Machine safety and your safety culture

How's your machine safety culture? Have you heard anyone say: My hand is quicker than the machine, production is more important than safety, we don't need machine guards because...


In my last Machine Safety blog I suggested that there was an elephant in the room called “Safety Culture”! Furthermore, I suggested that quite often it’s the elephant in the room that looks over your shoulder to help make those difficult and gray decisions such as whether a hard guard is best for a given hazard.

Has anyone noticed that elephant yet?

Well, where do you think the “Safety Culture” elephant in the room comes from or if it even exists? In my opinion, a safety culture will always exist, even by its absence! This harsh reality is no different than realizing that “no decision is a decision.” Here are some common “Safety Culture” statements I’ve heard over the past several years:

  •    My hand is quicker than the machine
  •    Production is more important than safety
  •    We don’t need machine guards because we do it differently here
  •    We haven’t had an accident so we have a great safety program
  •    Our primary operators are trained every month so we don’t need LOTO

I hope none of these statements apply to your manufacturing operations or experience because they’re indicative of safety culture that’s probably about to have a serious accident. Under this safety culture, the question in my last blog would likely be to only provide the hard guard during production. And, for all the other 24/7 modes with the hard guard removed, perhaps no back-up guarding would be necessary as per the “Safety Culture.” In my opinion, it’s often the safety culture that answers the question, “has tolerable risk been achieved”? I call the above a negative safety culture.

On the other hand, a positive safety culture is one that typically is leadership driven, has a clear vision with expectations, and is accountable and measureable. Furthermore, I believe that a positive safety culture embeds a shared value concept among all employees and management built on a set of guiding principles for long term viability and sustainability. Principles like aligning safety management with reality by, for example, focusing on leading indicators like near hits vs lagging indicators like near misses. Yes, a positive safety culture can help drive employee satisfaction and increased profits.

With this brief analysis, who now has seen the elephant in the room?

Submit your ideas, experiences, and challenges on this subject in the comments section below. Comment box missing on your screen? Submit a machine safety culture comment here and scroll down.

Related articles:

Machine Safety – Hard Guarding Is Best – Right?

Updating Minds About Machine Guarding    

Contact: for “Solutions for Machine Safety”

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.