Each year the manufacturing industry loses millions of dollars in revenue spent on worker’s compensation, insurance claims, and lost productivity. And annually, press brakes lead to a significant number of these injuries and claims. Press brakes can be very dangerous and are a common source of workplace injuries, including amputations of hands, fingers and arms. Luckily, there are options to make press brakes safer and help protect your operators and employees.
Because press brake injuries can happen to even the most experienced press brake operators, press brake injury prevention must be considered a priority. When looking at press brake safety, there are a number of options. These can range from low-tech options such as fences and guards, or more sophisticated presence sensing solutions such as light curtains, laser beam devices or camera-based systems.
Whichever system or systems you use, it is important that the safety solution doesn’t create undue obstacles that impede operators’ ability to do their jobs. This will only encourage operators to find a work around, and potentially injure themselves.
Rear or Side Guards or Press Brake Fences
Rear guards prevent entry from the rear of the machine. This is especially effective for protecting people other than the operator who may be behind the press brake – since press brake operators generally can’t see behind the machine. Rear guards also reduce the risk of an operator pinching their hands between the punch and die or being impacted by the backgage.
Movable guards at the sides of the machine reduce the risk of an operator pinching their hands when reaching between the punch and die from either side of the machine or between the backgage and tooling.
A light curtain is a photoelectric presence-sensing device. Light beams are projected in a plane that protects against access into hazardous points and areas of the press brake. When an obstruction such as a hand, finger or part interrupts the light beams during the ram closing process, the ram stops or slows.
The distance between the light curtain and the tooling depends on how fast the machine can stop. The longer a machine takes to stop, the further the light curtain will need to be from the point of operation.
There are some potential downfalls of this type of system. The operator must be completely outside the protected area throughout the high speed ascent of the press brake ram stroke. This means a light curtain doesn’t work well for forming small parts. Additionally, when forming parts with long flanges, the part itself can trigger the light curtain. In these situations, operators may find ways to disable or mute the light curtain, potentially causing a safety hazard.
Laser systems function similar to a light curtain. In this type of safety system, two or more laser beams are projected between the punch and die at the point of operation. Like with a light curtain, if an obstruction interrupts the laser beams, the ram stops or decelerates.
Unlike a light curtain, laser beams are located just below the punch, so the laser device can be used for forming small parts or those with long side flanges.
Camera based safety systems look at the profile of the operating area. They detect any foreign object that comes into the point of operation and stop or slow press brake operation.
These systems are more accurate than light curtain or laser systems. However, they must be adjusted and set up correctly to avoid false stops.
Whichever system you choose,consider the size and type of material being formed. Also ensure that operators will not find the system overly frustrating and look for ways to disable it.
It’s also important to ensure that the system meets relevant OSHA and safety regulations.
Control Works begins your press brake safety project by working with you to determine what type of system will not only keep your operators and employees safe, but keep your operation running smoothly and efficiently.
Contact us to get started today.