Get Ready for Winter Work with Steiner

Winter is right around the corner and when the snow starts accumulating and the temperature starts to fall, the season of ice, snow and cold can turn a workplace into a survival of the fittest.

If you or your employees work in the field or in any location where winter weather presents safety concerns, you may wish to take some precautions. Steiner Electric and some of its vendors can help. A Winter Workplace Safety Counter Day has been scheduled to run at our Rockford branch on Oct. 31, from 11am-1pm.

The event will bring vendors of personal protection equipment, heating technology, lighting and lighting controls. Because equipment can also be at risk, technology on display will showcase portable testing equipment that can capture test data and have the information delivered to anyplace around the world.

Keep covered

Winter-related slips and falls, frostbite, hypothermia and more can result in time off work, temporary employee costs, overtime for existing employees, and increased insurance costs.

When it comes to personal protection, the head, ears and noses are among the extremities that get cold the fastest and must be protected.

Protective Industrial Products (PIP) will showcase a selection of gloves, head gear, and liners that helps protect workers. Headware includes 2-layer cotton models with mouthpiece, insulated ear barriers, and which have been FR (flame resistant) treated. They come in mid lengths and shoulder lengths.

For its gloves and sleeves, PIP uses Dyneema® and DuPont® advanced fibers as well as other proprietary engineered yarn blends and coatings to meet ANSI and EN standards. Breathable cut resistant gloves allow for dexterous work with wires and other components. Some versions can be used for dry and light-oil applications, and offer good grip and excellent abrasion resistance.

PIP air-assisted heat packs.

PIP will also feature air-activated hand warmers. The Heat Pack Mini Hand Warmers, which uses oxidation from the interaction of iron powder, activated carbon and water when it is exposed to air, provides 8 hours of warmth. It can be activated and reach full temperature in 2-5 minutes. Heating can be suspended at any time by resealing the inserts in an airtight container.

Freeze protection

Frozen pipes can be an aggravating experience for maintenance workers no matter the location.

Pentair’s Raychem self regulated cable.

Pentair’s Raychem products on display include self-regulating trace heating cables that are used for frost protection of pipes, temperature maintenance of process fluids, tank heating, and other applications.

The self-regulating heating cables automatically adjusts its power output to compensate for temperature changes. According to a Pentair video explaining the process, a protective core surrounds two parallel conductors. As the ambient temperature drops, the core contracts microscopically and the number of electrical paths increase and generates heat. Conversely, as the temperatures increases, the core expands and the number of paths decrease.

Pentair will showcase its Raychem QuickNet and Nuheat floor-heating systems.  These products are for installation under tile, granite, marble, stone, laminate and engineered wood flooring.

Also on display is the T2Red electric underfloor heating cable that the company says is ideal for temperature sensitive floors such as wood, laminate as well as for natural stone, and ceramic tiles. The self regulating cable can be cut-to-length on site, and can be overlapped or narrow spaced without danger of overheating, the company says.

Illuminating in the cold weather

Cold weather can also play havoc with lighting, especially fluorescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting.

On display in Rockford will be a series of lamps and ballasts that work well in the cold. In addition to the lamps, some of the latest in lighting-control technology will be on display.

For those looking to replace lighting technology that works well in outdoor cold temperatures, then LED might be the answer as they tend to work better in this environment. Cold weather helps the LED stay cool.

RAB LED wallpack.

RAB will display wall packs and area lighting. Models on display include the RAB HPS Wall Packs for wide light distribution that feature a die-formed aluminum reflector and a prismatic polycarbonate refractor. Metal halide RAB Wall Packs feature symmetrical light patterns to maximize lighting distances between fixtures, while the prismatic optics minimize glare. For security and energy efficiency, RAB will showcase CFL motion controlled Wall Packs that are fully adjustable for 24-hour operation and feature custom applications.

In low-temperature environments such as refrigerated areas, fluorescent lamps can experience adverse performance problems such as “fluttering,” reduced light output and difficulty starting by a traditional ballast.

Philips’s Advance ballast.

Cold weather ballasts from Philips can start the fluorescent lamps at temperatures expected to be below 50°F. Cold weather electronic and magnetic ballasts can be specified for lamps that can start them at temperatures as low as -20°F.

Philips will also be showcasing some of its vast range of LED products.

 

Maintaining machines in the field

Since its 2014 introduction, Fluke Corp.’s Connect technology has won awards from trade show judges, such as the AHR Expo, and from many trade magazine award competitions (EDN, Control Engineering).

The technology allows data collected from a growing number of the company’s handheld instruments such as its multimeters, infrared thermometers, and AC/DC current meters, to be shared via Smartphones to anywhere in the world.

Thermal imager with Fluke Connect.

Fluke Connect Assets is a cloud-based wireless system of software and test tools that gives maintenance managers a comprehensive view of all critical equipment — including baseline, historical, and current test tool measurement data, current status, and past inspection data — enabling them to set up and sustain a preventive maintenance or condition-based maintenance system easily with minimal investment.

 

Safely View the Solar Eclipse

A rare total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of Illinois on Monday, August 21. While the best area to view the eclipse from within Illinois is at the southern tail around the Carbondale area, those who can’t make the trip down south can still see a partial eclipse.

In Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana, viewers can expect the moon to cover 86.7 percent of the sun. The moon will be in the sun’s path beginning at 11:53am and continuing for 2 hours and 48 minutes. The best time to see the peak of the eclipse will be 1:18pm, according to NASA.

Because even a partial eclipse can be harmful to the eyes, it’s recommended that you consider some safety precautions when looking at the eclipse. Due to the intensity of the sun’s rays, NASA encourages the use of special-purpose solar filtered sunglasses, or another method that will protect your eyes. One Chicago weather broadcaster is using welding glass to view the eclipse.

According to NASA, this is only a good idea if the welders glass is of a Shade 12 or higher, which is much darker than the filters used for most kinds of welding.

“If it’s less than 12 (and it probably is), don’t even think about using it to look at the Sun,” the agency warns. “Many people find the Sun too bright even in a Shade 12 filter, and some find the sun too dim in a Shade 14 filter — but Shade 13 filters are uncommon and can be hard to find.”

Be aware that the slight crescent of the sun, known as the solar corona, which is visible despite the moon blocking the sun, can damage the retina.

Here are some additional NASA tips to help make your eclipse experience safe when admiring the solar eclipse.

  • Inspect your solar filter for scratches and other damages.
  • When about to look at the sun, stand still and cover your glasses before looking up. Never take off your eye protection while looking at the sun.
  • Looking at the sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or an alternative optical device is not recommended.
  • The same goes with using these devices as an add on to your special eye protection. “The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury” according to NASA.
  • Lastly, if you wear normal eye glasses, wear them under the special eye protection.

How To Use Social Media to Benefit Your Company

June 30th is Social Media Day. In honor of the special occasion we will reflect on some interesting and successful social campaigns being implemented across popular social channels by three different brands. The following campaigns provide great examples of effective uses of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube) any company can beneficially emulate to drive customer engagement.

CARHARTT 

Carhartt has campaigns across Facebook and Twitter that allow interactivity for fans and followers – for example, hashtag contests like #OutWorkThemAll encourage users to share photos of themselves working on tough projects while wearing Carhartt gear.

carhartoutworkthemall

Carhartt engineers consistency across Twitter and Facebook, with many similar campaign attributes being utilized in both networks. Hashtag campaigns like #OutWorkThemAll thrive cross-network, sharing photos of customers and products, providing Carhartt with a cost-effective grassroots promotional product campaign.

Carhartt also actively posts several videos and playlists on YouTube – one of which is the helpful “Do-It-Yourself” series of videos. These instructional videos provide customers with an easy guide of how to use products or how to complete tasks. They help answer customers’ questions giving Carhartt a practical extension to their customer service operations.

diy carhartt

KOHLER

Kohler too promotes their individual campaigns across multiple social media networks. For instance, the #HurricaneStrong campaign is run across Twitter and Facebook. This hashtag campaign is dedicated to preparing for power outages caused by Hurricane storms.

hurricaneprep

Kohler also tweets about timely events, tying into their brand. For instance, how they partnered with another company to help with the Flint Water Crisis. An organization or brand that posts content in relation to current events allows followers on social media to see real-world examples of how brands can affect or have a positive impact in responding to a current crisis.

Kohler additionally provides up-to-date information on details from trade shows and other events that they attend. This allows users to find an event they may be interested in attending to learn more about industry-related topics pertinent to their business.

flint

Kohler further has an active YouTube channel used to showcase their products and technology. From videos on the manufacturing of Kohler Generators to the importance of backup power generators for both homes and businesses, there are several reasons for users to view the Kohler YouTube channel.

Audiences can find value in Kohler videos for a multitude of reasons – perhaps they want to see a step-by-step guided process or learn how to undertake a task. Some videos can help teach processes, while other videos may show future technology and upcoming product releases, providing sneak previews of next generation innovations.


PHILIPS LIGHTING

Photos of Philips lights and lamps used for illuminating the exterior of buildings around the world are displayed on Twitter. Philips’ Twitter account shares colorful lighting photos that showcase the latest innovations from the lighting industry. Philips also shares articles from magazines, promoting stories that feature Philips products and services. Sharing these publications gives Philips positive recognition from third-party trusted sources.

Philips Lighting’s Facebook page contains contests, such as a chance to win Philips and Star Wars lights by simply telling them what makes your child a Star Wars fan. Philips also shares images of LED lights in use, such as in the Amsterdam Arena. Similar to Kohler, Philips utilizes current events to advantageously position their brand.

philips facebook led

facebook philips

With several videos, from “How To” demonstrations to featured products, there are numerous choices available for viewing on the Philips YouTube channel. The “How To” videos provide guidance, while the featured products showcase the range of innovative products that Philips Lighting offers.

As a worldwide company Philips also localizes their videos by translating them into several languages catering to the copious local markets they serve, which means you’ll find many Philips videos offered in multiple languages.

Philips additionally shares invitations for seminars and webinars through LinkedIn, encouraging more participation from readers and followers. The free seminars offer pertinent information on relevant and timely industry topics providing continuing education on practical applications of the latest trends.

Posting a variety of useful and timely content on social media networks – from current event related information on community outreach initiatives – to featuring new products – to event invitations – to contests – provides information that is helpful and engaging to your target audience. Having customers continually return to engage with your brand underscores the importance of utilizing social media to capture mindshare that ultimately leads to market share.

Additionally, another benefit of being active on social media is interaction – not only with customers but with other companies that are also present and active on social media. This allows for the potential of cross-promoting each other to audiences, sharing to each customer base, as well as creating the opportunity for building a working relationship between the two (or more) interacting companies.

There are countless strategies and uses for social media that any company can benefit in, but even simply being active and maintaining a presence online (answering customer feedback or questions) is advantageous to any brand. In this digital age, more customers and prospective customers flock to the internet to learn more about a company, or to just find a brand for their particular interest or need, therefore it is absolutely essential to be ready and represented online.

Machine Safety and the Integration of Pneumatic Technology

Why do we need Safety Standards? For years, standards and safety have been developed and adjusted as time went on. Everyone at some point is careless, complacent, overconfident, distracted or fatigued. We sometimes take risks or misunderstand things. Because all of these human traits are ingrained in all of us, we need to make sure machines are safe and ready for use – which means we also need to consider processes which govern how we utilize machines in order to prevent accidents and injury.[i]

With the increasing use of automation, the requirements governing protection of machinery have changed and evolved. Technology advancements have allowed for the integration of protection devices into the work process, thus improving safety and productivity.

Safety is a basic need – the objective for safety equipment  and safety standards is to provide the machine operator, personnel and others a safe environment when working with machinery. Managers are responsible for the safety of their employees. Most accidents are due to human error, which is why safety procedures need to start at the executive level and be adopted throughout the entire organization.[i]

In this article we’ll cover safety functions of Pneumatic technology, as covered by ASCO at Steiner’s 2016 Automation Technology Summer Symposium.

Risk Assessment

The first steps are taken by the machine operator and OEM to analyze the possible risks that are associated with the design of a machine. The risk assessment and analysis gives information that is required for the risk evaluation. This allows the operator or OEM to determine ultimately whether or not a risk reduction is required.[ii]

The process of risk reduction allows for the OEM to eliminate the potential risk that is found in the assessment. If the areas of risk cannot be eliminated, they are to be addressed with safety-related components.

A risk graph provides guidance when looking at the safety risk and safety function. The graph should be considered for each Safety Function identified as part of the risk assessment and risk reduction process.

Risk Graph
Risk Graph

Safety System Architectures and Categories

There are three architectures of elements – The Input Element, the Logic element and the Output element. The Input element includes Gate Switches and Light Curtains; the Logic element includes Safety PLC and Safety Relays and the Output element includes valves and motors.[ii]

There are four categories – Category 1, Category 2, Category 3 and Category 4. Category 1 systems rely on reliability data of components or well-tried components. With Category 1 there is no diagnostic monitoring.

Category 2 systems rely on Category 1 data plus feedback monitoring and periodic testing of safety functions. Category 3 systems rely on Category 2 data plus redundancy. In Category 3 safety systems, most faults are detected. Category 4 systems rely on Category 3 data plus greater diagnostic monitoring – in which all faults are detected.[ii]

Safety System Categories
Safety System Categories

Methods of Pneumatic Implementation

There are three main methods of satisfying a pneumatic Safety Function, including: Discrete components, Point-of-use “Dump” style units, and Manifolds with integrated Safety Functionality.[ii]

Discrete components have individual valves and pressure switches. Switches are limited to a single motion and can be used for multiple motion elements or actuators. These discrete components can be adapted to various pneumatic safety functions. Discrete pneumatic components are best used on single axis or individual motion elements in order to satisfy a pneumatic safety function. The pneumatic components are considered Safety Related Parts of a Control System.

Point of use “Dump” style units are individual assemblies that are made of redundant units to provide safe release of energy in the form of air. These are best used on Lock-Out Tag-Out (LOTO) applications. These type of units can be used to release or “Dump” the pneumatic energy to a gated machine in most instances.[ii]

Finally, manifolds with integrated safety functionality are manifolds that have the ability to satisfy many pneumatic safety functions while providing that function for multiple motion elements, or actuators. These Manifolds are best applied for the following:

  • Multiple axis of motion (actuators)
  • Requires Safe and Non-Safe Valves or motion
  • Requires additional pneumatic features such as regulation, speed control or circuit manipulation
  • Requires different safety functions on the same manifold
  • Requires a Fieldbus interface

Further Considerations

  • Safety functions are defined by the Risk Assessment or Reduction Process.
  • Machine Safety is a systematic approach
  • A Pneumatic safety function doesn’t always need to trap energy – there is a safe stopping of motion and a safe return to the home position
  • Indirect monitoring or pressure sensing, can provide the highest level of direct current

Protective devices should be integrated into the control system. Control systems are made of input elements, logic units and power control elements in addition to the actuator or work element. Safety-related parts of the control system should safely perform normal functions. Because of this, special requirements are placed on their reliability and resistance to failures. Safety standards and devices allow for an increase in the attempt to prevent injury. Because all humans can be careless, forgetful or distracted, it is important to implement and follow standards and procedures.

For more information on automation safety and to speak with one of our application engineers please call 1-800-STEINER (783-4637).

[i] Guidelines for Safe Machinery – Six Steps to a Safe Machine. N.p.: SICK Sensor Intelligence, n.d. PDF.

[ii] Machine Safety and the Integration of Pneumatic Technology. N.p.: ASCO Emerson, 2016. PPT.