Regardless of industry, size, or employee experience, manufacturing plants are laced with risk. Some of these risks are obvious, while many are hidden behind the scenes. But just because these facilities pose a threat to the health and safety of employees, doesn’t mean these threats have to come to fruition. Savvy and discerning business owners and plant managers are proactive about safety and regularly look for ways to mitigate risk without compromising efficiency – you should do the same.
4 Tips for Making Your Plant Safer
In a business world where output and profitability are the primary objectives, it’s easy for something like plant safety to fall by the wayside. However, the safety of employees, equipment, and facilities is a serious matter.
For starters, safety matters because employees deserve to be treated with the utmost care and respect. They put their livelihood on the line for your company and the least you can do is pay them back with the promise of protection.
From a business perspective, prioritizing safety keeps you out of many legal and financial troubles that come with on-the-job injuries and deaths. It also enhances your brand image and makes you more attractive to future employees who consider working for you.
Unfortunately, a lot of businesses find out the hard way that there’s a difference between understanding the need for safety and actually prioritizing it on the ground floor. If you want your business to be an organization that genuinely puts safety first, there are several things you can do.
1. Establish a Culture of Safety
If you really want to prioritize safety in your plant, you can’t just make someone safety manager, implement a couple of guidelines, and call it a day. You have to establish a culture of safety – and that starts from the top.
The leaders in your organization – including you – need to back your words up with actions and show employees that you value safety from the top all the way to the bottom. It’s fine to have people who are in charge of overseeing safety programs, but each employee needs to feel responsible for their own safety, as well as the safety of their coworkers.
2. Evaluate Processes (Small and Large)
There’s a tendency for plant managers and those in positions of leadership to only look at the big processes and obvious pain points when trying to establish a safe work environment. For example, you may know that one machine is particularly dangerous and has caused deaths in the past. As such, you pour all of your energy and focus into establishing proper safety protocols around it.
While it’s smart to focus on big issues like these, you also have to pay attention to the smaller, less noticeable problem areas that actually add up to the most risk over time. One issue that comes to mind is fatigue as it relates to repetitive actions and activities. The fatigue factor increases as shifts go on and, if you aren’t careful, can result in lazy mistakes and costly safety issues.
“Repetitive actions require synchronization with man, machine and environment which begin to slow as the day goes by. These can be overcome with effective and frequent rotations, thus bench strength becomes a key to success,” Subhajit Roy writes for OEM Update. “Breaks must be designed with these factors in mind and may be allowed differently for different type of jobs considering these load factors.”
3. Use Machine Learning to Reduce Human Error
Many injuries, deaths, and mistakes on the plant floor can be attributed to human error. Finding a way to remove human error from the equation can lead to safer environments. In leading organizations, machine learning is quickly becoming the answer.
Machine learning is essentially the application of artificial intelligence that gives systems and computers the ability to learn and improve from experiences without being manually programmed or explicitly told how to act. It does so via advanced algorithms and intricate data mining behaviors.
When it comes to managing the reliability of assets, machine learning can play a significant role. “For instance, by looking at process parameters, machine learning technology can recognize patterns leading up to any number events—whether it be a failure, a level, a temperature, a pressure, etc. It recognizes that an undesirable event is approaching and then it gives you warning of said event,” explains PinnacleART, a leader in asset reliability. “And if the warning is far enough in advance, you often can prepare for and even prevent the undesirable event from happening.”
4. Play by the Book
Floor marking tape, guardrails, bright clothing, safety signs, lighting, regular team meetings…it’s easy to feel as if the different safety protocols and rules handed down by regulatory organizations, industry groups, and corporate offices are silly and “over the top,” but don’t try to cut any corners. What is there to gain from ignoring suggestions that clearly promote a culture of safety?
Playing by the book might make you feel like a robot, but there’s a reason various rules and regulations are put in place by those above you. They’ve seen what happens when safety isn’t prioritized and want to help set you up for success.
Make Safety a Priority
Words like output and profitability are probably more alluring to your business mind, but don’t be fooled for a second. Safety affects the bottom line just as much as some of the other processes.