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Reap the rewards from safety

Evolving engineering

The economic downturn of 2008 may be a distant memory for some.

But even organisations that emerged stronger from the re- cession have formed the desire to work smarter and achieve more to protect their robustness.

When it comes to investing in shredding technology, organisations naturally prioritise factors such as throughputs, capacity and uptime. The shredder has to be a value-adding asset within their plant.

Thankfully, rigorous research and development, modern engineering prowess and decades of experience make it possible to achieve these demands. But where does it leave safety?

Remember that shredding has the potential to be a hazardous operation. Of course, if the risks are understood and negated, shredding is no more dangerous than any other operation.

But do heightened safety mechanisms reduce performance? Will a quieter shredder that better protects operator wellbeing be slower? Do customers have to sacrifice tonnage per hour if they want to reduce the risk of fire? And do all these in-built safety features mean the shredder now costs the earth?

No. Design and engineering capabilities are evolving all the time, as are extraneous factors such as legislation and fuel specifications. So what is a true feat of manufacturing today is likely to be surpassed by even smarter technology in years to come.

I praise waste management, recycling and alternative fuel production companies that want everything from their shredder because it is possible to achieve excellent throughputs, uptime, capacity and bottom line benefits alongside utmost consideration for safety. And all of this without compromising the environment.

The solution lies in the design. A slow speed shredder, for example, might sound like it would be sluggish. But if the technology has high torque, throughputs will remain just as impressive as a high-speed equivalent.

The added benefit, however, is that a slower speed shredder will create less dust and the potential for a spark is reduced, which significantly lessens the machine’s susceptibility to fire.

A slower speed shredder, especially one with an electric drive, will also result in a quieter operation. This is particularly important because continued exposure to noise can have an incurable effect on operators’ hearing.

Of course hearing protection can be worn, but if it is possible for a shredder to run below the first decibel action point under the Noise At Work Regulations, should this not be the priority? If average exposure levels are below 80dB, hearing protection is not required and staff are better protected from risks of hearing loss.

Chances are the plant could extend its operating hours as well – two results that will positively affect the bottom line.

There are other ways to protect operators. Engineering a machine so that it requires minimal maintenance reduces the need for operator ingress. A shredder with long-lasting parts, and no pulleys or belt drive, means there is less chance of a breakdown.

Shredders with touchscreen control panels enable the operator to diagnose a fault without entering the machine. Where maintenance is required, it is crucial that comprehensive operator training has been provided and, where possible, if the machine has been ergonomically designed, the activity should be undertaken in an upright position to prevent strain.

The number of features within modern shredding technology that have performance as well as safety benefits goes on and on.

Water-cooled synchronous motors can work tirelessly, without overheating, to guarantee the machine’s uptime. Foreign object protection mechanisms can protect the shredder while minimising downtime. And added components such as ultraviolet, infrared and spark detectors can help suppress a fire if one breaks out.

In some instances, a shredder designed with both performance and safety in mind may come with a higher price tag. But this initial outlay will soon be recouped thanks to the return on investment benefits outlined here.

Chris Oldfield is chairman of Untha UK

www.untha.co.uk

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