Senior management at Leprino Foods, a dairy food ingredient, cheese and dry whey products manufacturer, has always been committed to the health and safety of its workforce. One continuous improvement project involved taking its lockout/tagout program to the next level. This critical initiative was given to Operations Safety Manager Derek Humphries.
“If you really want to have a leading safety process, then you don’t limit your approach,” says Humphries. “First you’ve got to make lockout convenient. Then you’ve got to make it easily understood for hourly team members. The goal is perfect execution, and to strive for that kind of performance, employees need help identifying all the energy sources and how to specifically control their associated hazards.”
Humphries began working with a lockout/tagout consulting firm. In five to seven days each, they surveyed Leprino Foods’ nine plants to identify the biggest risk in terms of employee interaction with the equipment.
Next, the consultants drafted procedures, including graphical replication of the equipment. Leprino Foods’ maintenance staff verified the procedures by physically shutting off the energy isolation points and attempting to restart machinery. After the verification process was complete, the procedures were ready to be made into signs and installed. But finding signs that could survive Leprino’s daily five- to six-hour sanitation regime presented another challenge.
“If you simply take a printed procedure and laminate it and post it on the plant floor, within a short period of time into the first night of cleaning, it could be completely destroyed,” says Humphries. “Since machine-specific procedures that are easily visible on placards play a key role in our improvement initiative, we needed a product that could hold up to our sanitation regime. That’s where Lomont IMT came into play.”
Lomont’s in-mold technology (IMT) process fuses layered graphics and plastic into one piece using injection molding. Field testing in all conditions as well as internal accelerated weathering and liquid penetrant inspection testing shows IMT signs can withstand harsh environments.
“We’ve had our lockout/tagout procedures in place in our pilot plant for eight months and they’ve held up,” Humphries says. “Most of them look like the day we hung them. We didn’t find any other companies that could do the same thing for the price that Lomont provides.”
In addition to the durability the IMT process affords, Lomont manufactures metal-detectable plastic signs and tags in which metal compound is molded directly into the plastic. If a sign were accidentally fractured, any extraneous piece that might fall into the product stream would be detected and discarded. This was a key advantage for Leprino because it allowed posting procedures on the machines near the food product where employees perform lockouts.
“The metal detectable signs overcame objections about having placards on the shop floor. Lomont enabled us to provide critical information where our employees needed it the most. This allowed our lockout/tagout procedures to be readily accessible throughout the plant,” adds Humphries.
Humphries is pleased with the program. “It’s the right thing to do to protect our employees. If we prevent one major injury, it will be well worth the investment.”
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Carl Frank; 800-776-0380, ext. 1589; firstname.lastname@example.org