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ABB helps bowling alleys become safer work places

2014-11-20 - Bowling can be a fun, recreational game, but for the workers behind the lanes it can be dangerous and in some instances fatal. While serious accidents are isolated, such as a worker getting entangled in the pin-setting machine while trying to repair it, any type of work-related incident is unacceptable. One person getting hurt is one too many.

In Sweden, the Work Environment Authority conducted inspections of some 300 bowling alleys. They found that almost all of them lacked basic protection of the moving machines that could cause serious injury to maintenance personnel. Thanks to ABB, the machine safety of over 40 bowling alleys in Sweden have now been improved using equipment and solutions from ABB Jokab Safety.

Safety inspection
The inspections that the Work Environment Authority conducted in 2011, looked for compliance with Sweden's basic health and safety requirements as well as the European machinery directive. The directive applies to all machinery in Europe and requires that if someone enters the machine in a bowling alley, it should stop in order to prevent someone from getting hurt. 

"Previously, in best cases, a simple switch was used to switch off the power to the machine before messing with the system," says Jonas Nilsson, whose company Jonas Nilsson International AB is one of the system integrators that ABB is cooperating with.

No previous protective devices
Before the inspections, there were almost no safety equipment at all in Swedish bowling alleys to prevent the staff, or even worse, players who entered the lanes to come in direct contact with the big machines that handle the pins and balls.

"This is not an acceptable situation. You should not be allowed to have machines in a work place in a way that people can get injured," says Anders Brunander, Swedish sales manager for ABB Jokab Safety. "Our job is to help the customer find the most cost effective solution. With high availability while complying with current directives and standards."

Safely shutting off machine power

At Star Bowling in Gothenburg, Sweden, ABB and system integrator Jonas Nilsson developed a safety solution. The base of the system consists of four Pluto Safety PLC’s and 16 B51 output modules. In Star Bowling, they chose to put light grids both in front of the pins on the bowling lane and in the machine room.

If the light grids that are connected to Pluto are interrupted, the power to the machine is interrupted using double contactors. This stops the machine safely and the staff can enter and perform their tasks under safe conditions.

In the machine room there are fences on the sides of the eight lane pairs to prevent contact with the machines on the adjacent lanes, so only one lane pair has to be stopped when staff needs to enter the machine.

After stopping the machine, the system must be reset by pressing a button before the machine can start again. "The idea is to allow quick and easy entrance, perform the task at hand, and then exit," says Jonas Nilsson.

Spending more time on maintenance
With the new safety requirements in place, it takes longer to fix a pin or ball that got stuck, but having a safer work environment is more important.

"We want to minimize the process stops. Our guests should get the playing time they are paying for. One of the results from this is that we are spending more time on maintenance of the machines in order to minimize the number of stops," says Jens Sjöbom who is technical manager at Star Bowling.

Not complying with the regulations is not an option, as bowling alleys that do not are shut down, which recently happened to a bowling alley outside Gothenburg.

"With this in mind I have to say that the solution we have is the best available," says Lars Flack at Ninas Bowling in the town of Kinna. His bowling alley was recently equipped with a similar technical safety solutio. The system integrator was AMM Styrteknik. "We have had a very good cooperation both with ABB and the local system integrator. They have a great knowledge of what the legislation means," says Lars Flack.

ABB’s role can be described as a transmitter of knowledge within machine safety. With a modular safety system, the system integrator can create a user friendly and cost effective solution.

"To succeed with the safety solution, we always have a dialog with the persons involved. It is very important that the operators who will work with the system are included. Otherwise there is a risk that the operators will try to bypass the safety system. Sometimes the risk assessment leads to changing the work procedures. The goal is to minimize the risks as much as possible," says Anders Brunander, ABB’s sales manager.

Good news was reported by the Swedish Work Environment Authority earlier this year, who says that now 96 percent of all bowling centers had corrected their safety flaws. 

After the occurrence of lethal accidents in bowling halls, both in US and Europe, the Swedish work environment authority began inspecting the machine safety of Swedish bowling halls.

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