I was recently brought into a manufacturing facility to help analyze their overall safety program, and attempt to improve it. The facility was part of a global company. The global company was encouraging all of the local facilities to focus on improving safety, but hadn’t given them much guidance on how this should be done. When we met, the facility manager explained to me that he was looking to help make the facility both the safety of employee practices as well as enhance the safety of the machinery as well.
Cutting down on injuries or problems related to accidents, he believed, would not only help protect his employees, but itwould also improve the efficiency and profitability of his facility. I agreed with him, and we started out by touring the facility and looking at the current information about the facility’s safety record.
Very Few Problems
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the facility was operating quite safely when considering the overall tactics and plans put into place. They had fewer accidents than most other manufacturing facilities, and had actually received an award from the corporate offices for the safest facility in the region (and 4th safest overall for the prior year). Clearly, the facility manager took safety seriously, and wanted to really go the extra mile to improve it even further.
I made some minor suggestions on things he could improve upon, but overall there seemed to be little I could actually help him with. That was, however, until I noticed something that seemed insignificant at first, but then turned out to be much more important. About 30% of the accidents or other safety related reports for the facility occurred within three days of a problem being reported. These problems were things like safety signs being damaged or missing, floor tape being unintentionally covered or difficult to see, and things like that.
Exploring the Right Safety Tools
Once I realized that the biggest safety concern facing this facility was a lack of urgency to fix hazards quickly, I recommended to the manager that we create a figurative safety toolbox. The toolbox would essentially contain the needed safety tactics and tools which would help address the most common problems quickly, easily, and efficiently. Sometimes it would even simply help for a temporary solution until something more permanent could be done, and other times it would allow an immediate fix to be put into place. When I mention the term “toolbox” I am referring to a figurative toolbox of tips versus a physical toolbox containing actual tools.
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The following items were discussed:
- Floor Tape – First off, floor tape (like this) is a must have for many industrial work settings. Having floor tape easily available allows managers the ability to mark off new safety zones and hazards. Given the fact that the facility is very busy, there were many areas where painted lines were wearing off. Having floor tape easily accessible allowed for these types of problems to be addressed immediately. In addition, floor tape is often used in situations where a temporary storage area was needed for staging parts or orders. The team would identify where these items should be staged and then marked off with floor tape so everything would stay organized and kept safe until a permanent location could be set up.
- Safety Signs – This facility, like most others, had quite a few hazards that people needed to be made aware of. Within this facility it was obvious that safety signs were not being utilized properly or in some situations not at all. Safety signs are a great tool to help ensure that everyone is aware of the risks. However, sometimes signs can become damaged through the day-to-day wear and tear of an industrial work environment. I recommended him to purchase a few common safety signs so that they could be replaced right away when needed. I also noted to him that many companies are also able to create custom signs (like this company) for temporary or permanent situations.
- PPE – Personal protection equipment is critical for overall safety examples of this include a respirator, eye protection, protective gloves, and a few other essential items. These things should to be easily located in convenient areas so when employees need to wear required PPE it is available to them. Rather than having to track down eye protection when entering certain areas of the facility, for example, employees could just take the needed PPE and enter the intended zone. This helps to improve overall safety.
- First Aid – While this doesn’t prevent injuries, it can certainly minimize their impact. A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for helping to address injuries directly. It is important to ensure the first aid kit has items that you’re likely to need. Having these first aid items available can help ensure employees who are hurt will be taken care of quickly and properly. Of course, this is no substitute for trained medical attention, but it can dramatically reduce the impact of many injuries.
- LOTO – The lockout, tag out (LOTO) program has been growing in popularity in many facilities because of how effective it can be. This facility had been using the system for quite some time, but when responding to an accident, it was often overlooked. Having the LOTO items readily available, helps to ensure that those responding to an injury can quickly secure the location to prevent further accidents from occurring.
- Training – Training materials (such as these) are essential to the safety of your employees. Proper training should be provided to all employees on a regular basis. Its important that all employees are equally trained in their job and properly trained regarding the safety equipment that they utilize. Training meetings should be scheduled routinely and should be interactive as well as informative.
Making sure the correct and most pertinent safety items are available when they are needed allow for the facility to react much more quickly after a problem occurs. This could help to prevent accidents before they are able to occur, or can help to respond to them better once an accident does take place.
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