Safeguarding the workmen
Familiarity breeds contempt." Nowhere is the truth of this old proverb more evident than in a manufacturing establishment ; every man who has worked in a shop or factory knows this.
Electricians are proverbially careless. All too frequently they work in close proximity to high-tension currents without making use of their insulation gloves or taking pains to shield themselves from the deadly current. Railroad men crawl in and out under cars and squeeze through tight places, doing things that to the lay mind would seem to court certain death.
The everyday repetition of working motions soon makes them more or less automatic, capable of performance without thought. Like the Irishman sitting on a keg of powder smoking his pipe, there comes a time when a man gets used to his work and pays little attention to the danger.
Then, too, there is another element which must be taken into consideration—the steady hum of the lathe, the incessant tapping of the hammers, the dull thud of the presses, the click-clack of the shapers, the whirr of the drills, the groaning and creaking of the milling machines and reamers; all these things combine, in a machine shop, to produce a drowsy hum that has a tendency to dull the senses and induce a semihypnotic state from which the workman's mind emerges only at intervals—only when a definite action requiring his close attention must be performed. In the interim, his mind may wander to a nook in the woods, an old spot on the river, or possibly to a room where a dear one is suffering alone—then, crash! Something happens. A workman is hurt; possibly killed. The dreaded accident has come. Such things can happen easily and do happen frequently in shops where the most modern safety devices have been installed, even where men are cautious and careful, where machines are running perfectly, and surrounding conditions are in every way what they should be. What is the reason, then, that accidents happen? Cannot something be done to prevent them? The answer is "yes," and "no." Accidents may be classed under two headings—those caused by things external; those caused by things internal. To explain: Those arising from the first cause are more or less due to unprotected or improperly protected machinery, to architectural shortcomings resulting in bad arrangements and insufficient light, and to other unnecessary and avoidable reasons that arise from a faulty provision for the safety of the working force in general.
The other class of accidents spring from deliberate disobedience of orders, rules or regulations, from unintentional or careless mishandling of tools or machines, or from the peculiar mental state induced by the conditions mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. This mental state may be influenced by many conditions, such as fatigue, lack of sleep, long working hours, the constant effort in a certain direction without sufficient resting period between operations, lack of understanding of the processes involved, worry, and a hundred other kindred causes.
If, then, one is to maintain an accidentless factory, the problem resolves itself into how to control all these various influences and reduce their effect to a minimum.
Protection against things external is comparatively easy. The things to be guarded against are physical. As known quantities, their form can be studied and suitable protective means designed and installed. The Ford factory contains hundreds of such protective devices, some of the most important of which will be illustrated and described here. The internal or mental side is not so easy to dispose of; hundreds of variations are met with and must be classified and handled. In the case of one man, it may be domestic trouble; in another it may be financial worry; in a third it may result from insufficient education or a meagre understanding of language and customs. The real causes, while falling under a few general heads, are really legion—one for each personality and individual condition. Active forces are at work in the Ford organization meeting these conditions and solving them as well as man can solve them. Remarkable progress is being made along these lines.
The problem of successfully providing for the safety of working forces is not only most perplexing, but one offering little possibility of
ever being entirely solved. A few accidents are bound to happen in the best of regulated factories, but modern methods and the wide-spread "Safety First Movement" have done much to reduce their number and severity. Accidents in the Ford shop are comparatively few and of a less serious nature than would be expected in a metal-working establishment of its enormous size and complex character.
- Students of "Safety First" methods class the principal causes of
- 1. Defective structures
- 2. Defective machinery
- 3. Insufficient room
- 4. Absence of safeguards
- 5. Uncleanly conditions
- 6. Insufficient light
- 7. Lack of good air
- 8. Unsuitable clothing
- 9. Carelessness
- 10. Ignorance
- 11. Bad mental condition of workman
- 12. Lack of co-operation.
accidents under these twelve headings:
Defective structures, defective machinery, insufficient room, uncleanly conditions, insufficient light, lack of good air, bad mental condition of the workman, lack of co-operation, all these causes may be disposed of speedily; for these causes of accidents do not exist in the Ford plant. The factory structures, machinery and general arrangements are perfectly adapted to the work; everything is new and modern, scrupulously clean and sanitary. All parts of the shop are flooded with light; the air is clean and the temperature is kept at a proper point for efficient performance of work. The manner in which all this has been provided for has been explained in the preceding chapters.
The problem of placing suitable safeguards around the machinery, and in other ways providing against the carelessness and initial ignorance of workmen, has not been described, and is, therefore, the subject of a greater part of the following text.
In several of the chapters of this book attention has been called to the unusually close grouping of the machinery, especially in the main machine shop.
At first glance the lathes, milling machines, drill presses, with their accompanying belts, conveyers and work tables, appear to be so near to each other that there seems to be no room for operators; but upon close examination of the particular place in which the workman stands, it will be found that there is ample room for him to move about easily and without injury to himself.
This intensive grouping, however, has compelled the installation of a great many ingenious and well-worked out safeguards. On this page, for instance, can be clearly seen an iron fence partially surrounding a line of drill presses, shielding the workman who operates the drill on the left from the driving belts and pulleys of the machines on the right.
Page 424 shows the type of safeguards used for surrounding pieces of mechanism operating near the floor. The visitor will see many safeguards of this type scattered about the machine shop.
Endless belt conveyers are difficult things to protect. Page 425 shows how the ends are fenced in with a framed wire netting of substantial character. Bridges are placed at intervals along the conveyer so that it can be crossed with safety.
Page 426 illustrates another type of wire-netting inclosure used to cover the driving pulley of an emery wheel; also note the shield partially surrounding the wheel and the goggles worn by the workman to prevent flying pieces of metal from striking his eyes.
In the Ford system of machine grouping it is very often necessary to put an annealing furnace, a brazing furnace, a cyanide bath, a baking oven, or some other form of heating or heat-treatment unit, amongst the other machines. Naturally such a furnace requires ample protection to prevent the operator or other workmen from coming in contact with hot metal or a naked flame. In such instances substantial railings are erected or iron fences like those shown on page 427.
Furthermore, the large number of visitors who go through the Ford plant makes it necessary for the aisles to be well defined, and machines into which clothing might be drawn well fenced off. The cast-iron gates shown in the upper picture on page 428, the tubular railings shown in the lower view on the same page and in the illustration on page 421, illustrate well how this is done. In passing it is also interesting to note how the monorail aisles are laid out, kept open, well lighted, and kept clean, so that danger from this source is reduced to a minimum.
The ends of shafts are protected by wire cages, such as are plainly shown on pages 429 and 430. The belt guard, of course, in this case is built integral with the machine, as modern designers recognize the need for such protection and incorporate it in their initial design. The lower cut on page 430 shows a Reed lathe with a belt and pulley guard of similar construction.
In turning up parts of large components like the crank case, there is danger that the large projecting part will catch on the clothing of the operator and draw him in. For this reason, and also to keep the liquid from splashing out onto neighboring machines, a form of cylindrical shield like that shown on page 431 is used. This can be easily opened when it is desired to take out the work, and closed when the machine is in operation.
A similar type of protective shield made of reinforced wire gauze is used to cover tumbler barrels and other revolving machines. This is illustrated on page 432.
The upper illustration on page 433 shows the form of guard used on low swing lathes.
The large revolving fly wheels on punch presses and high speed engines are covered in various ways. Page 433, lower picture, shows a form of sheet-metal protector placed around the large wheel.
The cut on page 434 illustrates how workmen are protected from high-speed engine fly-wheels. On page 435 is shown a railing around the platform on one of the large drawing presses, also the way in which the faces of the large gears are protected.
Sometimes in the smaller presses a wire screen is placed in the center to cover the spokes and a metal band carried around the face of the wheel to protect the teeth. On page 435 are shown two styles of safeguards ; the large wheel being protected in the manner just described, the driving wheel by a semi-circular sheet metal trough together with a tubular railing.
Where it is necessary to carry a belt across an aisle between machines , a form of safeguard shown on page 436 is used. In the nearer view of this same press, on the lower part of the page, will be seen clearly the form of gate by which such presses are protected; this gate rises and falls with the press.
Substantial guards have been built for other large presses, and a number of small devices have been designed to prevent accidents on the smaller presses where there is a tendency for the workman to stick his hand between the dies at an inopportune time for the purpose of inserting or taking out a small piece. Page 437 shows an automatic gate on a small press, used for bending the body hinge to shape. Such devices in addition to assuring a reasonable degree of protection, also act as mental reminders, calling attention to the specific action, and momentarily, at least, acting as a warning signal.
Such devices as those already described, and also those which are striking in their color, direction, and suddenness of operation, have a peculiar psychological effect upon the workman and in most cases serve as sufficient warning of danger, effectually breaking the monotony which would otherwise result from a continuous series of more or less regu
lar motions. Scattered throughout the shop are numerous "danger" warnings, notices, and cards, bearing the words, "To stop this machine pull plug." The starting switches for the draw presses are protected by large red metal tags which must be removed before the switch can be turned. This act serves as a mental reminder to see that everything is clear before setting this powerful machinery in motion.
The whistle sounded by the man who precedes the cranes, the clanging bel in the monorail cars, are examples of other protective measures along the same line, employed in the Ford factory, to render the lives of the men as safe as possible.
There are, of course, some places in the Ford factory where the element of great danger is ever present. In the foundry and heat-treatment departments where molten metal and high temperatures are found on every side, great precautions have been taken to prevent accidents and bad burns. The furnaces in the heat-treat department are all provided with fire shields like that shown on page 437.
Saw-dust and sand boxes, with directions designed to instruct the men in the best way of preventing and putting out fires of various kinds, are distributed throughout all parts of these shops. (See page 439.) In the foundry plenty of room is allowed for pouring; the men are provided with longhandled ladles equipped with shields, and the work is done under a sawtooth roof which, as shown in the illustration on page 439, admits plenty of light and renders the conditions under which the workmen must work as near ideal as possible.
Needless to say, the Ford foundry is well equipped as regards fire protection—hand grenades, reels of hose, sprinkler systems, and a practically fire-proof form of concrete and steel construction, make the fire danger a rather remote one. There are, however, places where a fire could start and attain considerable proportions if it were allowed to get beyond control . Some very ingenious methods of killing a fire under such circumstances are to be found in the fender baking system.
Paints and enameling liquids, due to their composition, are, of course, extremely combustible, and were a fire to start in one of these large paint vats it would be very difficult to put out as long as the fuel lasted. In one tank alone, that used for giving the fenders a second coat, about 1,200 gallons of enamel are kept constantly on hand. Should this inflammable liquid suddenly take fire it would be very hard to control were no provision made for emptying the vat. To point out how completely the Ford engineers have anticipated such a situation, I will explain what would happen if a fire of this nature broke out.
Each enameling tank throughout the factory is provided with a metal cover which, in most cases, is held up by a rope or wire cable provided with a fuse that melts quickly in the presence of a high temperature. In the case of the large tank, above mentioned, a cover cannot be used, so a fire door has been introduced between it and the dripping chamber beyond. The main problem is, of course, to empty the tank as rapidly as possible. For this purpose a large tank has been placed underground, outside the factory wall, connected to the overhead tank by a large pipe line of sufficient size to enable the entire contents to be withdrawn in three minutes. The enameling tank is on the fourth floor and the valve in the pipe on the third floor; therefore it is not necessary for the workman to approach the fire in order to empty the tank. A system of steam jets, easily reached, makes the extinguishing of the fire, caused from the remaining enamel in the tank, a matter of only a few minutes.
This one example is given to show the thoroughness with which precautionary measures of all kinds are employed throughout the Ford factory.
The foregoing descriptions have shown, meagerly, how the Ford management is devising and installing every possible type of mechanical safeguard; trying to make all parts of the huge plant safe against foolhardiness .y Of the twelve principal causes of accidents mentioned previously , we have seen that the only ones that may exist in the Ford plant are ignorance and unsuitable clothing. And of these, ignorance is the greater danger. From the polyglot nature of the workmen, and, in some instances, the low degree of mentality required in certain work, unusual care must necessarily follow the installation of new machinery or the hiring of new men. This attention is given by the foremen of each department. Danger signs of unmistakable character, easily read by the most ignorant, are everywhere in evidence and the specific dangers they prevent are pointed out. Constant warning is given, until it would seem that no accident by any remote chance could occur.
Obviously the workman himself should guard against unsuitable clothing. He should need no caution against loose clothing, for instance, among whirling shafts and speeding belts. A flowing tie, an open jacket, or torn sleeve, has been the cause of countless horrible accidents in ma chine shops from time immemorial. Shop tradition, it would seem, should long ago have stamped out that danger. On the contrary, unsuitable clothing of one sort or another exists wherever a machine shop or foundry exists. The management can only hope to minimize the danger by devising safeguards for every exposed moving part. Unsuspected sources can only be guarded after trouble has developed, of course, but the modern manufacturer leaves as little as possible to chance.