PE study: Line workers are less committed to plant safety
While plants generally are safe, worker commitment seems to vary by job title, survey reveals
The commitment to safety among plant management is high, but line workers are less likely to champion the cause of safety in manufacturing. That was the view of respondents from the recently-completed Plant Engineering study on attitudes toward workplace safety.
“That result is disturbing and calls for further examination by every plant manager in America,” said Bob Vavra, editor of Plant Engineering. “The idea that line workers even might be perceived to be less committed to safety on the plant floor is a trend we must reverse immediately. A safe manufacturing environment fulfills the promise of sending every worker home to family each night. It also preserves productivity and profitability, and those should be issues of attention for senior management and line workers alike.”
When asked who champions plant floor safety, 65% of respondents said senior management and operations management were “very committed," while only 55% of line supervisors and just 35% of line workers were seen as “very committed.” A full 20% of line workers were perceived as only “somewhat committed."
While the vast majority of personnel perceived their plants to be essentially safe, more staff in operations, maintenance, line workers and custodial staff rated their plants as “moderately safe” as opposed to “very safe." In contrast, by more than a 2-1 margin, plant management and safety executives regarded their plants as “very safe." Nonetheless, 95% of respondents said their employees feel essentially safe on the job.
“There seems to be a disconnect between the perception of safety and the reality of safety,” said Vavra. “It’s critical for each plant to re-examine their personnel’s attitude toward safety and take the necessary corrective steps to raise the confidence in their own safety efforts.
“A safe manufacturing plant is a basic tenet of Plant Engineering. It is the first criteria in selecting our Top Plant winner each year. It is the focus of one full issue each year, and is a guiding ideal behind all the articles we do,” Vavra said. “Safety is a core principle for us, and we believe it should be a core principle in every manufacturing plant.”
Other findings from the 2013 Plant Engineering Safety Study:
- 74% of respondents said productivity increased as a result of their plants’ safety program. They also said safety efforts resulted in lower insurance costs and fewer injuries.
- 90% of plants hold regular safety meetings, with 45% of those meetings taking place at least weekly. Daily meetings are conducted at 9% of all plants surveyed and another 13% conduct safety meetings on each shift.
- 70% of responding plants have disciplinary programs for unsafe practices. On the other hand, 60% also have safety incentive programs designed to reward good safety practices.
- Technology is a major factor in safety management. The survey found 81% of plants use embedded safety controls as part of their safety program, with 43% using outside training or consultants and 41% utilizing the Lean/Six Sigma strategy.
- The barriers to safety seem to resolve around time, not money. Only 27% of respondents said the lack of funds was a problem in safety management, while 35% said training time was the issue. In a continuation of the earlier trends, 30% said that it was a lower priority among employees.
- Plant management purchases the required personal protection equipment (PPE) in 90% of the plants. Just 35% of plants allow employees to take the PPE home.
“We feel this is an overlooked issue for manufacturing, and one plant management can easily address,” said Vavra. “A worker injured at home misses the same amount of work time with the same loss of productivity as if he or she were hurt on the job. Studies show providing PPE for workers to use at home reduces these accidents. We think workers should be encouraged to stay safe in all aspects of their lives, and this policy is a simple, effective way to help in that effort.”
The study was completed in November 2013 and surveyed safety managers, plant managers, maintenance supervisors, and senior management. Almost two-thirds of respondents were involved in engineering or maintenance. Full results of the survey are now available at www.PlantEngineering.com.