Top 5 Shop Floor Safety Tips


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Shop floor safety goes beyond wearing appropriate protections and clothing, sufficiently cleaning and organizing work areas, and checking machinery prior to operation. Continuous safety on the shop floor originates in an underpinning safety mindset that is entrenched in an organization’s culture and the way workers go about doing their daily tasks.

The following five strategies can help your organization optimize shop floor safety practices and facilitate the extension of a safety-focused ideology across your entire enterprise. 

1. Establish Effective Training Programs

The most common shop floor accidents (those caused by falls, overexertion, machinery/vehicle mishaps, reaction injuries and so forth) occur when workers fail to do their jobs correctly because they haven’t been trained how to properly follow procedures. For safety to be an organizational priority, manufacturers must ensure that shop floor employees are continually trained in the technologies and processes they implement and taught the proper protocols to apply when performing job functions and handling potentially dangerous equipment and machines.

Employers are typically concerned about the downtime incurred by taking workers offline for training, but it pales in comparison to the disruptions that are inevitably caused by injuries, rework and retraining necessitated by incorrectly executed tasks. Thorough and effective training not only helps shop floor workers do their jobs correctly and avoid injuries, but it also allows employers to reduce costs and safeguard their legal obligations and expectations. Furthermore, a safety mindset can be contagious and eventually become a competitive advantage for a company.

Shop floor employees work safer and more productively when their concerns are taken into consideration, says @MCMasterControl. #shopfloorsafety bit.ly/2DtiBj1

There are several core characteristics shared by shop floor training programs that have proven to be effectual. To be effective, safety training programs should be:  

  • Worthwhile: Training is perceived by all staff as a constructive event rather than a time-sucking period of disruption and production loss.
  • Consistently Reviewed: Safe working behaviors are reinforced when regularly scheduled workplace inspections are conducted. If improvement opportunities are apparent, an employee can be provided with feedback to rectify incorrect behaviors before larger problems arise.
  • Focused on Positivity: When supervisory observations aren’t tied to discipline, a culture of safety is positively supported. Furthermore, when an organization facilitates peer-conducted observations that focus on what fellow employees are doing right, it can increase knowledge sharing and enhance the overall safety ethos.
  • Resource Supported: A knowledge bank that includes a collection of beneficial training resources (i.e., videos, recorded seminars, instruction manuals, books, etc.) should be readily accessible. If new or specialized equipment is deployed, access to external training consultants/agencies must also be available.

2. Develop Reciprocal Communication Channels

Safety-minded managers always take the time to meet with their subordinates on a regular basis to discuss issues, inform them of procedural updates, and brainstorm solutions to problems. This approach to safety includes making “Gemba walks,” a cornerstone of the Lean management philosophy in which supervisors observe actual work processes in real time, engage with the shop floor workers, and explore potential continuous improvement opportunities. Shop floor employees should always feel that they are engaged in the process and that their recommendations are listened to – and rightly so, since they’re the best source of truth when it comes to knowing what works and what doesn’t. Floor workers are safer and more productive when they know they can approach supervisors with concerns and that those matters will be taken seriously and accounted for in future decision-making.

3. Identify Emerging Safety Issues With Regular Audits

If your organization aspires to establish an occupational health and safety management system that successfully addresses all areas of shop floor safety, the system must be capable of being verified through internal and external audits. The philosophy behind these audits should be applicable not only to shop floor control, but across the wider enterprise as part of the organization’s efforts to embed safety and quality into the overall culture. 

Periodic shop floor safety audits should include scheduled reviews of equipment and machinery to make sure they:

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  • Meet applicable standards
  • Can be operated safely
  • Are classified in the correct category (to ensure the right tool is used for the right job)

The more regularly audits are conducted, the easier it is for an organization to evaluate the effectiveness of its safety plans, determine that established procedures are being followed accurately and double-check process accuracy. Planned audits of appropriate scope and frequency can be indispensable means of capturing:

  • Assessments of any gaps between the current state of safety and the desired state
  • Risk assessments
  • Job hazard analyses

A comprehensive audit program is essential to the creation of long-term safety plans and for the development of preventive measures that can help an organization avoid potential problems down the road.

4. Improve Systems to Minimize the Probability of Human Errors

Not only can human errors jeopardize safety on a shop floor, but they’re also usually the primary culprit behind deviation occurrences. In fact, human error is responsible for more than 80 percent of process deviations in life sciences manufacturing(1). If existing systems can’t properly identify and explain errors, any subsequent corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs) won’t address the underlying conditions behind the failure.

If your organization is looking to improve the safety systems that help you manage human factors, start by asking the following six questions:

  1. Is everyone on the shop floor provided with clear, accurate procedures, instructions, and/or other job aids?
  2. Has your organization implemented adequate human factors engineering for control systems, processes, equipment and work environments?
  3. Has relevant training and practice been provided to the necessary personnel?
  4. Has appropriate supervision been provided?
  5. Does the organization have an assurance of good communication?
  6. Do shop floor personnel have all the capabilities needed to succeed in their assigned tasks?

Thoroughly addressing each of these questions can help an organization establish a structured human-error investigation and a CAPA process whose effectiveness can be judged according to the recurrence of root causes.

5. Effectively Manage Safety-Associated Risks

The effective measurement and management of risk factors is critical to sustained shop floor safety. One successful risk management approach that constitutes the backbone of PepsiCo Foods Canada’s lauded safety program is predicated on three key principles(2):

  • Leadership – Managers who oversee processes and/or equipment that require machine safety must be highly adept at defining the commensurate responsibilities, roles, resources and support required. Supervisors should be adequately supported so that they are capable of performing the necessary safety risk assessments for all equipment and processes involved.
  • Competence – As noted in tips 1 and 3 above, there are no better gauges to prove competency than vigorous and comprehensive training and audit programs.
  • Proper Documentation – When shop floor activities are appropriately documented, it is far easier to periodically assess risks. Documentation-based risk assessments serve as evidence that modifications that may require additional controls have been adequately identified. Documentation can also provide quantifiable proof that risks have been reduced on the shop floor.

A cyclical process of identifying, evaluating, prioritizing and controlling risks helps reduce potential hazards for shop floor workers. The findings from risk assessments can provide deeper insights into applicable tasks, hazards and potentially affected personnel. Risk assessment determinations can also be used to develop scoring systems that take the probability of occurrences of harm and potential severities into account.

A cyclical process of identifying, evaluating, prioritizing and controlling risks reduces potential hazards for shop floor workers, says @MCMasterControl #shopfloorsafety bit.ly/2DtiBj1

Improving Shop Floor Safety Management With Software Solutions

The advantages of enhanced shop floor safety include:

  • A calculable reduction in accidents, injuries and lost time
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Improved productivity and morale
  • Protection of and positive contribution to the organization’s reputation

These and many more tangible benefits of safety enhancements can be achieved through the implementation of a shop floor management software system. A software solution can be an invaluable tool that streamlines the capture and management of all the documentation, risk assessments, documented communications and audit findings that contribute to shop floor safety. Reliable software systems can enhance shop floor safety by:

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  • Providing immediate access to changes
  • Enabling faster responses to changes
  • Integrating training into change management processes
  • Increasing visibility into safety and production data and records
  • Expediting communication and collaborations
  • Making manufacturing and quality processes more efficient

Open and mutually beneficial communication between shop floor workers, supervisors and managers goes hand in hand with effective training programs. And, since worker involvement is the key to shop floor safety, bidirectional communication must be as clear as possible amongst everyone involved.

You can learn more about the many ways shop floor management software systems can help your organization improve safety on the shop floor here.

References

  1. Collazo, Dr. Ginette M., June 15, 2010. “Reducing Human Error on the Manufacturing Floor.” Retrieved from https://www.mastercontrol.com/gxp-lifeline/reducing_human_error_manufacturing_floor_0310
  2. Del Ciancio, Mary, November 19, 2013. “Safety on the plant floor: How leading manufacturers keep their employees safe on the job.” Retrieved from https://www.automationmag.com/factory/3946-safety-on-the-plant-floor-how-leading-manufacturers-keep-their-employees-safe-on-the-job?jjj=1539965027888


James Jardine is a marketing communications specialist at MasterControl Inc. He has covered life sciences and regulatory issues for more than a decade and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Utah.