Bulk bag unloaders are the epitome of efficiency and, more importantly, safety. Imagine a food production worker opening and dumping hundreds of 50-pound bags of ingredients a day – cutting them open and dumping them manually into a tipping station, bag after bag. Each bag taken from a pallet represents twists and lift motions as well as lower back strain risks. Each time they slice a bag open they run the risk (small but possible) that they’ll damage equipment or even strike a part of someone’s body with the blade.
Not only is this a boring and unpleasant job which exposes your team to potential injury, but it’s also a hard one to retain workers for amidst low unemployment and rising wages.
So there are a number of reasons why a bulk bag unloading system might make great business sense for your operation. These range from reduced wages lower disposal costs and better ingredient and raw material control, to safety.
Some are easily quantifiable, and others are easier to discount up front but expensive on the backend. Safety is one of those. Every manager knows how critical it is, but amidst the pressure to get the product out the door, other issues often seem to demand a higher priority.
Still; efficiency, production, and bottom lines go hand in undamaged hand with any plant’s best friend — safety. With that in mind, let’s explore the finer points and statistics behind worker safety issues that are associated with manually unloading bags.
Fewer blades + fewer risks to workers and quality
There are several ways to reduce knife-related accidents, as Industrial Safety & Hygiene News Magazine points out. An incredibly effective way to reduce these accidents is to opt for a Big Bag Unloader for all your conveying needs.
Think — that worker cutting anything between 20 and 400 bags a day could decrease the number of times they use a knife to zero. Instead of an operator using a knife at all, the bag of material would be positioned above the connection piece, the bag’s outlet spout could fit over the inner sleeve, and the string would be untied. Then the sealing plate would be lowered using the two clamping handles.
As a plus, that worker could then also walk away to perform other plant tasks while letting the equipment fill up the hopper (a level probe in the hopper would alert this operator that a new bag is required). While some occasional interaction with the bulk bag could be necessary depending on the product (such as manually operating bag massagers if equipped), switching to super sack handling equipment would make for less intensive labor that could lead too workers’ safety and health significantly changing for the better.
But even if you and your plant don’t choose to invest in and use a Big Bag Unloader, Industrial Safety & Hygiene News offers these tips to avoid workplace knife accidents:
- Approach work in a balanced body position.
- Turn the item to be cut 5 degrees to the left so you are cutting away from the body.
- Look at the cut line — never look away or become distracted by talking with someone.
- Place your other hand on the opposite side of the case away from the cutting line.
Reduced risk to product quality and reputation
In addition to workers’ safety being affected by knives, occasionally the consumers’ safety could be affected by pieces of paper or plastic that get into systems. You’ve likely installed metal detectors or other safety systems to catch contamination – and we know that it’s rare, but reducing the number of times a knife is used to cut open a bag will also decrease this risk.
Forty percent reduction in hand injuries
While in 2015 the American Society of Safety Professionals found two out of every five workplace hand injuries are specifically from cuts or punctures, in another US Department of Labor study, total injuries to fingers and hands accounted for around a quarter of all injuries reported.
Cuts and punctures are probably the first injuries that come to mind, but repetitive motion injuries are a significant cause of lost time and workplace injury-related costs.
In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) was responsible for more days away from work than any other nonfatal injury. The Bureau also found that CTS alone was responsible for 32.5 percent of repetitive motion injuries in the workplace, and PubMed found that CTS affected over 5 million U.S. workers during 2010.
Why not let super sack handling equipment keep your operators’ hands from being overworked?
Reduced Bending, Lifting and Twisting
If a 2010 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that children’s 26-pound backpacks were actually causing spinal cords to compress and cause significant back pain, imagine how plant workers who pick up and empty somewhere between 20 and 400 50-pound bags on a regular basis feel.
Ironically enough, Stu McGill (a professor emeritus of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo) told Popular Science that just like in engineering, the muscles in a back that hold the “rod-like backbone” upright will have to compensate for “multiple variables” such as the weight of the load, the duration of the time the system is under stress and how often lifting action repeats. McGill said “any engineer will tell you” that, over time, “systems” will show the strain. That’s where the pain comes in – at least in the human machine.
“Overdo it, and you’ll have to reach for the painkillers and hot water bottle.”
Once again, it’s worth mentioning that decreasing the number of times plant workers will have to lift multiple 50-pound bags is likely to increase safety and without the pains associated with so much lifting, morale could also be boosted significantly.
Workplace injuries – compounding costs and implications
Workplace accidents are expensive. The costs range from reputational damage, higher insurance costs and lost workdays, through the expense in management resources to investigate and even defend the business.
People often think of the risk of lawsuits, but related costs like significant increases in workman’s compensation can have a substantial impact on the bottom line. A plant or company’s general credibility can certainly take a hit following dangerous and unfortunate situations, whether or not the company was directly at fault.
About 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in 2015 by private employers, according to Insurance Journal and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this was about 48,000 fewer than in 2014, this information translates into a rate of 3.0 cases per 100 equivalent full-time private industry workers overall.
With a Bulk Bag Unloader, the probability of these issues becoming a reality is even more dramatically decreased.
Remember: Safety first, even with your Big Bag Unloader
It’s important to note that safety never stops being of critical importance, even with state of the art Super Sack Handling Equipment in the warehouse. While Big Bag Unloaders will decrease the amount of risk in these listed ways, proper care should be taken to use this equipment in a responsible manner.
Remember, your Big Bag Unloader will be hauling around 2,000 pounds 20 feet in the air. It is not recommended under any circumstance that a plant worker should stand directly under all this weight. It’s recommended that a remote pendant is used in this process and that steel-toed shoes are worn around Super Sack Handling Equipment.
It’s also recommended that you include an electric hoist (and trolley) to unload bulk bags instead of attempting to lift the product with a forklift. Factor in the time, energy and risks associated with fork trucks (a large source of workplace accidents) and workers climbing up on the bulk bag unloader – Not only does a hoist reduce the chance of injuries, but it also facilitates best practice operations to tension the bag as it empties to ensure full unloading. Essentially you are defeating the purpose of choosing a Big Bag Unloader for its safety benefits if you aren’t lifting product with an electric hoist.
Using Automation to Eliminate Unpleasant and Dangerous Jobs
So, if you are ready to increase your workers' safety by implementing your very own Bulk Bag Unloader, feel free to download our free, detailed guide on Super Sack Handling Equipment. From stainless steel bulk bag dischargers to conveying systems and processing equipment that is dust free—move bulk material efficiently and safely. Even if you’re looking for bag dump station to handle your dry bulk material with bag spouts and a heavy duty dust collector, we can piece together your perfect system. Begin your journey toward fostering an extremely efficient and productive plant today.