Trends in industrial automation continue: the evolving workforce, globalization, use of information to develop insight into plant operations, and concerns about security. All of these trends can play a significant role in the safe and productive operation of your manufacturing processes. Here's a list of 10 tips to help you improve worker safety and productivity levels.
1. Understand Your Safety Maturity Level. Assess your own safety maturity and how you compare to others. A significant difference exists from the top to the bottom of the spectrum. Best-in-class manufacturers — the top 20% — achieve 5 to 7% higher OEE, 2 to 4% less unscheduled downtime and less than half the injury rate of average performers. These manufacturers share common attributes in three key areas:
- Culture (behaviors).
- Compliance (procedures).
- Capital (technology use).
These interdependent elements each show four levels of performance based on the focus of the company:
- Minimizing investment.
- Attaining compliance.
- Cost avoidance.
- Operational excellence.
Understanding your performance level and areas for improvement is critical to optimizing performance. Read more about safety maturity and measurement.
2. Develop a Strong Safety Culture. The accepted behavioral norms of your organization ultimately determines the safety of your workplace. Procedures and technology are critical as well, but if workers violate policy (often with management’s tacit approval), or override technology, worker safety and productivity will be compromised. This can have many negative effects on your business. A weak safety culture can undermine investments in procedures and technology. Read more about safety culture development.
3. Collaborate Between EHS, Engineering, Operations. This is a key attribute with clear correlation to attaining both safety and productivity, which is everyone’s responsibility. While EHS is the discipline most directly responsible for worker safety, they only directly control the least effective safety methods.
Engineering, with responsibility for machinery design and guarding, controls more effective methods, and shares responsibility for productivity with Operations. Collaboration between these departments is critical to help maintain compliance, safety and productivity. Read more about how each of these departments should function.
4. Perform Job-Based Safety Assessments Early in the Design Process. Most companies perform a risk assessment at some point. The questions include:
- Does the assessment consider everyone who will operate, maintain and otherwise come into contact with the machine?
- Did the assessment leverage a cross-functional team?
- Does the assessment take place at its operating location, or in isolation at the machine builder, or both?
- When does the assessment take place — early in the design process when risks can be designed out? Or after the machine is designed and ready to ship?
It’s vital to perform a risk assessment early in the design process and again after it’s in place at its operating location to help verify compliance, safety and productivity. Studies show that 60-70% of safety incidents occur outside of normal operating mode. Learn more about how to comply with safety standards to reduce risk and improve productivity.
5. Design Ergonomic Machinery. Your most experienced workers are at high risk for musculoskeletal and repetitive stress injuries, which can often be chronic or career ending. In addition, today’s diverse workforce means machines should be built for a range of workers — including ambidextrous features, reducing repetitive motion, lifting and awkward placement of the body. Learn how to adapt to an evolving workforce.
6. Use Alternative Protective Measures to Improve Productivity. Safety doesn't have to come at the expense of productivity. Contemporary machinery design allows for minor service exceptions to lockout/tagout (LOTO), where procedures are routine, repetitive and integral to the use of the equipment. Workers can’t be placed at higher risk, but alternative protective measures exist that can improve productivity by reducing downtime while still maintaining regulatory compliance. Read more about using alternative protective measures.
7. Use Established Safety Tools to Reduce Development Time and Help Confirm Compliance. Designing safety systems can be challenging and time consuming. Today, safety design tools are available that can streamline development and help confirm compliance. For example, Safety Automation Builder software can help you manage the safety life cycle and design your safety system. Safety function documents are available to help you implement machinery safety functions and include safety performance calculations, wiring, programming, verification and validation. Check out available safety tools.
8. Develop a Connected Enterprise. Harnessing the power of safety and operational data can substantially improve safety compliance and performance. The Connected Enterprise® empowers safety professionals with real-time understanding of worker behaviors, machinery compliance, causes of safety shutdowns or stoppages, and safety anomalies and trends. It can also help improve your ability to hire, train and retain employees. Read more about safety in The Connected Enterprise®.
9. Understand the Relationship between Safety and Security. As industrial operations become more connected, organizations are significantly investing in security to help protect their intellectual property, operations and brand. However, the inherent safety implications of security risks are too often overlooked. By integrating safety and security programs and following key steps, manufacturers and industrial operators can assess, manage and mitigate the safety implications of security risks. Read more about the relationship between safety and security.
10. Work with Dependable Allies. Identify system integrators and machine builders with expertise in current safety standards, a proven track record in building safety systems, and knowledge of productivity-enhancing safety system design technologies. Rockwell Automation alliances include Recognized Machinery Safety System Integrators and Solution Partners that have met stringent requirements including a rigorous, months-long assessment and education process to become members of our PartnerNetwork. Read more about the Rockwell Automation Safety Integrator program.
The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.