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Intervention tooling

HSE best practice at Wm Lee

It is an unfortunate reality that despite the high levels of investment in health and safety and associated improvement programmes which permeate our industry it is, on occasions, an incident that triggers action in an area previously considered to be safe. Such a situation recently happened at Wm Lee iron foundry in Sheffield (UK) and here Simon Alexander FICME gives an insight into the incident to raise industry awareness and share the Wm Lee best practice approach with fellow foundrymen.

How many times have you walked through your foundry or engineering workshop and seen a makeshift tool being used to perform a specific task? Maybe it’s a piece of scrap bar or pipe, a used brush stale or perhaps a scraper fashioned from an old chisel, all re-purposed with good intent. I would expect many people can relate to this. These improvised implements are not designed or bought for a specific task, so they can’t really be classed as tools, but they are invariably used to intervene in a process or a piece of plant and equipment. Imagine a blockage in a sand feed being rodded with a long stick, or using a piece of scrap tube to pry something which is jammed and you get the idea.

The circumstances of the incident at Wm Lee were almost impossible to envisage. Even through the investigation it was difficult to believe that this could happen, yet it did. In this case a foundry operative attempted to be helpful and tried to clear a sand blockage in a moulding machine. The tool they used was stored in a different location and was taken out of convenience even though it had been made for a different purpose. They were doing a task which they were not requested to do, not authorised to do, and therefore had not been trained for. But they still did it because they wanted to help. This resulted in personal injury to them and damage to the equipment. The tool in question – a heavy-duty long handled scraper – is shown in fig.1. It had to be cut to untangle it from the machinery and, in case you were wondering, it was straight before the incident occurred.

This incident has led to a full review of machinery and process interventions, with measures put in place to prevent a recurrence. Intervention is an aspect which is not widely considered and the purpose of sharing this is to enable you to consider your own practices and, hopefully, prevent the possibility of a similar incident in your own company.

A root and branch review of the process of intervention took place and actions taken to systematically address this as follows:

Tool amnesty – collect all makeshift tooling or unidentified materials that have the potential to be used as such in the future. Clear out cabinets or lockers of all unauthorised tools. Building stanchions provide the perfect hiding place for long bars. It’s surprising what you find that has been squirreled away…just look at fig.2.

  • Consider each task and establish which require an intervention tool – consult with operatives to see what they have used them for and why – eliminate their use where possible.
  • Record all the tasks which require intervention.
  • Carry out a risk assessment for each task.
  • Establish a safe system of work (SSoW) for each task. Review the equipment isolation protocol where the intervention is on a piece of plant or equipment. Could the tool get caught or drawn into the equipment when the intervention is taking place? If so, prevent it.
  • Design and manufacture a specific tool for each identified task. Consider how it will be used and incorporate mistake proofing into the design (for example, if the tool is too long it may get trapped; so, limit the length to prevent this possibility).
  • Fix and record the design (you may need a new one in the future).
  • Designate an identification number and create a register of intervention tools. Incorporate the ID of each tool into the SSoW so that operators are clear about which tool is to be used for a particular task (fig.3).
  • Provide a dedicated place to store each tool at, or near, the point of use (fig.3).
  • Ensure that the SSoW is available locally for review.
  • Identify authorised users and train them. Instruct all operatives that they are only to carry out tasks for which they have been trained and ensure that they acknowledge this responsibility.
  • Prevent the introduction of new unauthorised tools – ensure maintenance and engineering do not just ‘knock-one-up’ in their workshop.
  • A tool shall only be manufactured once it has been designed, reviewed, risk assessed, the SSoW established and all aspects reviewed and approved in writing by senior management
  • Train all existing operators, through toolbox talks, that they can ONLY carry out intervention for tasks which they have been trained to do and ONLY with the tool approved for that task.
  • No operators are permitted to make or introduce their own new tools – if they have a suggestion for a tool, provide a forum in which they can raise their idea for consideration.
  • Incorporate ‘intervention’ into the company induction process for new employees.
  • Add intervention processes to the internal audit schedule.
  • Finally – keep eagle-eyed and on constant lookout for rogue tooling.

These are all relatively simple management controls, but associated with an operational aspect which is generally overlooked. There is no reason not to consider this in the context of your own organisation.

Foundry Trade Journal would like to thank Simon Alexander and the team at William Lee Ltd.

Iron Foundry, Dronfield, Sheffield, UK, for sharing this experience and offering preventative advice to other foundries.