Solar Atmospheres Strives to Be Safer

“The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an unprecedented downturn in business, one that President Bob Hill has not seen in his 25 years with Solar Atmospheres. It was during this pause in activity, that Bob and his team decided to take a deep dive into their business practices, especially examining the safety procedures of all employees.

During a recent safety meeting, a quality technician reported that performing quarterly thermocouple and vacuum calibration duties were exponentially more hazardous on larger vacuum furnace chambers. To calibrate against a standard, the technician must access plug-in points, which are traditionally located on the top of a furnace- the main valve port, used for vacuum calibration and the various Type S thermocouple contacts, used for thermocouple calibrations. Most smaller furnaces could be accessed easily with a step ladder deeming the climb reasonably safe. However, on larger chambers, the plug-in points could not be accessed by a ladder. Therefore, tying off, climbing, and balancing oneself 12 feet in the air became the only mode of access to these critical points.

“Our team worked extremely hard to devise a system that enabled the calibration process to occur with two feet on solid ground” said Hill. “For the thermocouple calibrations, our team ran extension wires from the TC’s with plugs to chest height. Additionally, we identified unused ground level feed through ports within the chambers and adapted them for vacuum calibrations.” Solar’s quality team validated the appropriate data from these procedural changes. These continuous improvement initiatives yielded no negative effects on the calibration results and dramatically reduced a potential unsafe work hazard.

Solar Atmospheres of Western PA’s maintenance team is proactively making these modifications to all existing furnaces, no matter the size. Our supplier of choice, Solar Manufacturing, now plans to incorporate these safety features as an option on all future furnace builds.

Solar Atmospheres of Western PA will continue their unwavering commitment to a safe and healthy workplace environment, to ensure additional accident-free years for future generations.”