Top 5 Shop Floor Safety Tips


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Shop floor safety is a continual concern for manufacturers. But there’s much more to it than simply ensuring worker protections, inspecting equipment prior to operation and maintaining hygienic and organized work areas. Continuous shop floor safety begins with an overarching safety-centered philosophy — a mindset that permeates a company’s culture and is reflected in the way workers behave and perform their daily tasks.

Abiding by the following fundamental manufacturing safety tips can help your company optimize shop floor safety practices. It can also help your organization foster a safety-focused ideology that extends beyond the shop floor and across the entire enterprise.

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Manufacturing Safety Tips

  1. Establish effective shop floor training programs.
  2. Develop reciprocal communication channels.
  3. Identify emerging safety issues via audits.
  4. Streamline systems to mitigate human errors.
  5. Effectively manage safety-related risks.

These may seem like common-sense, cliched catchphrases to many manufacturing veterans, so a closer examination of each strategy is worthwhile to shed light on how they can drive lasting shop floor safety improvements.

1. Establish Effective Shop Floor Training Programs

The most common shop floor accidents (those caused by falls, overexertion, machinery mishaps, and so forth) occur when workers fail to do their jobs correctly because they haven’t been properly trained on procedures.

For safety to be a priority, manufacturers must ensure their shop floor training programs are:

  • Pertinent.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Focused on regularly training staff on the technologies and processes they implement.
  • Teaching workers the proper protocols to apply when performing job functions and handling potentially dangerous equipment, particularly when machinery or protocols are updated.

Thorough and germane shop floor training helps workers do their jobs correctly and avoid injuries. It also reduces costs and safeguards employers’ legal obligations.

All effective shop floor training programs share four characteristics:

  1. Worthwhile: Training is perceived by all staff as constructive rather than a time-sucking period of disruption and downtime.
  2. Consistently Reviewed: Safe work behaviors are reinforced by regularly scheduled workplace inspections. If improvement needs are apparent, feedback will help an employee rectify incorrect behaviors before they lead to larger problems.
  3. Focused on Positivity: When supervisors’ observations are tied to discipline, safety carries a negative connotation. Telling employees what they are doing right increases knowledge sharing and enhances the overall safety ethos.
  4. Resource Supported: A knowledge bank of training resources (i.e., videos, recorded seminars, instruction manuals, books, etc.) should be readily accessible. When new equipment is deployed, access to external training consultants/materials should also be made available.

2. Develop Reciprocal Communication Channels

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

Safety-minded managers always take the time to regularly meet with subordinates to inform them of procedural updates and coordinate solutions to problems. This approach often includes making “Gemba walks,” a cornerstone of the Lean management philosophy in which supervisors do the following:

  • Observe actual work processes in real time.
  • Engage with the shop floor workers.
  • Explore continuous improvement opportunities.

Employees must feel they are continually engaged in the process and that their recommendations are heard – and rightly so, since they’re the best source of knowing what works and what doesn’t. Workers are safer and more productive when they know they can approach supervisors with concerns that will be heeded and accounted for in decision-making.

3. Identify Emerging Safety Issues Via Audits

An organization’s shop floor safety must be verifiable 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 an effort 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:

  • 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.
  • Double-check process accuracy.

A comprehensive audit program is critical for establishing long-term safety plans and developing preventive measures that can help avoid problems down the road.

4. Streamlining Systems to Mitigate Human Errors

Human errors can jeopardize safety on a shop floor. They’re typically the primary culprit behind deviation occurrences as well. In fact, human error is responsible for more than 80% 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 conditions causing the failures.

To mitigate human errors that could jeopardize safety, first ask the following questions:

  • Are all workers provided with clear, accurate and relevant procedures, instructions and job aids?
  • Has relevant shop floor training and practice been provided to the necessary personnel?
  • Are workers appropriately supervised?
  • Is there an assurance of good communication?
  • Are human factor controls in place for all systems, processes, equipment and work environments?
  • Do personnel have the capabilities needed to succeed in their assigned tasks?

Thoroughly addressing each of these questions can help an organization establish a well-structured human-error investigation and CAPA process.

5. Effectively Manage Safety-Related Risks

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

  1. Leadership: Managers overseeing processes and/or equipment that require machine safety must be adept at defining the requisite responsibilities, roles, resources and support. Support should enable supervisors to perform the necessary safety risk assessments for the equipment and processes involved.
  2. Competence: As noted in the tips above, there are no better measurements for proving competency than vigorous and comprehensive training and audit programs.
  3. Proper Documentation: Thorough documentation makes it easier to periodically assess risks. Documentation-based risk assessments provide evidence that modifications that require additional controls have been appropriately identified. Documentation can also serve as quantifiable proof of risk reduction.

A cyclical process of identifying, evaluating, prioritizing and controlling risks helps reduce potential hazards to workers. Findings from these assessment cycles help generate deeper insights into applicable tasks, hazards and potentially affected personnel.

Improving Shop Floor Safety With Digital Tools

A reliable shop floor management software system is an invaluable tool for streamlining the capture and management of all the documentation, risk assessments, documented communications and audit findings that contribute to shop floor safety. Digitization enhances shop floor safety by:

  • Providing immediate access to changes.
  • Enabling faster responses to changes.
  • Integrating shop floor training into change management processes.
  • Increasing visibility into safety and production data and records.
  • Expediting communication.
  • Accelerating efficiencies in manufacturing and quality processes.

Learn more about digital manufacturing solutions and the dramatic impact they can have on shop floor safety by downloading “The Ultimate Guide to Digitizing the Shop Floor.


References

  1. Reducing Human Error on the Manufacturing Floor,” by Dr. Ginette M. Collazo, June 15, 2010.
  2. Safety on the plant floor: How leading manufacturers keep their employees safe on the job,” by Mary Del Ciancio, Manufacturing Automation Magazine, Nov. 19, 2013.


2019-bl-author-james-jardineJames Jardine is a marketing content writer at MasterControl, Inc., a leading provider of cloud-based quality and compliance software solutions. He has covered life sciences, technology and regulatory matters for MasterControl and various industry publications since 2007. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism from the University of Utah. Prior to joining MasterControl, James held several senior communications, operations and development positions. Working for more than a decade in the non-profit sector, he served as the Utah/Idaho director of communications for the American Cancer Society and as the Utah Food Bank’s grants and contracts manager.