Talan Products has consistently reduced its safety incident rate since 2006. That it has manufactured for 1,600 days without a lost-time accident is no accident. It is the result of a deliberate development of an omnipresent safety culture. Other manufacturers often ask, “How do you do it?” The manufacturer shares its safety secrets, including establishing a safety culture, learning from near-misses, using sensors, and tracking safety metrics.
Attaining plant safety goals and ensuring worker safety are ongoing challenges for most manufacturers. It’s a fact that managing safety wisely and consistently is difficult. Many manufacturers struggle to attain their safety goals.
It really boils down to whether your organization is willing to put in the effort required to make safety the top priority. You can find safety success through a number of ideas and practices.
1. Create a Safety Culture
The first and fundamental step in improving safety is fostering and building an organization-wide safety culture. This is essential to success in stamping safety. In fact, your entire safety program depends on—and grows out of—the culture.
What is a safety culture? The culture is an attitude and mindset that safety is the first of your core values. Safety literally influences every decision you make. Once you create a true safety culture, safety isn’t an afterthought, it’s a forethought. Safety is always the first priority and core to your mission.
But, the culture doesn’t just happen.
Leadership Matters. It starts at the top, as it must. The culture is instilled and nurtured by the company’s executive and management teams. You can’t have absentee owners when it comes to safety. Owners themselves have to be proactive on the safety issue—and be willing to invest in it.
When the leaders of a company take safety seriously, they provide whatever resources are needed to ensure a safe workplace.
They also demonstrate their commitment to safety—and adherence to protocols—through their actions. As a result, accountability for safety is taken very seriously. No matter what else is going on, safety is always the top priority.
When executives and managers walk the plant floor, they wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and meticulously follow all safety practices to set the tone and show floor personnel that safety rules matter—and that everyone must follow them.
This is true not just for team leaders and supervisors, but for everybody in the organization. Everyone is expected to all be on the same page and prioritize safety in the same way. Employees become surrounded by others practicing safety at all times in every task. It becomes the norm. It becomes a part of the corporate-wide culture.
The Glue, Magic Sauce. This safety culture is the glue that holds policies, rules, practices, and procedures together. It’s the magic sauce that renders everyone accountable to each other, tunes them in to safety, and keeps them interested and on track. Without a culture like this in place, employees lose focus. That’s when unsafe practices inherently creep back into play.
Always-on Switch. Safety is “always on,” and it is always pertinent. No one should fear a backlash when speaking up about safety issues. In fact, all employees should be encouraged to report near-misses—work practices or situations that could have resulted in an injury but did not.
A safety culture requires an open and cooperative culture. The safety culture is omnipresent in all aspects of company operation, in all departments.
2. Sustain the Culture with Ongoing Safety Education
Once established, your organization’s safety culture needs nurturing. This requires ongoing safety education on a number of levels.
Weekly Meetings. Short, mandatory weekly safety meetings attended by all plant floor personnel keep safety front of mind. A different topic can be addressed each week with the entire team, even if for just 15 minutes. By meeting regularly, your teams keep the safety buzz active and relevant to their experience.
Management and team leaders select relevant, timely safety topics for discussion. These sessions educate workers, keep them current, and improve not only camaraderie, but ongoing safety dialogue and performance.
Education is ongoing, dynamic, fluid, and responsive. Sometimes it is necessary and appropriate to hold a safety meeting spontaneously, right on the spot, when an event occurs. Events involving safety are often teaching opportunities and should be looked at and acted on as such. Empowering team members to stop everything and focus on the safety issue—in the moment—is essential to ensuring that such teachable moments are not lost.
Near-miss Reporting. Near-miss reporting and analysis is an essential part of ongoing safety education. Near-misses should be documented and treated as though a real accident or injury had taken place. Steps then can be taken to eliminate the unsafe work practice or situation immediately.
Feedback from these events drives safety awareness. All are genuine, highly instructive learning and reinforcing opportunities—real teachable moments with sticking power.
When a near-miss occurs, seize the opportunity to learn as much as possible about why it happened. Use the Six Sigma 5 Whys analysis tool to discern the root cause of every near-miss. By asking the question “why” five times, you can see the problem and its solution clearly.
It’s important for everyone involved in or affected by the incident to participate in the analysis process to help come up with the corrective action, because it requires everyone to recognize what really happened to distinguish the true root cause of a problem from its symptoms.
Also, don’t try to rush through the review process just to get it done. Carefully and thoroughly analyze incidents at the right pace. When a complete inquiry is conducted and personnel are allowed to help identify corrective actions, the lesson resonates. It is seared into the group’s collective memory, reducing risk of recurrence and strengthening the safety culture.
Safety Metrics Tracking. By meticulously tracking and posting safety metrics as a daily routine, and comparing internal metrics to industry metrics, everyone knows where the company stands on team safety performance. Teams that know their safety record develop competitive pride and have motivation to improve.
Also, teams well-educated on and open about the safety record/metric process understand what is or is not a “recordable” safety event. This enhances recordkeeping integrity and accuracy. It also ensures that the metrics work best for everyone by clearly depicting safety risks and performance.
Safety Knowledge. A big part of creating and keeping a great safety record is actively and continuously seeking the best knowledge in the industry on safety and then effectively disseminating it to the teams. This keeps the company’s safety culture tuned-in, informed, engaged, challenged, and top-of-game.
Company leaders who want safety excellence should regularly attend industry seminars and safety programs with the aim of learning all they can to exceed current safety standards and industry practices. If you want to be the best on safety, have a system for keeping a watchful eye on new and better practices among your industry peers.
3. Empower the Culture with Technology
When safety is your culture and primary mission, you’ll generate expenditures. To be great at safety, a company must commit appropriate resources to systems and technology, mindful that the real “return” is in enhanced lives rather than dollars.
Whenever you buy a new piece of equipment, safety should be a paramount consideration in the buying equation. All new equipment acquisitions should be a pathway to enhance some aspect of plant safety. You should scrutinize major upgrades like overhead crane redesigns from the start to ensure that safety is maximized.
Sensing Devices. Much of the stamping process’s safety involves using sensors to prevent dies from “blowing up.” They detect if parts don’t eject properly and ensure that they don’t back up. Sensor technology is also deployed to sense human presence inside machine safety perimeters and instantly shut machines down to avert injury.
Use of these technologies is imperative in today’s stamping environments. They are a critical element of any stamping safety program and greatly enhance safety outcomes. But, be very wary of allowing them to be used as crutches or substitutes for good judgment and attention.
Your safety culture informs the effective use of sensing devices. Without a strong safety culture to reinforce, stage, and monitor safety technology, the tech is just tech. While essential, they depend on the diligence, training, and mindset of people. The sensors must be maintained, checked, verified, used, watched, and reported on. The culture and technology work together and rely on each other to enhance safety.
Standardized Controls. Safety is enhanced by reducing confusion if everyone knows how to operate every machine. One effective way to do this is standardizing control panels on all stamping presses. When machine controls are uniform throughout the plant, safety improves by reducing confusion.
You may need to build your own control panels (including panel layout and wiring) so that all machines on the floor operate in the same way. This operational uniformity eliminates one risk area (operational differences from machine to machine). That’s a great example of safety technology meeting safety culture.
4. Allow Safety to Empower Growth and Success
It’s imperative that growth doesn’t imperil safety. In fact, it should do the reverse.
A safety culture lowers costs; improves productivity, satisfaction, and recruiting; is OSHA-compliant; and minimizes downtime and interruptions. A high growth rate accentuates the need for and importance of the safety culture to enable and accommodate high growth-related changes, disruptions, and additions. A good safety culture can make growth-related transitions much smoother.
Maintaining a strong safety record during a growth period is one measure of how well a safety program works.
A great safety program and culture positively affect every aspect of your business—growth, customer satisfaction, and service capabilities—and attracts great customers and employees into the fold.
5. Make Safety Purposeful
Finally, why should you be obsessed and deliberate about safety? Because it’s the right thing to do on many levels. This is the human side of safety programs that makes them work.
A safety culture enhances your employees’ lives and prevents their lives from being ruined. A safety culture saves lives.
A safe work environment enhances productivity and work ethic because people feel safe. Knowing they’re safe—and that the company has designed every job to be as safe as it can be—allows them to have confidence in their work and to trust management. Working relationships are strengthened. Employees are happy and satisfied in their jobs. This makes your whole company better.