Lives On the Line
Identity cards offer security and protection to employees on the job
- By Joe Wright
- May 01, 2006
EMPLOYEES of MEGTEC, manufacturer of air flotation dryers and oxidation pollution control equipment, often have to work in dangerous situations, some of which require lockout/tagout controls. In those cases, employees put locks on electrical, gas or air supplies to make sure nothing happens while they're working on equipment. They also may put a lock on a drain to prevent incoming liquid from reaching them.
"People performing maintenance on a machine often are in danger of being electrocuted, crushed or sprayed with toxic chemicals if someone accidentally tries to operate the machine," said Christopher Campbell, environmental health safety/security manager.
To draw extra attention to the locks, MEGTEC attaches an ID card with the company logo, a photo of the employee and his or her name, along with a sign that reads, "Locked out. Do not remove. My life is on the line."
"All companies have to have something like this," Campbell said. "Some have a standard tag, others write the information out each time. We made ours very personal. People who see a person's face and name are less likely to mess around with a lockout. The cost is only $2 per card, which is very reasonable, and it takes only a few second to print one out."
In addition, MEGTEC uses no-technology cards for confined space entry. When field service or shop employees travel to customer sites, they often are required to work in confined spaces. This can be any space, room or chamber that is large enough for an employee to enter and work in, but not intended for continuous human occupancy because of limited access and exit.
"In other words, it can be dangerous," Campbell said. "There might be limited air exchange. People die in confined spaces on an all-too-frequent basis. That's why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires training on how to assess and control hazards in confined spaces, and take care of hazards once inside."
In the case of MEGTEC products, oxidizers may need to be inspected on the inside once they are up and running. For the sake of safety, customers want proof the employee has had proper training and recertification, which is needed every two years.
"The Fargo ID cards are durable enough to last longer than two years," Campbell said. "We don't have to worry about someone's signature smearing."
The card also lists the expiration date with a scanned signature. It meets OSHA requirements, has an employee's photo, is durable and is easy to produce.
MEGTEC first began using ID badges 14 years ago when an employee from one of its competitors got into MEGTEC's building and began "nosing around," Campbell said. It wasn't long before a fence went up and access control points went in. Today, the company's security has become more sophisticated with 12 access control points and eight access levels. It also has special ID cards for forklift operators in addition to workers handling lockout situations.
"It is vital that we limit the number of people who come in," Campbell said. "Our equipment designs are proprietary."
MEGTEC began its business in the printing and papermaking industries, which still represent the company's primary customers. But now the company provides equipment to any industry that requires its products to be dried on a cushion of air. In addition to these air flotation dryers, MEGTEC builds oxidizers that burn complex air polluting hydrocarbons into less polluting materials.
"The technology is very simple, but the engineering behind it is very complex," Campbell said. "Through the years, we have had a number of different ID badge programs for our security. We just weren't satisfied. The printers broke down, it was difficult to change ribbons and clean the machines and the printers jammed frequently."
About four years ago, Campbell discovered Fargo printers on the Internet and purchased a DTC510 Direct-to-Card Printer/Encoder.
"Since then, we have printed about 1,000 badges," he said. "All have been good quality. The printer is quick, easy to use and very efficient. It's an elegant machine, meaning it provides a lot of bang for the buck. There isn't a lot of wasted motion or effort."
Today, MEGTEC provides ID cards for eight access levels: The master level enables employees to go anywhere on the property. It is used for maintenance workers, first aid providers and key managers.
A research and development level permits employees to be inside the research and development areas.
Employees can receive office access that gives them access to areas except R&D.
The shop crew leaders have access that permits them into areas to talk to others about plans and documents.
Shop employees have access to the manufacturing area through an employee entrance.
There are three vendor access levels: one for suppliers, one for those who restock manufacturing shelves and one to allow visitors into the outside gate only.
Providing Flexible Access
MEGTEC's ID badges are smart cards, using HID read-only proximity technology. Access levels are encoded onto an induction coil by the company's software. The cards themselves don't reveal an employee's access level. The software used by MEGTEC enables Campbell to program new information into the card whenever necessary.
"This flexibility allows us to change access levels as needed," Campbell said. "For example, some employees may need R&D access only for awhile, others may join the first aid team. This technology enables us to change access without having to change the whole card."
Borders around the photos on each badge are color-coded, however, for easy visual identification. Red is for employees, green is for vendors, blue is for security staff and white is used for children on "Take Your Kids to Work" day.
"We thought it would be nice to give the children a badge just like their mom's or dad's," Campbell said. "They feel more important that way."
Each ID card is actually two cards in one. Each contains a barcode with an employee's time clock number for use with MEGTEC's optical bar-code scanner.
"The barcode predates me," Campbell said. "Someone decided that barcoding was the way to go with 180 hourly shop employees. Today, all office employees have their cards barcoded, as well, in case we ever decide to use the technology for inventory control or other accounting purposes. Someone was thinking ahead. If we want, we can jump right in and use the barcode for additional purposes."
In addition to general security, MEGTEC uses ID cards without technology to identify employees who have been certified forklift operators. This certification is needed every three years, including operator training and evaluation.
"As far as access goes, I think I'm there," Campbell said, admitting he didn't have a wish list for future upgrades. "It's vital that we limit the number of people who come in here."