Hot melt adhesive is the most popular option for sealing consumer goods. A versatile bonding solution for various applications – cartons, cases and trays – hot melt packaging adhesives are used every single day. To maintain a safe work environment while using these adhesives, it is important to maintain hot melt adhesive equipment and provide protection for operators to avoid workplace injuries.
According to the National Safety Council, there are an average of 23,000 on-the-job injuries every day – resulting in 8.5 million injuries annually. Hot melt packaging adhesives are virtually harmless to people until they are heated and melted down to molten form. Contact with the hot melt liquid can result in serious burns. To keep operators safe, it is important to know the basic safety precautions when working with hot melt adhesives.
Application temperatures for hot melt adhesives typically range between 121oC – 204oC (250oF – 400oF). Keeping employees safe from this high heat requires a combination of wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and training. All hot melt adhesives have comprehensive Safety Data Sheets (SDS) available. These should be the main point of reference for all hot melt packaging adhesive line operators and maintenance personnel. The SDS documents also recommend PPE for each product, including heat resistant gloves, face shields, safety glasses, as well as heat resistant sleeves. These will protect employees from contact with molten adhesive or hot equipment while working with hot melt or around the machine.
Some of the common best practices for hot melt adhesive line operators may reinforce training by food and beverage manufacturers. These include:
- Read and Follow Guidance Documents: Read and follow the adhesive SDS documents and equipment directions before starting application. These guidance documents will outline operating conditions for the adhesive and setup/maintenance of equipment. The documents also contain helpful tips on safety precautions.
- Stay Focused: Accidents can occur when hot melt packaging adhesive operators lose focus. Stay alert and focused when filling the hot melt tanks or checking nozzles on the production line. This will reduce the likelihood of getting burned.
- Wear the Proper Equipment: The appropriate protective gear is advised when working with molten hot melt adhesive. All operators should wear safety glasses or goggles. Leather or other heat-resistant gloves prevent burns.
Low temperature hot melt adhesives are another option to help protect line operators. TECHNOMELT® COOL improves worker safety with reduced burn risks to line operators. The lower operating temperatures also reduce energy consumption and offer sustainability benefits at manufacturing sites. In the 1990s, Henkel pioneered these low application temperature adhesives and continues to develop these preferred general-purpose hot melt adhesives for applications requiring standard heat resistance.
An important part of safety is keeping the equipment well maintained and the production area clear of debris and melted adhesive. Each equipment manufacturer has best practices to keep the machinery working efficiently. If the equipment is used incorrectly or not maintained, the hot melt packaging adhesive can be impacted. If preventive maintenance is not performed regularly on the hot melt equipment, the adhesive can char. This burnt adhesive that clings to the slide of the hot melt tank can impact the efficiency of the equipment causing clogged filters and nozzles.
Some common best practices for hot melt packaging adhesive equipment include:
- Daily Hot Melt Equipment Checks: This inspection identifies any visible failure points. The hot melt tank should be free of debris, cracks or other damage. Preventing faulty equipment avoids accidents.
- Use the Right Temperature: Set the hot melt tank temperature based on the operating guide for the hot melt packaging adhesive being used. This assures the adhesive will perform as expected and operators are protected. Using adhesive at a consistent temperature reduces the likelihood of pop opens and other bonding issues.
- Implement Setback or Standby Mode: Implementing a consistent setback plan makes it easier and less costly to prevent char and assure burnt hot melt adhesive does not infiltrate the production line. Setback mode keeps operators safe by reducing exposure to high temperature equipment as setback mode will lower the overall temperature. Implementing setback mode into daily maintenance can improve the uptime of a manufacturing line.
- Keep Work Area and Equipment Clean: Routine equipment maintenance, in addition to the daily equipment check, can prevent unnecessary downtime. Equipment manufacturers provide recommendations for regular maintenance on their systems. Broken tank lids, cracked hoses or clogged nozzles will impact the packaging line. Keeping the equipment and work area clean and well-maintained can prevent an avoidable accident.
Understanding how to work with hot melt packaging adhesive is important. Hot melt packaging adhesives, like TECHNOMELT®, have ideal operating conditions. The key to keeping operators safe is being aware and understanding how to achieve application consistency, maintain the equipment, and keep the production line running.
Food and beverage manufacturers rely on the effectiveness of hot melt packaging adhesives to assure a strong seal or bond. Brand owners need to understand the optimum adhesive performance to produce a secure bond. To gain more insights on ways to increase efficiency of hot melt adhesive, register for Henkel’s digital training platform and learn more best practices about improving the operating life of adhesive.
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