Safety Precautions During Maintenance Work on Industrial Fans
We always stay on the safe side, and we want our customers to do that too. So we created a video and the content below specifically to cover safety precautions during maintenance work on industrial fans.
If you’re caring for your fans and blowers properly, that means you’ve got a regular maintenance schedule and probably some monitors to help you track things like temperature and vibration. But we’ve run into many situations where people were taking unnecessary risks without realizing it, usually because no one ever told them how to do it right.
No matter where you got your fan, we want to make sure you know and follow all the right safety precautions during maintenance work to protect your people and your fans.
Key Safety Precautions During Maintenance Work
The truth is that maintenance is a safety precaution and vice versa. In both cases, your goal is to keep the people and the machinery safe. We strongly recommend these key safety precautions during maintenance work:
Follow Lockout & Tagout Protocols
Many of our key safety tips apply when you’re operating the fan and affect fan maintenance, but this first one outlines very specific safety precautions during maintenance work. It’s critical to make sure you follow the lockout/tagout (LOTO) protocols specified by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
According to OSHA, lockout/tagout (LOTO) protocols are “specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.” (OSHAonline.com “Lockout/Tagout Procedures—Keep it Simple, Keep it Safe” By Tom Burgess, Justin Wilson, Dec 01, 2020)
Briefly, those protocols (detailed in the article linked above) include:
- Prepare for the shutdown.
- Notify affected employees.
- Shut down the equipment.
- Isolate energy sources.
- Apply LOTO devices to energy sources.
- Release/control all stored energy.
- Verify the lookout.
- Maintain the lockout.
It’s just as important to stick to the protocols after you’ve completed the necessary work as it is to follow them in preparation. Don’t skip anything, including appropriate communications!
Turn it Off and Cool it Down
If you’re following the LOTO protocols, then this should not be an issue, but people can be tempted to take a quick peek instead of shutting down operations. That’s because shutting down your fan almost inevitably means taking the whole system offline since the fans are so critical to the process. Nevertheless, it has to happen as an essential safety precaution during maintenance work. And remember, if your fan is moving hot gas, it’s going to stay hot for some time even after you turn it off. Give it time to cool down before you get in there.
Use Caution with the Access Door
Again, this should fall under LOTO, but it bears mentioning. Your fan might have an access door to allow you to open and look inside the fan. Make sure you don’t pull the access door open while the fan is running. Sounds obvious, but it happens pretty often.
Key Safety & Maintenance Considerations During Operations
Because safety for people and industrial fans are so intertwined, there are some key precautions to take during normal operations that will help with both.
Observe Max Design Temperature and Speed
One of the most important safety precautions to take during operations for optimal maintenance and safety is to stay below the max design temperature and speed specified by your fan manufacturer. Make sure you look at and follow these critical specifications in your Installation, Operations & Maintenance (IOM) Manual. If you exceed them, you can have catastrophic consequences – don’t do it.
Monitor Vibration Levels
If you keep vibration within the levels specified by the fan manufacturer, you can extend the life of your fan. There are three ways to check vibration on a regular or ongoing basis:
- Use a switch on the side of the pedestal.
- Place sensors in your bearings.
- Have a balance technician do a balance test once a year.
With regular vibration monitoring, you will be able to catch and correct any imbalances caused by vibration and protect the life of your fan and avoid sudden failure.
Monitor Bearing Temperature
Bearings have grease in them and that grease has properties that have a max design temperature. If you’re monitoring the temperature on the bearings with RTD temperature detectors, you can make sure your bearings never exceed the max temperature for the grease and extend their life a lot longer.
Mind the Guards
When a fan has guards, it’s not just for appearances. It’s for a reason, and that’s to protect the shaft, bearings, and belts. For the safety of these vulnerable fan parts and your employees, don’t run the fan without the guards in place.
Follow a Regular Maintenance Schedule
Lastly, do regular maintenance checks. Every once in a while shut the fan down. Check the belts, check the shaft and bearings, and especially check inside the fan. Make sure you don’t have any cracks in your blades, any fatigue signs, or any loosening at the hub of the wheel. Remember, the best cure is prevention! And don’t forget to follow the key safety precautions during maintenance work as outlined above. It pays to be a broken record on this one!
Hear it from an Application Engineer
If you follow all of those steps, you stay safe, your fan stays healthy. Chet White, Senior Application Engineer / Sales Manager walks you through the critical steps in this 3-minute video.
To discuss the right safety protocols for your centrifugal fan maintenance and operation, reach out and connect with one of our application engineers to discuss the details of your application.
Here are related posts that might be of interest as you think about your application.
- Fan Maintenance
- How Long Do Industrial Fans Last? Quality, Installation, and Industrial Fan & Blower Maintenance
- Fan Bearing Maintenance and L10 Life
- Extended Bearing Life with Vibration Monitoring
- High Temperature Fan Bearing Protection