10 Worker Safety and Productivity Tips

10 Worker Safety and Productivity Tips

These insights can help you deal with challenges of finding skilled workers, globalization, automating, and safety and security worries.

By Steve Ludwig, commercial program manager, Safety, Rockwell Automation

No matter what the industry or process, manufacturers face the same challenges: fewer available workers, globalization, innovation, safety and security concerns and best use of information.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 tips to help you meet these challenges and see immediate improvements in safety and productivity.

1. Improve Your Safety Maturity

We see safety maturity as a combination of culture (behavior), compliance (policies and procedures) and use of capital (technologies). Repeated studies show the top 20% of manufacturers achieve 5–7% higher overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), 2–4% less unscheduled downtime and less than half the injury rate of average performers — and the top performers are extending their lead.

These best-in-class performers view safety as a key element in the pursuit of operational excellence. And they use contemporary safety methodologies to help achieve it. For example, an LNS Research survey found 75% of industrial companies said they have seen operational improvements resulting from the use of advanced safety technology.

So how do you join their ranks? Begin by assessing your own safety maturity and see how you compare to others. Understanding your performance level and pinpointing areas for improvement are critical to optimizing safety. Read more about safety maturity and how to measure your performance.

2. Address Safety and Security Together

As industrial operations become more connected, organizations should review security risks in relation to safety risks. We all know security helps protect our intellectual property, operations and brand. Unfortunately, the inherent safety implications of security risks too often are overlooked.

By integrating safety and security programs and following key steps, you can assess, manage and mitigate the safety implications of security risks. Read more about the relationship between safety and security (PDF).

3. Improve Collaboration

Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) is most directly responsible for worker safety but only directly controls the least-effective machinery-safety methods. Engineering focuses on technical standards has control of the most-effective machinery-safety methods. Often, these two departments view each other suspiciously, resulting in reduced safety and productivity.

A key element of safety maturity, mentioned above, is collaboration between the two — and with operations. In fact, a recent LNS Research study found that organizations in which these three functions collaborate experience a 15% lower median incident rate. Read more about safety maturity and how these departments should function.

Worker Availability & Safety. As the global workforce continues to evolve, contemporary safety systems as well as machinery design techniques must be considered, not only to mitigate risk but also to enhance worker productivity.

4. Perform Risk Assessments Early in the Design Process

Designing risks out of machinery, rather than building a machine and then trying to make it safer, is critical. Most companies perform a risk assessment at some point.

A key consideration when conceiving of a new machine is when you will conduct a risk assessment on it. Is it early in the design process, when risks can be designed out? Or is it after the machine is designed, built and ready to ship?

It’s vital to perform a risk assessment early in the design process and again after the machine is 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 (during maintenance, repair, etc.). For more on the topic, see this brief (PDF).

5. Design Ergonomic Machinery

Our industry’s changing workforce is creating new safety considerations. Younger and inexperienced workers are at higher risk for acute injuries. Older workers are at higher risk for musculoskeletal and repetitive stress injuries, which often can be chronic or career ending.

Getting the most from every available worker now requires building machines for a broader range of workers. This means including ambidextrous features and reducing repetitive motion, lifting and awkward body placement. Read more about adapting to an evolving workforce (PDF).

6. Use LOTO Alternative 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) when procedures are routine, repetitive and integral to equipment use.

When used correctly, alternative measures can improve productivity by reducing LOTO-related downtime while still maintaining compliance. In some cases, alternative measures can be the difference between mere compliance and operational excellence. Read more about using alternative protective measures (PDF).

Are You Concerned About Machine Safety in Your Plant? The Safety Automation Builder software tool is now integrated with risk assessment software RASWin to help guide engineers through steps of the machinery safety life cycle within one environment, providing documentation to show compliance with international standards.

7. Bring Safety into a Connected Enterprise

The power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can improve your safety compliance and performance substantially.

A Connected Enterprise empowers safety professionals with a real-time understanding of worker behaviors, machinery compliance, causes of safety shutdowns or stoppages and safety anomalies and trends. It also can help improve your ability to hire, train and retain employees.

8. Make Safety Integral to Your Control System

Your control system should include safety-rated inputs, logic and output devices to mitigate risks, improve productivity and provide information to key stakeholders.

Designing effective, productivity-enhancing safety systems can be challenging. But safety design tools can streamline development and help confirm compliance.

For example, RASWin software can help manage and document consistently the safety life cycle. Safety Automation Builder software can help you design your safety system.

Safety function documents also can help you implement machinery safety functions and include safety-performance calculations, wiring, programming, verification and validation. Read more about available safety tools.

9. Use Smart Safety

New smart-safety designs and devices can reduce your wiring, design costs and unscheduled downtime. For example, you can capture smart-device interactions to create predictive maintenance feedback and other information.

Controlling machine access to authorized and trained personnel to improve productivity, safety and security. Learn more about smart safety.

10. Build Your Safety Expertise

You need engineers, system integrators and machine builders with experience in current safety standards, a proven track record in building safety systems, and knowledge of productivity-enhancing safety system design processes and technologies. If you don’t have this expertise in-house, you can take advantage of your partners.

For example, Rockwell Automation employs nearly half of all TÜV Rheinland-certified safety professionals. Our alliances include recognized system integrators and Solution Partners with safety expertise. These organizations have met stringent requirements, including a rigorous, months-long assessment and education process to become members of our PartnerNetworkTM program.

Learn more about the Rockwell Automation Safety System Integrator program.

The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.

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The JOURNAL from Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is a bimonthly magazine, published by Putman Media, Inc., designed to educate engineers about leading-edge industrial automation methods, trends and technologies.