Machine safety strategy: Stay the course or change?

Learn the four core behaviors of safety cultures. If a discovered hazard or an unexpected incident is only viewed as a problem, then problems could be distractions instead of enablers for continuous improvement or opportunities previously unseen.


SafetyMatters!Effective safety cultures in industry often have four core behaviors they use to solve problems. The return on investment (ROI) from this process might help your organization identify machine safety issues previously overlooked and possibly help expand the business in the long run.

When might these be helpful? Is a discovered hazard or an unexpected incident only viewed as a problem? Problems could be distractions instead of enablers for continuous improvement or opportunities previously unseen.

Here are the four core behaviors in effective safety cultures:

1. Open and transparent communications – communication is fundamental to organizational development and problem solving. Only after all voices can be heard and all points of view are expressed can a team collectively determine a viable path forward for a sustainable mitigation solution. Without an open communication organizational environment many people are generally uncomfortable sharing what they think and voicing possible solutions.

2. Silo-free participation – maintaining open communications depends on a boundary-less organizational style where a focus on cross-functional collaboration can drive problem solving and eliminate silo-fostered hidden agendas. Silo-free environments typically promote team players with cross-collaborative solving spirits for a common good. It becomes less about silo politicking and more about finding sustainable hazard mitigation solutions.

3. Open-minded expression – fostering an open-minded organization helps to facilitate the development of silo-free environments and transparent communication. If you’re bogged down by closed-minded folks, effective problem solving becomes a longer road to travel. Open-minded expression is more likely to convert a problem into a new opportunity. Perhaps they see beyond the obvious details before them and get on with the business of innovation and hazard mitigation.

4. And, a foundational strategy – it’s long been accepted that without a strategy, change is merely substituting a different solution, not facilitating an evolution. In my opinion, rather than dissecting a problem, often a more effective approach is to identify the strategy for change embedded in the problem itself.

So you ask, what’s this got to do with machine safety? 

Just because we have updated standards and new options for machine safety solutions today, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to simply rip out the old solutions and install the new safety automation solutions without a strategy. Having a machine safety strategy implies that an organization has evaluated its old or current safety solutions versus the potential new safety automation solutions along with the organizational safety culture. Only then might it be appropriate to evolve to updated machine safety solutions as an embraced strategy. Otherwise, there could be unanticipated consequences from substituting a different solution without a strategy.

What are your thoughts? Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Do you have some specific topic or interest that we could cover in future blog posts? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below. 

Related articles:

Machine Safety – in the US, when is it mandatory to use two mechanical safety switches on an access door?

ASSE - Professional Safety Journal- Near-Miss Reporting, May 2013

Machine Safety – in the US, Domestic versus International Standards!

Inside Machines: Does adopting ISO 13849-1:2006 change the U.S. model for compliance and enforcement?

Machine Safety – does OSHA reference consensus standards for compliance?

Machine Safety – designing a safe machine begins with Risk Assessment!


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.