Safety first: Put up your guard

Case study: Machine safety culture change at global consumer products manufacturer results in closing of 69% of the major findings from global assessments; 95% of corrective actions and preventive actions from fatalities have been closed.


Machine safety upgrades offered a manufacturer an opportunity to reduce risk and address operational efficiency when a safety project required equipment overhaul. After risk assessment, and safety culture improvements, many corrective actions and preventive actions were resolved. Safety is more than adding machine guards.

Around the time that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) became effective on April 28, 1971, workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries dropped more than 60%. However, as of January 2012, OSHA reports that the United States still faces an unacceptable and preventable number of work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses. Every day, more than 12 workers die on the job—more than 4,500 a year, and more than 4.1 million workers suffer a serious job-related injury or illness. A renewed focus on prevention is needed to reduce these numbers.

To accomplish this, the occupational safety and health community has developed and initiated systematic approaches to reduce injuries and illness in the workplace.

Top benefit of an effective workplace safety program is improved productivity. See other benefits. Courtesy: Polytron, January 2012 “OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper”Regardless of the title of the various company programs, all address workplace safety and health hazards to reduce the extent and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses. Ongoing programs help employers find hazards and fix them before injuries, illnesses, or deaths occur. They also help employers meet their obligation under the OSH Act to “furnish to each of its employees, a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees,” according to the January 2012 OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper.

While return on investment is not the focus with safety, such programs help employers avoid the significant costs associated with injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Even though costs related to injury and illness certainly impact companies, Aberdeen Group’s research finds that the top four pressures driving best-in-class companies are: need to be in compliance (64%); reduce the number of safety injuries/incidents (49%); reduce the risk of an adverse event (22%); and corporate sustainability mandates (18%). That was according to Aberdeen’s November 2011 “Integrated Safety Systems Ensuring Safety and Operational Performance.”

Top safety program benefits

Direct cost of the most disabling workplace injuries in 2008 was reported to be $53 billion, according to Liberty Mutual Research Institute in 2010. And, in 2011, The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) estimated that $58 billion in annual workers’ compensation benefits was paid for all compensable injuries and illnesses during 2009.

Injury and illness prevention programs are not new, nor are they untested. Most large companies whose safety and health achievements have been recognized through government or industry awards cite their use of injury and illness prevention programs as their key to success.

Convinced of the value, effectiveness, and feasibility of these programs, many countries around the world now require employers to implement and maintain them. These countries include Canada, Australia, the 27 European Union member states, Norway, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea. This initiative also follows the lead of 15 U.S. states that have already implemented regulations requiring such programs, according to

The Ford Motor Company 2010-2011 Sustainability Report comments positively on such efforts: “Improving our safety record is not only good for our employees—it’s good for our business. We have calculated that progress in lost-time cases and days lost saves the company approximately $30 million in direct costs each year.”

Polytron case study on safety

In 2009, one of the leading global consumer products manufacturers launched a new fatality elimination campaign as a part of its existing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) management system. The stated safety goal is zero workplace fatalities by 2015, according to the company’s 2011 Sustainability report.

The overall safety brand was implemented as a strategy to drive cultural change and includes employees, contractors, and visitors. To create a fatality-free and incident-free workplace, the strategy applied a two-way commitment:

1) The company committed to providing a workplace that is compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

2) Individuals are expected to refuse to take part in any action considered unsafe, confront others acting in an unsafe manner, and immediately stop any unsafe actions.

Key performance indicators (KPI) for the company’s manufacturing facilities were established and defined in the following areas:

  • Total reportable incident rate: Work-related events that result in fatalities, or temporary or permanently disabling injuries or illnesses per 200,000 hours worked per annum.
  • Lost time reportable incident rate: Reportable injuries/illnesses that result in time away from work or restricted work per 200,000 hours worked per annum.
  • Global contact with energized equipment incident rate: Cases resulting from bodily contact with energized equipment (electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, gravity, radiation, pneumatic, thermal, etc.) per 200,000 hours worked per annum. These include incidents arising from inadequate guarding of equipment or machine, or failure to follow energy control work practices, etc.

The company took action in the following areas:

  • Culture change – Training sessions for all employees at the company’s global manufacturing facilities
  • Facility occupational safety and health (OS&H) leader qualification and competency standards – Standard minimum qualifications and competency requirements for senior facility OS&H leaders
  • Machine safety standards – Risk-based approach to safeguarding selection to provide flexibility in safeguarding method(s) in compliance with international consensus standards, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001
  • Plan-do-check-adjust (PDCA) methodology – Policy and organization, planning, implementation and operation, checking and corrective action, and management review. 

Plan, do, check, adjust for safety

Plan-do-check-adjust (PDCA), a common methodology also applied in manufacturing programs, including safety, was made popular by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, considered to be the father of modern quality control. Courtesy: PolytronPDCA, a common methodology also applied in manufacturing programs, was made popular by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, considered to be the father of modern quality control. (See graphic.) The steps in each successive PDCA cycle, and the traditional responsibilities are:

Plan – establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the expected output (the target or goals).

Do – implement the plan, execute the process, and make the changes. Collect data for charting and analysis in the following “Check” and “Adjust” steps.

Check – study the actual results (measured and collected in “Do” above) and compare against the expected results (targets or goals from the “Plan”) to ascertain any differences. Information is what you need for the next step, “Adjust.”

Adjust – request corrective actions on significant differences between actual and planned results. Analyze the differences to determine root causes. Determine where to apply changes that will include improvement of the process or product. When a pass through these four steps does not result in the need to improve, the scope to which PDCA is applied may be refined to plan and improve with more detail in the next iteration of the cycle, or attention needs to be placed in a different stage of the process.

On next page, see more advice, another graphic, and helpful links.

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Mohammed , Non-US/Not Applicable, United Arab Emirates, 05/08/13 12:04 AM:

1. Very Good subject.

2. Needs a specific training program.

2. What about ESD
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