The health and safety of workers are among the top priorities for HR and plant managers. While the intent and purpose of focusing on safety are undeniable, it can pose a challenge for manufacturing and production services. Unpredictable and dangerous environments demand more rigorous systems and processes to reduce the risk of any untoward incidents.
Over the years, incremental learnings have built a wealth of knowledge that informs best practices, especially in conditions that pose higher risks. The past decades show a promising downward trend in recordable injuries, with recent cases decreasing by 3.6% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Guidelines such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards contribute to measures that reduce workplace risks. Here are five tips to ensure these standards are being implemented and applied to your production floor.
Detect Which OSHA Standards Apply to Your Business
The first step towards a safer workplace is identifying the best practices that apply to your daily operations. Companies that employ varying production techniques and use a broader range of equipment will potentially require more particular OSHA standards.
Some examples of commonly cited OSHA standards relate to required personal protective equipment (PPE). Respiratory protection, for instance, details the critical protection level for workers that deal with dangerous fumes or toxic gases. Another set of standards exists specifically for eye and face protection. It goes down to the level of detail that describes the specific shades and lens types applicable for different welding operations. Other classes of PPE that need to meet strict standards include respirators, chemical- and electrical-resistant gear, and coveralls such as those used for painting.
The control of hazardous energy is another practical standard that every plant needs to know. Commonly referred to as LOTO or lockout/tagout, this standard ensures the minimum safety requirements to prevent the unexpected activation of electrical components or sudden release of stored energy. Virtually all plants will have industrial-grade equipment that will eventually require servicing and their own LOTO procedure. Companies need to take proper precautions in working around such components.
Improve Employee Training
Standards only hold real value when put into practice. Training is essential in acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge that allow workers to incorporate best practices into their daily routines. It is common practice for workers to accomplish mandatory safety training, especially when working in an unpredictable environment. Another approach is integrating formal learning sessions into routine performance evaluation tracking.
As with any other skill-building exercise, safety training should be compulsory for all new workers during the onboarding process. On the other hand, existing workers engage in refresher courses to reaffirm compliance to set standards.
Identifying training needs is one of the requisites of an effective safety program. Improving these practices is not confined to providing routinary sessions. More importantly, a thoughtful evaluation of training needs considers improvement opportunities and potential additions to the existing curriculum for any new processes and working environments. Proper documentation and checklists can help workers keep track of their adherence to OSHA standards when executing specific procedures.
Reward Employees for Safe Behavior
You can never go wrong with operating procedures and controlled documents for a long-term solution to comply with guidelines. However, there is still room for improvement in daily activities to encourage positive behavior. A system of incentives and rewards never fails to steer business-as-usual toward a more motivated culture.
One way to promote safety awareness is to provide prizes, encouraging individuals and groups to keep seeking ways to apply best safety practices. Rewards can come in various forms, including one-off incentives or convertible vouchers, monthly team bright spots, and safety raffles.
The idea of a rewards-and-incentives program is to provide additional encouragement to perform well. It is, therefore, better to avoid rewards for the absence of safety incidents and highlight positive actions instead.
Implement Appropriate Software
An increased focus on standards can easily result in a proportional addition of effort to achieve objectives. To ensure the scalability and sustainability of initiatives, companies can use all the help they can get, such as utilizing some of the available software in the market.
Maximizing the capabilities of smart manufacturing opens the door to more automated processes and overall productivity. For instance, specialized software aiming to increase equipment performance through proper maintenance reduces the risk of unplanned breakdowns.
The worst case in catastrophic failures can directly cause harm to individuals or induce the release of toxic products and by-products of a plant. Efforts to ensure that assets in the working environment continually operate under proper working conditions are a step closer to ensuring the safety of the individuals in the workplace.
Modern software also enables the continual monitoring of asset performance to inform workers of suspicious performance patterns. With more information about potential failure modes and consequences, technicians servicing equipment can prepare for a task better. Historical findings from previous inspections or work orders are also more easily accessible, aiding the determination of an underlying issue.
Stay on Top of OSHA Documentation and Reporting
Nothing tops the safety of workers, especially while performing work-related activities. Complying with OSHA standards aims to provide a framework that companies can follow to keep them on track with promoting a safer place to work. To further stress the significance of adherence to OSHA standards, violations could bring fines with maximum penalties corresponding to willful or repeated occurrences. The failure to improve on findings also amounts to daily penalties that can – without a clear action plan – quickly pile up.
The systematic documentation and reporting of OSHA compliance provide clear guidance about how a facility manages hazards in the work area. This practice also highlights the need for any additional training or any other issues before they grow into an unmanageable concern. As a bonus, companies can also save a lot of money by preventing the accumulation of fines and penalties for violations. Because inspections are often unannounced, keeping an orderly record of historical compliance can save valuable time and effort.
The nature of industrial processes comes with hazards that are nearly impossible to eliminate. Factors inherent to the workplace environment, extreme equipment operating conditions, and even working products, are all potential causes of harm to the workers that are at the frontline. It is through the adherence to standards and best practices that we can rely on years of experience to minimize risks to individuals and foster a safer place to work.