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The thing about power lines is that they are everywhere. Rural areas, urban areas, suburbs, you name it. No matter where you are working, look up and there are bound to be overhead power lines.

Photo by Jinu Raghavan (via Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Jinu Raghavan (via Wikimedia Commons)

Touching an electrical line can result in instant electrocution, causing serious injury or even death. In fact, about 119 people were killed by overhead power line electrocution in the US between 2008 and 2010, accounting for about 4% of all occupational fatalities.

But you don’t have to touch a power line in order to be electrocuted. Electricity can jump to anybody who gets too close. So it’s a good idea to stay at least 10 feet away from power lines and their connections.

Avoiding Power Line Dangers

The most common reason workers get electrocuted by power lines is that they forget to look up when raising a ladder or pole. It’s a simple thing but one that can easily be ignored.

Electricity naturally wants to move from a high voltage zone to a low voltage zone and it won’t let anything stand in its way, including your body.

Whenever possible, workers should use wooden or fiberglass ladders when working outdoors. Neither of these will easily conduct electricity, unlike metal or aluminum ladders.

If a co-worker is electrocuted by a power line, don’t touch them because the electricity can pass from their body into yours. Instead call 911 immediately. If you have to knock them off when they are hung up, use something that won’t conduct electricity, like a wooden 2X4.

Downed Power Lines

Watch where you are going so you don’t accidentally step on a live downed wire. Contact the utility company immediately to report a downed power line.

Always assume that a fallen power line is live, staying at least 10 feet away from it. There’s no way to tell by looking at it whether there is electricity running through it or not.

Make sure the power line isn’t touching anything that can conduct its electricity, such as a metal fence, pooling water, or even a tree limb. Even the ground around a live power line can be energized, up to 35 feet away.

Other Precautions

The best way to move away from a live wire is to shuffle using small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This minimizes the risk for the electricity jumping to your body.

Don’t drive over a downed power line. If your car somehow comes into contact with a live wire while you are inside it, stay in the car. Honk your car to summon help but warn other people to stay away from your vehicle.


hose reelHose reels make it easy to store heavy duty industrial hoses used to keep your workspace clean. But it pays to put a little thought into mounting a hose reel on an exterior or interior wall before you begin.

Hose reels themselves don’t tend to be all that heavy. They may weigh a few pounds at most. But their weight significantly increases once you add the weight of the hose. And if it’s a retractable hose reel and the hose is filled with water, the weight is going to be even higher.

You don’t want to wait until your hose reel falls off the wall before you realize it can’t handle all that weight.

Mounting a Hose Reel

The hardware that typically comes with a hose wheel is usually graded to hold the weight of the reel itself as well as a single, standard sized hose.

The problem is that many businesses will connect more than one hose together. Or they will use reinforced hoses that weigh more than the typical industrial hose, adding more weight to the hose reel than it is designed to carry.

Hose reels typically come in crank-operated models or self-winding retractable hose reels. If it is a retractable hose reel, the torque of the spring rewinding the hose can also add additional pressures, potentially resulting in failure of the mounting hardware to hold it securely in place.

And when the hose reel rips off the wall, not only will it make a huge mess but it can cause a lot of other damage as well.

Reinforcing the Hose Reel for Additional Weight

If you plan on using heavier hoses or multiple hoses on your hose reel, it’s a good idea to buy hardware that can carry all that load.

You also want to avoid mounting the hose reel onto siding or plaster board because that’s not going to end well. Instead, find some studs or sink some masonry bolts into mortar over brick, rather than mover mortar joints which are weaker.

Freestanding Hose Reels

All of these issues can be avoided if you buy portable hose reels or hose reels that are freestanding or floor mounted rather than mounted on walls.

For one thing, you don’t have to worry about it being ripped from its bearings. For another, portable or freestanding hose reels give you more range so you are limited to using them in one area of your business.


Bolted Wire Enclosure

Bolted Wire Enclosure

Most businesses have items they want to keep safe. These can be products, parts, tools, or commodities.

Food and beverage operations usually want to lock up their liquor, for example. Manufacturing plants may want to lock up expensive components or finished products ready to be shipped.

Protecting high-value items is important. But most businesses don’t need an elaborate security system, safes, or armed guards to keep their valuable protected. In many instances, wire enclosures and partitions can provide the security you need at a fraction of the cost of these other options.

Indoor and Outdoor Use

All you really need for lockable wire enclosures and partitions is a little out of the way space. This area can be either indoors or outdoors.

Indoors lockable areas benefit from using existing walls and ceilings to limit access to the secured area while outdoor wire enclosures and partitions may need four walls.

If you are going to create an outdoor security enclosure, you also probably will need to use an area that already has concrete or you may need to pour a slab. Whether or not you want to add a roof depends on how weatherproof the items to be stored in the area will be.

Limiting Access

outdoor security enclosureIndoor security enclosures typically will use one or two existing walls. That means you may only have to install two or three wire walls, as well as a lockable entryway. Sliding gates or doors that can be opened with keys provide all the protection you need.

The height of the walls does not necessarily have to go all the way to the ceiling either, especially if you are building your storage area in a warehouse with tall walls. Fencing that is 8 or 10 feet tall is usually enough to discourage anybody unauthorized person who wants to gain access to the restricted area.

Closed-Circuit Television

Once your security enclosure has been built, you will want to limit access to authorized persons only. These can include supervisors, managers, and executives, as well as trusted employees.

Enhance your security by requiring anybody entering the area to either sign in and out on a clipboard at the gate, or sign out for the keys prior to being issued them.

Another option is to install closed-circuit security cameras that can watch the area 24 hours per day. That way, if there is a security breach or if high-value items go missing it can be relatively easy to find out what happened.

Ford F-150 Pickup Truck (Photo by Bull-Doser via Wikimedia Commons)

Ford F-150 Pickup Truck (Photo by Bull-Doser via Wikimedia Commons)

Aluminum is one of the most commonly used household metals, with foil covering leftovers in refrigerators worldwide.

But not the lightweight metal is increasingly being used for other applications, including replacing steel in cars, trucks, and even airplanes.

Shedding Unwanted Pounds

Part of the reason for the increased popularity in aluminum has to do with the environment. Tougher new emissions standards in Europe and the US have forced car and truck makers to find new ways to make the same vehicles with far less weight.

In 2014, the auto industry took a new look at aluminum after the Ford Motor Company started using the lightweight metal in the body panels for its popular F-150 pickup trucks. Now aluminum is widely used in cars, trucks, airliner fuselages, and other applications worldwide.

A Man-Made Metal

While aluminum is found on the periodic table of the elements (Al), unlike other elemental metals it is not mined directly from the earth. Instead, it is made from an ore known as bauxite, which is mainly found in sub-tropical environments in places like Australia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean, although during World War II bauxite was mined in Arkansas.

Aluminum used in industry and for home use is created by separating the aluminum oxide from the iron oxide in bauxite. This process — which was first developed in 188 by the Austrian chemist Karl Joseph Bayer and is known as the Bayer process — involves mixing bauxite with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) then heating it under pressure.

The sodium hydroxide dissolves the aluminum oxide, forming sodium aluminate, which eventually precipitates, coming out of the solution as a fine white powder called alumina.  This 19th Century process is still used today to produce nearly all the world’s aluminum.

Uses for Aluminum

One of the biggest benefits of aluminum is its light weight. It also can be flattened to a very thin layer that is just a few molecules thick. Aluminum is also very inexpensive to mine and produce, especially when compared to other metals.

With auto makers and other manufacturers challenged to produce lighter and less expensive products, steelmakers are constantly producing stronger and lighter steels that incorporate new materials like magnesium and carbon fiber.

Yet aluminum continues to be widely used in the production of auto parts, as well as cans, foils, kitchen utensils, and even rocket parts. And while it doesn’t conduct electricity as well as copper, it is widely used in electrical transmission lines because of its light weight.

The Science Behind Scissor Jacks

03 Aug 2017

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scissor jackOlder drivers can remember when floor-standing jacks came standard with most cars. These devices used a lever — usually the crow bar — to jack a car’s bumper up inch by inch when changing a tire on the roadside.

Floor-standing jacks went out of vogue about the same time donut spare tires started to become popular. And for the same reason:  Space considerations.

In order meet tougher fuel standards, automakers were challenged with finding ways to make cars lighter and smaller. So things like bulky floor-standing jacks and full-sized spare tires were some of the first things to go.

Scissor Jacks Now the Industry Standard

Not all new cars even come with spare tires anymore. But those that do almost always have scissor jacks.

The benefit of scissor jacks is that they offer the same easy lifting capabilities as floor-standing jacks but they can be twisted down into a very small, compact package that can easily fit inside or under a donut spare.

Scissor jacks are not only lighter and smaller than floor-standing jacks, but they are also less like to tip over in mid-use, making them safer as well.

How Scissor Jacks Work

Scissor jacks are remarkably simple to use … even by Millennial drivers who don’t know how to change a spare tire.

They utilize a concept known as large force amplification. In simple terms, this means that the easy task of turning a nut with a lever is enough to raise an automobile or truck weighing thousands of pounds.

There are two critical parts to the scissor jack. The first is a two-piece mechanism. The second is a self-locking screw. Working in tandem, these two parts allow extremely heavy vehicles to be lifted through an extension of the scissor mechanism, which is held in place by the resistive force of the screw.

If the screw wasn’t able to hold the weight of the vehicle, the jack would instantly collapse, creating a hazardous situation for the driver changing the tire.

Fast, Simple, and Easy

The scissor jack’s central screw has an end-mounted circular ring that is designed to accommodate a large metal arm. Like the standing jack, this is usually the tire iron (although scissor jack tire irons are a lot shorter, smaller, and lighter than old school versions).

When inserted and turned in a clockwise direction, this arm drives the screw through the scissor mechanism’s central pivot point’s threat. The jack elongates and the vehicle lifts easily. Spinning the screw in the opposite direction lowers the vehicle to the ground.



Employee IDWhen you walk through your workplace, how many people do you actually know by name?

Even when you work with people every day, it’s sometimes hard to know all of their names … or for older adults, to remember their names!

Company badges that contain photos and workers’ names are convenient for timekeeping purposes. But they also can help create an atmosphere of unity and togetherness within an organization.

Value of Worker Badges

Many companies today use worker badges to identify their employees. Requiring workers to wear their badges on lanyards around their necks is an easy way to see instantly who belongs in the workplace and who doesn’t.

Badges also can be embedded with important information, including employee ID numbers that can be used to clock workers in and out, allow access to restricted areas, and even track their productivity.

Some badges use magnetic strips to carry this information while others include small RFID chips that can contain even more essential data.

First Names Only

Some employees may have privacy concerns if you include both their first and last names on their company ID badges, especially if they have to deal with outside customers.

But very few people have a problem with including just their first name on their employee IDs. In fact, most workers enjoy being able to know their co-workers’ first names without having to ask. They can then call their co-workers by name on the job, in the break room, or elsewhere at work.

This is a simple addition that can significantly add to the sense of community within your organization. When your work force is referring to each other by their first names, it helps them feel as if they are part of something bigger.

Other Inclusions

You can include other information on employee IDs that helps start conversations and encourage people to get to know each other better.

These can include things like the year they started with the organization, their home town, or which department they work in.

Some companies are also adding fun and interesting facts on ID badges. For example, Live Nation, a company that manages concert venues, includes the employee’s name as well as the first concert the employee ever attended.

Name tags are a tried and true way to break down barriers between people. Including first names and other information on employee work badges can help improve organizational unity within your company.

Photo courtesy of William Viker via Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of William Viker via Wikimedia Commons

Gases stored in heavy steel cylinders are common in all sorts of industries. Hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, and even propane are among the gases typically stored in workplaces.

Because most gases are stored under high pressure, heavy steel is usually used for gas cylinder tanks. This makes handling and storing gas cylinders tricky and potentially dangerous.

Depending on their size, steel gas cylinders can weigh up to 50 pounds or more. Much of that weight is the cylinder itself, which has to be thick enough to safely contain the gas under any environmental conditions.

Dropping Tanks of Stored Gas

Tall, heavy gas tanks also are unstable and shouldn’t be left standing on their own. The slightest bump or vibration can cause them to fall over.

While the tanks themselves are tough and durable, the spigots at the top can easily break or crack. And if that happens, the pressurized gas inside can erupt, causing the heavy steel tank to jettison like a rocket through your work area.

Another risk is explosion or fire. The potential for sparking can add to the risk when accidentally dropping tanks of pressurized gas.

Storing Gas Cylinders Properly

Gas cylinders that are too heavy or can’t easily be lifted or maneuvered by hand are typically stored in a gas rack. These are made from heavy steel bars that hold the tanks in place — often with chains — until they are ready to be used. Some gas cylinder racks have sleeves at the bottom that allow forklifts to easily lift and transport them throughout a work space.

Lighter gas cylinders can be stored on their sides in gas cylinder cages. These helpful materials handling devices allow you to store multiple gas cylinders safely out of the way, reducing the risk of dropping, falling, or breaking.

Gas cylinders should never be left standing unprotected. Because they are so top heavy, it doesn’t take much to send them tumbling or rolling through your work area. Even if the gas doesn’t escape, a 50-pound gas cylinder rolling down an incline is a danger and could result in serious injury.

Chaining Gas Cylinders

If gas cylinder storage racks aren’t used, tanks should at least be held in place with chains, straps, or thick ropes that prevent them from falling over. Whatever is used to secure gas cylinders need to be strong and thick enough to handle the weight should they tip over or fall.

Gas tanks are common in many workplaces. Storing them safely improves both safety and productivity.

How e-Commerce Is Changing Your Business

25 Jul 2017

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packagingRight now, one out of every three people buy the products they want online directly from the manufacturer. This tidal wave of direct-to-consumers (DTC) trade is forcing many companies to rethink the way they do business.

Many businesses today are investing in more sophisticated materials handling solutions that optimize and maximize throughput while minimizing mistakes that can instantly damage their reputation.

Changes in Packaging

One of the most immediate changes many companies are making is changing their packaging. Shipping bulk products to retailers require bulkier, less costly packaging like pallets and cases secured with shrink wrap.

But with DTC commerce, individual products often need to be packaged individually using new materials, such as polymer bags. While most consumers will gladly absorb the cost of this packaging, businesses are left to figure out how to restructure their shipping departments to accommodate packaging that can change size and shape with every order.

Costly Mistakes

When manufacturers sell their products to retailers, there is a lot more room for error. Packages that are mislabeled, spoiled, or damaged can be easily returned and replaced with end-user customers being none the wiser.

With DTC commerce, however, errors in shipping and damage to products can damage a company’s reputation. Rather than giving the manufacturer time to apologize and rectify the mistake, consumers are often compelled to write and post a nasty review on their social media accounts or elsewhere online immediately.

While it’s not fair to businesses, it is one of the new realities of DTC commerce. As a result, manufacturers are motivated to minimize mistakes with every order they ship.

Speeding Up Delivery

Another new reality in the DTC business environment is that consumers expect and demand faster shipping. With companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart, and others promising next day or even same day delivery for online orders, other companies are challenged to find faster and more efficient ways to get their products into the hands of web-based buyers.

As a result, many businesses are investing in automated conveyor systems with modular conveyor platforms that allow retailers and system integrators to process and ship orders faster and more accurately than ever before.

These types of platforms include automated features that offer more flexibility and customization while allowing for the rapid handling of smaller and lighter packages in a variety of configurations. This can result in dramatic reductions in package damage while allowing more accuracy in hitting smaller, tighter delivery targets.

DTC commerce is here to stay. Businesses that can’t adjust to this new reality may not be.

Photo by Hash Milhan (via Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Hash Milhan (via Wikimedia Commons)

Adding a suggestion box to your workplace offers a number of immediate advantages. For one, it allows ownership and management to get recommendations from line level employees that can actually streamline operations and improve processes.

But a simple suggestion box also offers workers the chance to have their voice heard, reinforcing the idea that they are a valued part of the business. Workers who feel as if management cares about them work harder, stay longer, and produce better results.

Boosting Employee Morale and Motivation

An employee who feels as if their company doesn’t care about them, doesn’t know who they are, and has no interest in what they have to say isn’t going to be a motivated worker.

These employees aren’t going to be loyal to the company, are more likely to bad mouth the business to others outside of work, and are more likely to quit sooner, leaving the business with another job to fill.

Yet something as simple as a suggestion box can help workers feel as if their opinions matter and that management is actively interested in what they have to say, improving employee morale and overall job satisfaction.

Revenue Builder

Line level workers have a perspective of the operation that management often doesn’t. They can see ways to save money, reduce expenses, and improve efficiency that may not be obvious to executives and other bosses.

When they share these ideas in the workplace suggestion box, it can open up new improvements to operations, potentially increasing revenues and growing the company’s market share.

Case in point: The Minnesota-based company 3M Corporation posted a suggestion box in their employee break room and a worked dropped a slip of paper into it with the idea for Post-It Notes, a product line which has helped grow the company’s market share to more than $34.7 billion in annual revenues.

Cost Cutter

Suggestion boxes can also help companies save money. Every dollar businesses save thanks to employee suggestions goes right to the bottom line.

Some businesses encourage employees to come up with money-making or cost-saving ideas, rewarding them with bonuses for suggestions that actually result in increased profits. In the early 2000s, Nevada-based Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.’s “Big Idea” program paid out thousands of dollars to line level workers whose ideas helped add millions of dollars to the casino company’s bottom line.

Suggestion boxes are a little thing that can result in big ideas that can result in dramatic improvements to employee relations, operations, product offerings, and cost savings.



Photo by Ndungukamau via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Ndungukamau via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoying a cold Coca-Cola or Pepsi on a hot summer’s day is as American as apple pie or baseball.

But a changing marketplace and increased focus on the potential health risks of these sugary drinks has sent ripples through the soft drink industry in recent years.

Amazon’s Effect on Soft Drink Sales

More and more consumers are seeking to buy the products they use every day online, rather than in actual stores. In fact, a recent study stated that a third of all US consumers buy at least one product through Amazon or another online retailer at least once per week.

This is bad news for the soft drink industry because soda pop is dense and requires tight packaging to protect containers. But it’s also relatively low cost compared to other products weighing the same. So selling and shipping it to online customers can be cost-prohibitive.

Last week, PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi said the company is looking at new, lighter packaging that would help its drinks travel better.

Governmental Interference

Another new hurdle facing the soft drink industry is soft drink taxes that take aim at the alleged health effects of sugary drinks.

A circuit court judge in Chicago earlier this month temporarily blocked a new penny per ounce county tax on all sweetened drinks set to go into effect July 1. Prior to the judge’s decision, the soft drink industry launched a full court press to attack the unpopular tax, including TV commercials and full-page newspaper ads aimed directly at consumers.

Suing Soda Makers 

Then there are legal assaults on the soda industry, including a lawsuit filed last week by a Washington, D.C., pastor against Coca-Cola, claiming that the soda pop giant was deceiving customers about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages and ravaging poor, inner city communities with subsequent health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Pastor William Lamar, of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, said he is tired of presiding over funerals of parishioners who died from health problems stemming from a steady diet of soft drinks.

Lamar claimed that soft drinks and other poor diet choices were killing more people in urban communities than street violence.

Next Steps for the Soda Industry

As consumers become more concerned about eating and drinking healthier and the beverage industry looks for better, cheaper, and faster ways to deliver its products to buyers, big soft drink producers like Coke and Pepsi will need to develop innovative ways to keep people wanting their products.