Raising the Reels for Safety

Nov 06, 2017

By Gene Reardon
Vice President of Manufacturing,
Seaman Paper Company of Massachusetts, Inc.

Seaman Paper Company implemented a project to raise the paper reels of the two papermaking machines at our Otter River, Massachusetts mill to prevent a common safety hazard.

While modern paper machines routinely have elevated reels to eliminate the hazard, older machines – like the ones at our mill – were designed with lower reel heights. The reel we used served our business well for years, but there is an inherent risk to its design.

 Seaman 1 

Former reel height

As shown in the image above, the rewind spool is loaded against the fixed reel drum at an elevation that exposes operators to an in-running nip hazard. We’re warned of this hazard through signage, but signage alone is insufficient to adequately address a known hazard that could result in serious injury or death.

We opted to retrofit our existing reels with stands that would raise their height. By elevating the reels, we effectively placed the nip point beyond our employees’ reach and completely eliminated the hazard, as shown below.

Seaman 2

Current reel height

Eliminating the hazard has proven to be not only the simplest but also the most successful solution. More complicated measures such as isolating and guarding the reels could always be defeated by human behavior.

The combined cost of installing these elevations on both our machines was $147,000; the cost of employee safety is always minimal compared to the cost of accidents, especially fatalities.

We are proud to continue efforts to create the safest-possible workplace for our employees and strive toward a safety culture of zero accidents as part of our company’s Soft Steps Forward Initiative.

Seaman Paper Company of Massachusetts, Inc. received a 2017 AF&PA Leadership in Sustainability Award for Safety for its Raising the Reels for Safety project.