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Polymer rollers reduce strain

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WITH back injury and strain responsible for tens of millions of dollars a year in injury compensation claims, a Victoria-based company is using the lower mass of polymer material to considerably lower the potential for this type of injury to materials handling maintenance staff.

Recognising that steel rollers are prevalent in conveyor systems, Kinder & Co is replacing these with polymer alternatives and utilising the relative weight differences to increase safety levels.

For example, a 1200mm conveyor belt return roller in any engineering related or heavy industry normally weighs about 23kg as opposed to a polymer type that is about 7kg - but the physical properties are comparable.

Effectively, because replacement procedures involve a great deal of manual handling of conveyor rollers, the lower weight of polymer has several key advantages.

Conveyors often have long walkways that are narrow and the only means of transporting rollers is by carrying them. A 7kg weight is less likely to cause back strain.

Return rollers in particular demand a labour intensive fitting as access from both sides of the conveyor is rarely possible.

The process commonly involves a lot of stretching across conveyors to exact the fitting and this can be hard on a person's back if the roller is heavy. Even on a 90mm belt it is not uncommon for an associated steel roller to weigh in the vicinity of 18-19kg.

Managing director of Kinder & Co, Neil Kinder, likens the physical process of roller installation to that of transporting firewood.

"Normally it is arms outstretched, carrying the rollers over great distances and thus increasing the chances of back strain for the employee and an expensive compensation situation for the employer.

"Polymer rollers are the logical replacement for steel to heighten manual handling levels while reducing other potential injury situations which can occur as corrosion and other atmospheric damage takes effect on the steel units."

The product has a roller shell and bearing housing made from high density polyethylene, with a sealed-for-life bearing protected from moisture and dust by a triple labyrinth seal.

The bearing housing incorporates moulded grooves that use centrifugal force to displace water and dust from entering the roller. Because of the light weight involved, power requirements at installations are greatly reduced.

A configuration of the shell and shaft has been selected to fit into conventional trough or idler return frames, no special frames are required and retrofits into existing trouble spots are simplified.

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