Conveyor systems are common mechanical handling equipment used throughout many industries to transport materials in various directions — horizontally, vertically, at an angle or around curves — and at various heights including floor-mounted and overhead systems. There are many types of conveyors including both powered and non-powered. Each type of conveyor presents its own unique sets of hazards. Although conveyors reduce injuries associated with manual material handling tasks, they can present a different set of hazards to those installing, operating or maintaining them. These hazards are typically associated with the powered mechanical motion of belts, shafts, sprockets, chains and various other subcomponents. Many industry standards are currently in use for conveyors, such as ASME B20.1, Safety Standard for Conveyors and Related Equipment. These industry standards address safe practices in the design, construction, installation, operation and maintenance of conveyor equipment.
This paper will focus on identifying and defining the hazards associated with powered conveyor systems, reviewing workplace injury data for powered conveyors and comparing with data for nonpowered conveyors to better understand the trends, quantifying many of the risks associated with conveyors, and exploring and discussing the engineering and administrative controls currently available to address these hazards. A brief look at recent updates to some of the relevant standards will be presented to guide the discussion.