Safety First, from the IGMA Fabricators Workshop

By Katy Devlin, Glass Magazine
November 5, 2018

“In every airplane safety demonstration, you hear, ‘for your safety and the safety of those around you.’ It’s the same in the glass plant,” says Mike Burk, chair of the IGMA Glass Safety Awareness Council and North American Technical Representative for Sparklike. “You have to think of the safety of everyone around you when you’re in a glass plant. It’s everybody’s job to tell others if they see something unsafe.”

Burk spoke Nov. 5 in the opening presentation of the three-day IG Fabricators Workshop from the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance. Two sessions of the workshop are being held this week at the Intertek facility in Plano, Texas.

Burk offered critical safety considerations to workshop attendees, who ranged from brand-new entrants into the industry to industry veterans with decades of experience.

  1. Speak up about unsafe conditions
    “It can be difficult to tell your friends, or even someone like your boss, if you see something unsafe. But you’ve got to say something before someone gets hurt,” Burk says.
  2. Use a weight chart before lifting
    Glass plant employees should always check a weight chart before lifting any unit. A weight chart estimates the weight of various glass types—whether single-, double- or even triple-glazed units.
  3. Use available tools and equipment
    Too often, plant employees will neglect to use available equipment, such as mechanical lifters or straps on glass racks. “I hear people say that they’re too busy; they don’t have time,” says Burk. “You have to take the time.”
  4. Review plant storage
    Stocked product can become a key danger in a glass plant, Burk says. “How much stuff do you have stored around your plant that hasn’t been touched in a month; in six months? This takes up space and gets in the way. It can become a safety issue.”
  5. PPE: Train for it, use it and don’t modify it
    Anytime an employee is handling glass, they should be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. “Too often, I see guys without PPE. Or, I see modified PPE—gloves cut because a worker said it was too hot, wrist guards worn incorrectly so a watch could be seen through the hole,” Burk says.
  6. Recognize the limits of PPE
    “Sometimes guys are wearing all PPE, and they begin to think they’re invincible. PPE doesn’t make you Superman,” Burk says.
  7. Don’t alter machines
    “If a machine isn’t working right, don’t get a stick and try to fix it, get a maintenance guy,” Burk says. Workers may be tempted to workarounds if a problem occurs on a glass line. They may use makeshift tools to stick into equipment to try to fix a problem, Burk says. “This is when things can go wrong,” he says.

Glass plants can be dangerous places, Burk says. Making safety a top priority can make them much less dangerous. “Stay in the aisle. Watch out for the other guy. And when you see someone doing something unsafe, say something,” he says.

Read more coverage from the IG Fabricators Workshop on @GlassMag on Twitter and in next week’s e-glass weekly.