(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
Polaroid Corporation - Waltham, MA
In 1994, the Chemical Operations Division began focusing on improvements that minimized or avoided injuries and hazards during material handling. Employee options for reducing drum handling risks included wearing back supports, using mechanical aids such as forklifts, and increasing the number of personnel needed to move drums. In addition, the Division initiated the use of totes; pressure nutsches; education wands; and air-operated drum lifters/movers to further minimize or avoid injuries and hazards.
Totes reduce the number of containers needed, eliminate manual labor as an option, and provide a safer mode of transportation for chemical substances. Typically, drums have a 55-gallon capacity while totes can hold between 300 and 400 gallons. The heavier totes reduce the risk of back injuries because they must be moved by a forklift. Discharging chemicals into totes for shipping helps reduce the hazard risks for shipping and receiving facilities. In one case, 48 batches of cyan dye required 240 drums per year. Polaroid replaced these drums with 48 totes. In a case involving sheet fluid, Polaroid replaced 280 drums per year with 40 totes.
Pressure nutsches reduce the number of drums needed for processing chemicals by filtering, washing, and drying chemicals in a single piece of equipment. Nutsches also minimize the risk of employee injury by using an internally-mounted blade to mix the chemicals and scrape material off the sides of the drum. For its opacification dye intermediate process, Polaroid reduced 192 drums to 40 which resulted in a 79% reduction in drum handling and provided operational/cycle-time, environmental, and safety benefits. Not all chemical processing can use the pressure nutsches because some chemicals may not filter well. In addition, these expensive machines cost $2.3 million apiece because special construction materials are needed to avoid reactions with certain chemicals.
An education wand eliminates the need to lift or move a drum by vacuuming the solids out of the drum. By using education wands, Polaroid achieved an avoidance benefit of 1,200 drums per year. Air-operated lifters/movers allow an operator to remotely control the dumping of drums by mechanical means. Polaroid has installed two air-operated drum lifters/movers next to fixed mixing vessels which have the greatest drum use. The apparatus was originally designed by engineers and modified by operators to meet their requirements; thus, the handling risk for these operators has been lessened by 744 drums per year.
Through these various material handling options, the Chemical Operations Division has successfully minimized or avoided employee injuries and hazards. In addition, these improvements have produced operational/cycle-time, environmental, and safety benefits.