Everyone agrees that the safety of workers must be a top priority within industrial manufacturing environments, but the exact methods that should be employed are more often the subject of debate. There are dozens of ways that a culture of safety can manifest itself within the business culture and the day to day activities of assembly personnel. That being said, there are still a number of tangible actions that, upon implementation, will help to build a culture of safety within an industrial manufacturing setting which is already inherently fraught with dangers.
- Engineer safety into Equipment: This is admittedly the broadest, albeit most important initiative. The methods of employing this are only limited by the creativity of manufacturing engineers, and they include everything from the use of infrared light curtains that disable equipment while the screen is breached to the use of controls that require two hands to use. These types of features used with industrial automation equipment help reduce the effect of human error, and thus, the number of possible injuries.
- Don’t Forget Ergonomics: It’s also extremely important to provide ample working space between equipment fixtures/jigs. Ergonomic working conditions are essential to avoid most of the repetitive strain/fatigue related injuries that come with many manufacturing/assembly jobs. Production lines must be designed with this in mind, and input from workers goes a long way towards catching additional ergonomic concerns that may have been missed.
- Build in Small Production Breaks wherever possible: Manufacturing and production work, in addition to being physically strenuous, can also sometimes be extremely repetitive. Monotonous work done for hours at a time can inevitably lead to a dangerously fatigued workforce, which can be a huge driver of largely preventable accidents and serious injuries. Although all fatigue will never be completely eliminated, small production breaks can go a long way to mitigating the concern by greatly reducing extreme fatigue.
- Mark Specific Transient Hazards: Post large, visible warning signs on potential hazards and block off areas that may possess a large amount of hazardous energy and pose a particular risk of personnel injury. A workpiece radiating heat hot enough to sear flesh may be invisible without a warning sign indicating the existence of such a hazard.
- Discuss Safety Daily: Safety is not something that can be forgotten until an accident occurs, as this leads to complacency that breeds the potential for accidents. The best way to fight this complacency is to openly discuss continuous measures of safety improvement. Production managers must take it upon themselves to daily discuss safety issues and identify newly discovered safety concerns. This will help to create a culture where workers feel comfortable identifying safety concerns as they arise during daily operations.
These tips and suggestions do provide a good way to get started by thinking more holistically about safety in industrial work settings, but the specifics of mandatory workplace safety standards and compliance cannot afford to be neglected either. In the U.S., the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), the governing body for workplace safety compliance, has an entire regulation section of their website that lists specific regulations for everything from PPE to the handling of hazardous materials. At the international level, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has recently codified the much of the same standards and information into ISO-45001. These standards, combined with the principles outlined above, provide the tools to forge a safe workplace.