Creating a Safer, More Productive Environment: Part I

Emma Percy
| Sep 01, 2020

Safety is key in any modern manufacturing environment. You don't just owe it to your workers; you also have to consider various rules and regulations, set forth by OSHA and other agencies, that govern the way you run your daily operations.

Chances are you already know that. After all, safety has become an increasingly commonplace daily check for most plant managers and process engineers. If you are in charge of safety at your facility, it's not even a question.

That's why this article is not about the importance of safety in your job. Instead, it's about making sure that you don't fall into the false choice between safety and productivity.

Too often, the two concepts are seen as being at odds. To be safe, you have to slow down operations. To increase efficiency, safety becomes less of a priority. In fact, that's far from the case. Instead, consider these 10 ways to increase safety in your facility without sacrificing productivity.

Here is part one of the Top 10 Ways Increase Safety in your Facility without Sacrificing Productivity

1. Rearrange Your Warehouse to Increase Efficiency

One of the core tenets of lean six sigma is the importance of removing waste in daily operations. Longer paths and unnecessary walks from one work station to the other don't just slow workers down, but actually increase safety hazards. 

Imagine cutting down the times your employees have to walk under heavy machinery or next to live operations. Each time they reduce that walk, they can spend more time on their job - but they're also less likely to get injured. That's why rearranging your warehouse according to lean six sigma principles can improve your workplace safety while maintaining and even optimizing productivity.

2. Decrease the Need for Maintenance/Repairs at Heights

It's a simple equation: the higher in the air your teams have to work, the higher their injury risk becomes. That becomes a problem when heavy machinery is arranged so that it's above the factory floor. Anytime it needs maintenance or repairs to function at optimal capacity, you expose your teams on the job to additional risks.

In these situations, basic fall prevention measures are already in place or should be implemented. But that doesn't mean you can't solve the problem on a more fundamental level, as well. Consider moving equipment that needs regular maintenance or repairs to lower heights. That might require some facility layout planning, but will ultimately increase safety without having to completely relocating the machinery.

3. Improve Your Equipment Quality

Better equipment tends to lead to higher safety. Occupational hazard studies have found that greater dangers see a direct correlation with the age of the equipment. The older your machinery gets, the more likely your workers will get injured.

Improving your quality in this area tends to be a significant capital investment. Safety is not the only reason you should turn to it. Updating your equipment also helps to improve productivity through better operability, lower training needs, and faster turnaround times. 

4. Automate Dangerous Tasks

Even the best equipment and most cautious practices will leave some occupational hazards. Fortunately, recent technology advancements have reduced worker exposure to these dangers as tasks have become more automated. According to Safety + Health Magazine,

Robots can help prevent injuries or adverse health effects resulting from working in hazardous conditions. Some examples are musculoskeletal disorders due to repetitive or awkward motions, or traumatic injuries (for example, in poultry processing, where cuts are common). They can also prevent multiple hazards in emergency response situations such as chemical spills.

Machine learning further aids that process, helping facilities to 'train' robots to complete more complex tasks. Reducing the human involvement in dangerous conditions both increases safety, and improves productivity.

Learn more ways to increase safety in your facility without sacrificing productivity here

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