Safety First!

Project manager Robert Öhman is responsible for occupational health and safety at Valutec. He notes that Valutec's deliveries have been spared from major accidents over the years, which confirms that the company’s safety work is bearing fruit.

"When we've built and are commissioning a kiln, the operator sits in a Volvo with a 6-point harness and every conceivable safety feature. Major risks only occur if someone deliberately disconnects a safety function such as a light barrier," explains Robert.

To make sure safety-features are properly used, Valutec makes sure their solutions are user-friendly.
"If the safety systems are complicated or difficult, someone might get the idea that it would be easier not to have the light barriers working, for example. It's why we like to have close collaboration with the safety representatives at every sawmill in order to gain an understanding of each other's work situation. We start doing this as early as the kiln design stage.

Andreas Lövgren, production manager at Valutec, declares that the less maintenance required the lower the accident risk.
"We design kilns to minimize maintenance, thereby avoiding risky situations. It might mean using stainless steel where necessary in order to increase durability, or not having sensors or electric drives out in the open. Then there is external protection by means of e.g. grilles, facings and sheet-metal protection surrounding moving parts," says Andreas.

Valutec stays in constant contact with its customers in order to make its safety solutions user-friendly. "We get feedback from every project about what works and what we could do better. "We have an ongoing improvement process for our products. This naturally applies not only to safety, but also to the drying process itself and everything else that concerns the kiln," says Andreas.

The construction process is performed at ground level to the extent that it’s possible. After that, cranes are used. "There are gains to be made in terms of both time and safety by working at ground level. Of course, there is a big difference between a fall from two meters and one from twelve meters, even though the harnesses and safety lines are obligatory in both cases," says Robert.

The biggest risks are in moving operations, which means continuous kilns need difference safety solutions than batch kilns.

To eliminate the risk of door drop, Valutec engineers its kilns with double door motors and associated breaks.  Once a kiln is finished, it is handed over CE-marked and with the associated documentation.

"Standards are becoming ever more stringent.  In general, major groups have come a long way in developing structures to meet the requirements of the work environment authorities. But demands on smaller sawmills are also increasing, and it's important to keep everything in order,” says Robert Öhman.

“But occupational health and safety are only a matter of smart construction and working methods to a certain degree. It is also a matter of systematic maintenance work.

While this is primarily a question of quality, there are also safety aspects. Things also differ greatly from one plant to another. Here I would like to spotlight the Swedish company JGA where there is hardly a speck of sawdust to be found on the asphalt and everything appears so spick-and-span.”

To make maintenance follow-up easier, Valutec is developing a digital inspection protocol that is freely available for everyone to use.

"Safety solutions are an item in the protocol and we encourage everyone to use the protocol in their day-to-day work. We have rolled it out in Sweden and Norway and we hope to have it available for all markets soon," says Robert.


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