste and recycling sector, but this year, conversation on the subject has REALLY revved up. In fact, our managing director Marcus Brew was recently interviewed by Safety Management – the magazine of the British Safety Council – on the very topic.

As his detailed feature goes to show, there are dozens of considerations to factor in when installing a safe shredding line. Many safety features can be engineered into shredding technology, by design, which means the onus is on the machinery manufacturer in this respect. But plant owners/operators have an important part to play too.

That’s why we’ve tried to compile some of our key advice on industrial shredder safety, in this bite-sized blog…

  1. Think about cleanliness

Let’s face it, the composition of many ‘waste’ streams means that shredding isn’t always the cleanest of activities, so even low-dust shredders can get dirty. Routine cleansing of the technology and surrounding areas is therefore one of the simplest ways to prevent everything from trip hazards to fire risks.

  1. Prioritise slow speed

Shredder drive and torque innovations mean machines can now operate at far slower speeds without jeopardising throughputs. Not only does this reduce wear – and therefore the whole life running cost of the technology – it also ensures a safer shredding operation.

  1. Look for intelligent controls

Some of the best industrial shredders on the market are supplied with simple touchscreen control panels that enable operators to explore and diagnose potential issues/faults without going anywhere near the inner workings of the machine. Certain innovations even include remote diagnostics, meaning the manufacturer can also contribute to this investigatory process for speed of resolution.

  1. Seek foreign object protection

Even pre-sorted waste can contain ‘foreign objects’ or unshreddable items that shouldn’t find their way into the machine. That’s why modern technology should include in-built foreign object protection mechanisms that auto-stop the shredder and eject the material. This means the operator can simply open the door and retrieve the problematic item, protecting them from danger and preventing damage to the system.

  1. Know your noise obligations

Under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 – which exist to protect employees’ hearing – ear defenders have long been essential within industrial waste plants. But why not take a more proactive approach to noise control and cap the number of decibels that a plant operates at? Some shredders – especially those with quiet electric drives rather than gas-guzzling diesel engines – are designed to run below the first dB(A) action point, which means hearing protection isn’t necessary!

  1. Devise a fire prevention plan

Think about everything from waste storage and pile heights, through to the installation of water sprinkling systems throughout a site and even in-built fire prevention technology within the shredder. Carefully positioned UV, infrared, heat and spark detectors can sense when a fire is likely to begin for example, and – in the event of a significant temperature increase – extinguishing nozzles can automatically spray water onto the targeted area, to cool the materials or help put out the fire.

  1. Don’t forget ergonomics

The ergonomic design of a shredder can contribute to the wellbeing of operators because, if they can avoid overstretching or hunching to run/maintain the technology, the risk of any musculoskeletal conditions is lowered.

  1. Look beyond compliance

Regulations exist for a reason, and it is of course crucial that organisations stay on the right side of the law. But really, legislation should dictate only the minimum safety standard.

  1. Stick to the plan

Modern shredders are more capable, flexible and robust, than ever. But shredding remains an inherently hazardous process if people don’t respect what the technology can do, how it should be operated and the importance of it being maintained. So, stick to the plan and follow the advice provided by the manufacturer. It’s inevitable that shredding requirements will evolve – and many machines are now built with this versatility in mind – but if an industrial operation changes beyond the initial scope of the project, speak to the supplier for guidance.

  1. Choose the right shredding partner

Most responsible organisations will conduct thorough due diligence before investing in a shredder, and evidence of the machine’s safety performance is crucial. But don’t just audit the machine – quiz the supplier on their safety standards too. From their approach to project management and on-site dialogue/behaviour, to the knowledge they have of the wider spectrum and BS OHSAS 18001, these factors will contribute to a robust installation long into the future.

If you would like to discuss the content of this piece, you’re keen to improve the safety of your existing shredding system or you’d like to explore an investment in new, safer technology, please contact us using the tab below, call 0845 450 5388 or email sales@untha.co.uk.

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