A cotton gin is an inherently dangerous work environment.
That’s why the Southern Cotton Ginners Association safety program addresses early-season new hire and long-term employee accident trends, including a disturbing pattern of amputations.
“Overall, our program is very effective, but this summer we will be aggressively addressing a pattern of amputations to new hire and long-term gin employees,” says William Lindamood, safety director, SCGA, who is moving the program into its 28th year. “Repetitive training will ingrain appropriate responses to dangerous situations during shifts, especially in emergencies such as fires, choke-ups and machine failures.”
Heavy equipment, much of it rotating at high speeds is unforgiving to carelessness. “These high-risk factors are associated with these two employee groups. New employees have specific responsibilities and assignments. Overstepping them can lead to trouble,” Lindamood says. “Long-term employees often fall victim to complacency, develop risky habits, or, because of their familiarity with the gin, attempt short cuts.”
Occupational training programs will focus on the unsettling trend as Lindamood conducts summer safety seminars as gins prepare for the 2020 ginning season. He will also address risks created as gins adopt new and faster automated technologies.
Hazardous Energy and Communication
Ginning rates are faster than ever. Equipment is bigger, and technologies that start and stop machines automatically bring new dangers into the ginning environment. “We are dealing with an issue referred to as ‘control of hazardous energy,’” Lindamood says. “It requires strict adherence to lockout/tagout procedures during breakdowns and maintenance. You can’t assume it’s safe to work on a machine just because it is not moving.”
Ginners continue to install various round module unwrapping systems as more farmers buy round module harvesters. “These systems have large moving parts that manipulate 5,000-pound modules,” Lindamood says. “Module feeder line employees working in proximity to these systems must practice good vocal and line of sight communication.”
Lindamood will soon announce summer safety and forklift training seminar dates to further ingrain the mindset of safety in employees who work at the 128 gins operating across the five Mid-South states covered by the SCGA safety program.
Limited lost time accidents and no OSHA reportable deaths in 2019 confirms the Southern Cotton Ginners Association (SCGA) safety program works.