Food For Thought: Choosing The Right Conveyor Guards For Your Food-Grade Conveyor Belts
Conveyor belts are vitally important pieces of machinery to modern food businesses. Whether your company is a small agricultural business or a gigantic food-processing conglomerate, choosing the right conveyor belt equipment is vital for both efficiency and the safety of your workers and customers.
Conveyor guards are an essential component of any conveyor belt system and provide a much-needed layer of additional safety to prevent workers from being injured or even killed by conveyor belt machinery. However, the unique demands of food-grade conveying mean that your conveyor guards must be carefully chosen—choosing unsuitable guards can make your conveyors much more difficult to operate and can badly damage fragile or perishable food items. Keep the following questions in mind when choosing your conveyor guards to ensure that your guards are well suited to food-grade conveying:
What should the conveyor guards be made from?
Conveyor guards used in less delicate industries and processes, such as mining operations and mass production facilities, tend to be made of robust and relatively inexpensive metals. However, these guards are almost certainly unsuitable for food conveying operations, as their non-sterile surfaces can present a dangerous hazard to food safety if not cleaned thoroughly and regularly. These sanitary problems are massively exacerbated if the metal guards are allowed to rust.
Food conveyors generally benefit more from lighter conveyor guards made from polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride or other tough-yet-light thermoplastics. These plastic guards are much easier to remove and replace during maintenance operations or to remove jams, and they can be cleaned much more easily and effectively using pressure washers and other equipment. Make sure the gaps in your conveyor guards have smoothed edges and corners, as sharp corners and crevices can provide safe havens for bacterial and fungal growth.
Are the conveyor guards visible enough?
It stands to reason that food conveying operations have to meet stringent laws and guidelines to function legally, and one of the most important of these rules is that your conveyor guards must be highly visible to workers and visitors to your work site. This generally means choosing conveyor guards made from bright, easily-identifiable materials. Brightly coloured plastics and powder-coated stainless steel are both popular and highly visible choices.
Your guards should also be fitted with the proper safety signage, warning of moving parts and other dangers posed by your conveyor belt. Some conveyor guard manufacturers supply guards with these high-visibility signs already installed, but you should check that pre-installed signage meets local safety and visibility codes before installing these guards on a conveyor.
How easily can the guards be erected and removed?
This is a particularly pressing question for many agricultural industries that make extensive use of portable conveyor belts, which must be disassembled and reassembled as they are moved from place to place. If this applies to your business, try to ensure that your conveyor guards can be erected and removed safely and relatively quickly. Some conveyor guards require basic tools to be securely mounted to a belt, while others feature built-in hooks and eyelets that make them much easier to mount.