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Top 10 Worker Safety & Productivity Tips

In industrial environments, trends in automation continue, including the evolving workforce, globalization, the use of information to develop insight into plant operation, concerns about security. In this webinar, given by Steve Ludwig at Rockwell Automation, he addresses these trends with a list of 10 worker safety and productivity tips. The topics include safety culture and communications, design considerations, machine ergonomics, and many others.

See the full transcript of the webinar below.

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Full Transcript of the Video

Steve Ludwig: Well good day to everyone. This is Steve Ludwig. I'm the program manager for safety at Rockwell Automation and we're gonna get started. Earlier this year, we put out a top 10 worker safety and productivity tips for manufacturing. And so today we're gonna walk through each of those tips and what their meaning is and why it's important. I know if you're chiming in or if you're tuning into this web x that you probably understand the importance of safety and how it relates to productivity. But just as a level setting mechanism it's important to understand that every 15 seconds, somewhere in the world somebody dies from a work-related accident or disease. 160 workers have a work-related accident. So that means, by the time we finish this hour 240 people will have died from a work-related accident or disease. Now that's a tremendous human toll but it's not just the human toll.

(00:01:00) Every year, not only do we have 2.3 million people die in accidents, in 317 million accidents, but it's at a cost of four percent of global gross domestic product. So, it's also incredibly expensive for manufacturers and processing plants to see safety accidents and incidents. So, getting into the top 10, we're gonna start with talking about safety maturity, and understanding your safety maturity level. A few years ago, we set out to understand what we were calling at the time the epiphany. What drives a company to start investing in safety? To start making safety a real value within their organization? And there was quite a bit of information about safety in general, and particularly around culture, but we actually commissioned Aberdeen Group to do a couple of different studies. These were done a couple of years apart.

(00:02:00) The first one was in 2010, to examine the relationship between safety and productivity, and what differentiated the best in class from average or the laggards, companies in these areas. And what they found was pretty interesting. First off, the best in class, the top 20 percent of scorers had five to seven percent higher OEE, two to four percent less downtime, and less than half the injury rate of average performers. So, all of that's very significant in both a cost and in a human toll. Now the main issue that they found as to why these best in class producers were so much better than average came down to three specific issues. One was culture, which we'll talk about a little bit more in a moment.

It was also about the procedures that are in place, and the technology that's (00:03:00) being used. Now there wasn't any kind of a performance mechanism for us to find, so we actually created one called the safety maturity index. The studies that we commissioned showed four different levels of performance based on the focus of the company. So, understanding your performance level and areas for improvement is the first step, and is pretty critical to optimizing performance. One of the significant moments when we went through all of the data was about why companies invest in safety technology. Some of them are not surprising at all. They want to reduce risk, and they want to be in compliance with regulatory and safety requirements. But a couple of things really stood out.

One was that the number of companies that are focused on avoidance, fines, medical costs, litigation, insurance, those sorts of things, is actually lower in the better performing companies (00:04:00) than it is in the average performers. Whereas, when you look at improving manufacturing efficiency, globalization of standards, that's really more of the focal point of the top performers. So what this tells us is that good companies invest in safety, in the costs, savings, and avoidance, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But the better companies, the best in class, the great companies, use safety as a performance indicator of the rest of the organization. So, we created the safety maturity index as a measurement tool to kind of find out where different companies were. And we simply rated those as the acronym would indicate, SMI one, two, three, and four performers. SMI one performers are focused on minimizing investments. They really don't care so much about safety and performance, they just wanna minimize the costs.

(00:05:00) SMI level two are about attaining compliance. SMI level three are about cost avoidance, and we find those average companies a mix of SMI two and three. And the SMI four companies are really about operational excellence. And in each of those steps, when you look at the performance around cultural, or the behavioral elements, the compliance elements, and the capital, the technical elements, there is a step change between each of these levels of performance. Around culture, safety is a priority, and you hear that a lot as kind of a safety slogan, it's priority one, but the issue is that priorities change, for example.

I'm gonna touch on a Harvard Business Review article that showed that companies that for example are facing pressure about earning statements tend to cut safety budgets, training, and investment in safety as part of that, in order to make their (00:06:00) earning statements. And those companies have higher injury rates than those that really see safety as a value, which we term in the SMI level four area. Value is something that doesn't change, it's something that's essential and critical to performance, like quality. When you look at procedural, you're looking at safety and productivity throughout the supply chain, not just within the company. Likewise, with the technical elements, you're talking about contemporary safety technologies that optimize both safety and productivity, not simply focused on safety. So, we'll get into what some of those are. The problem is the maturity. And I'm spending a lot of time on number one out of the 10 here, but it's important because a lot of the other issues tend to hinge off of this. Only about 15 percent of all respondents are SMI level four.

About 23 percent are level three, 37 percent level two, (00:07:00) and 25 percent level one. So, as you can see, there's a lot of folks in the middle space here, but very few reach that SMI level four. There is a tendency, from our discussions with manufacturers, that once they get to the level three, they think hey, we're compliant, we have a good safety record, that's all we need to do. And they don't really realize the productivity gains that can be gained out of some of the elements of being an SMI level four performer. So, the second of the 10 are to collaborate between EHS engineering and operations. In a lot of companies that we've talked to, EHS and engineering are almost combative in nature. They view each other as not really the enemy, but as somebody that just causes them more things to do, more work, as opposed to a collaboration partner in trying to keep people both safe and productive.

A good example of that is on the right side (00:08:00) of the screen. You see the hierarchy of protective measures around machinery. And the most effective way is to design the hazard or the risk out of the machine. Secondly, if you can't design it out, is to have a fixed and closed guard keeping people away from that moving machinery. Third is monitoring and access interlocked gates so that the hazards can only be accessed in those areas when the machine is in a safe state. Now it's notable that all three of these, the most effective means are really under the purview of engineering, not under EHS, who is generally responsible for overall safety in the plant. Awareness means, training, and procedures, and personal protective equipment are sort of the last elements, and some of the least effective in protecting workers.

So, it's important that the two areas, particularly engineering (00:09:00) operations and EHS collaborate to understand the engineering procedures, the plant procedures, the procedures of the operators and maintenance technicians follow, are all aligned. Third is develop a strong safety culture. What we found is that culture actually is probably the most significant issue with a lot of companies. And by that I mean, if you have a good safety culture, you care, it's a value, it's something that you're focused on, and it doesn't change based on what the productivity demands are of this particular shift. It's a matter of assumptions and behavior. And an example of a changing priority is when the foreman comes out, or the plant manager comes out and says we have to make this productivity level this shift. And there is a bit of a switch in people's behavior in a lot of places that say oh, we can cut corners. Well, with safety you can't, you shouldn't. There are the accepted (00:10:00) behavioral norms of your organization that ultimately determines the safety of the workplace, and sometimes workers violate policy, and oftentimes that is with management's tacit approval. It's sort of a wink and a nod to yeah, I know we have to be safe, but we can risk it this time. But safety doesn't really work that way. I mentioned at the outset that Harvard Business Review recently had an article, I believe it's still in this month's edition, that workplace injuries are more common when companies face earnings pressure, is one example. Even among companies that operate pretty good, have a pretty good safety record, a lot of times there's pressure not to report injuries, for example, because they don't want to ruin the company's good safety record. So, we really have to watch that companies actually walk the talk. And sometimes, there's a safety performance gap.

One of the things that came out of the studies that we've done is (00:11:00) that sometimes what the C suite says is expected, for example, commitment and investment into safety, allocating budget, personnel technology, executive champions that are focused on reduction of safety incidents and improvement of safety, regularly promoted by executives, all of those things that the C suite expects aren't necessarily coming across. Now you see the blue graph here, and those are the top performing companies. Those are those best in class, a lot of them are SMI level four performers. The yellow bar are the average performers in these studies. And what we see is that the top performers, you can see the percentages are pretty level across here, so actually what they are expecting is what is accepted in the plant.

So, what the C suite, what the executives, what the foremen, what management is talking about, they're not just paying lip service, (00:12:00) they're actually implementing these kind of programs. When you look at the yellow, which is the average performers, there's a significant drop between what the talk is and what the walk is. So, the safety performance gap can be pretty important, and is a good indication that the culture is or is not operating very well. Four, job-based risk assessments should be done early in the design process. The question is, are assessments, risk assessments, a forethought, or are they an afterthought? One of the things that came out, another item that came out, is as we can see here, both average and the best in class performers, 100 percent of those performed safety assessments and risk assessments. The issue was when they were done. Among best in class performers, over 90 percent were done early in the design process.

(00:13:00) Among average performers, they're basically building the machine, and then trying to make it safe, which is a completely different process. Now we tend to advocate, as a company, for the safety life cycle, which is outlined in several standards. And it takes you through a process of, in the design phase of your machinery, to do a hazard or risk assessment as part of that on an ongoing basis. This is where you design hazards out of the machine. Instead of mechanically designing a machine, then putting the control system on it, and then start slapping guards on it, which may or may not actually make your machinery safer, you're better off actually designing the hazards out of the machine wherever possible, and then following that safety hierarchy that I mentioned earlier to figure out if there's ways to actually make the machine safer and more productive.

And all that happens as you go through the process. You build the functional requirements, (00:14:00) you do the design and the verification of safety systems, installation and validation, and maintenance and improvement. And this is a constant cycle for machinery throughout its life, hence the name safety life cycle. So, it's very important to do that risk assessment up front if you want to get the productivity gains out of your machinery. Number five, design ergonomic machinery. And this actually goes to addressing an issue around an evolving work force. It's a global issue going on, not just in the United States, but everywhere on the planet, of the availability of workers, particularly for skilled labor.

And this is some of the reason that countries have been taking a number of steps, including China, not long ago changed their one baby rule for the first time in decades, because they foresee that they're going to have a shortage of (00:15:00) workers as they go forward. In the United States there are over 600,000 jobs that are available, mainly skilled labor, because there's just nobody to fill them. And what we're seeing is the retirement, particularly of skilled labor, tends to happen on time. And we haven't necessarily developed a bench over time. So, you have a lot of very experienced workers. The average skilled laborer today in the United States is age 56. And those experienced workers, as they get on in their career, are at higher risk for musculoskeletal and repetitive stress injuries, and a lot of times those injuries are chronic or career ending, meaning that it just exacerbates the problem of work force availability. Younger workers, and particularly those who have been on the job for less than a year, contract workers, are at much higher risk for acute injuries.

They tend to put their hands in the wrong places, they underestimate risk, particularly younger workers, and so there's different types (00:16:00) of risks, depending on the worker that's there. With the diverse work force that we have going forward, machines need to be built for a very broad range of workers. The person that is working on that machine, that's operating that machine at this time, may be a six foot, 180 pound, healthy man that's right handed. And on the next shift, it could be somebody who is left-handed, has a bad back, is five foot four, and not as strong. So, the work force will change from shift to shift. Companies need to be able to hire a broader range of workers, and get the most out of them. So, ergonomic machinery designs need to be flexible, reduce repetitive motion, lifting, and awkward placement of the body, and they also need to be safer for doing maintenance activities.

A lot of safety systems are designed (00:17:00) to be primarily for the operator themselves, but most accidents actually happen when the machine is in a non-standard operating mode. In other words, when maintenance is being performed on the machine. So, we really have to watch how we design machines in order to keep experienced workers on the job and productive, in order to keep younger workers safe, and to provide for a more diverse work force. So, number six, use alternative to lock out tag out measures to improve productivity. Lock out tag outs has long been kind of the gold standard for safety. You de-energize the machine, electrically, mechanically, so that somebody doesn't put themselves in a poor position.

Now the OSHA rules, and this is specific to the United States, in particular, says that an employee is required to place any part of his or her body (00:18:00) into an area on a machine or a piece of equipment where work is actually performed on the material being processed, there is an exception to lock out tag out. Minor tool changes and adjustments, and other minor servicing activities, which take place during normal production operations are not covered by the standards, if they are routine, repetitive, and integral to the use of equipment for production. Now what this essentially means is that if you have a minor operation going on, and let's say, clearing a machine that frequently jams, and you can keep workers at a safe, in a safe place, in doing so. You don't have to necessarily lock out and tag out that machine in order to clear that jam.

There are technologies available that are well within the standards, things like safe speed monitoring, to bring the machine down to a safe speed, a safe direction, (00:19:00) so that they don't get pulled into the machine, that they would actually be pushed out if they put themselves in a poor position. There are ways to improve machinery so that you do not have to do lock out tag out in order to perform maintenance procedures, in order to provide for normal operation of the machine, and keep the machine up and running longer, and improve up time for the machine. So, best in class manufacturers make frequent use of the minor servicing exception, and of alternative measures to lock out tag out. And that's one of the big ways that they improve productivity. Number seven, use established safety tools to reduce development time, and help confirm compliance.

Safety system design is done a whole variety of ways, and it can be very complex, and there's an alphabet soup of standards, and the person doing it or the people doing it have to be very well versed (00:20:00) in those standards. One of the ways of improving productivity, and particularly design productivity of machinery, is by using a range of tools that are available to manage the safety life cycle, to provide for safety system design itself, equipment selection. These tools can help run the calculation for safety performance level. So if you need to be at a particularly, a particular level of performance, it'll ensure that you meet those requirements. Can provide wiring programming, verification, and validation plans. So, there's a wide variety of tools that are available. Design effective, compliant safety systems. Today we see a lot of folks who use an Excel spreadsheet that they made up themselves to document what hazards they saw during a risk assessment.

And a lot of times, that information gets tucked away in a file or in a desk drawer somewhere, (00:21:00) never to be seen again, and it's just assumed from that time out that everything was done properly, that it was documented, and that the machine is essentially safe. And that's not always the case, particularly if somebody does get injured, and people start looking at the procedures and policies that were used. Is there consistent documentation, or is it whatever is done at the whim of the engineer who happened to do it at the time? So standard documentation, management of the life cycle, and these sorts of issues is very important. So, using established safety tools helps reduce your development time and confirm compliance. Number eight, develop a connected enterprise.

I'm sure most of the folks on here have heard of IIOT, or the industrial internet of things, where were connect machinery, we connect virtually everything to the company network, the enterprise network, in order to gain information and insight into what's actually happening (00:22:00) with the machines. Harnessing the power of safety, and the operational data that's already in your machinery and in your control systems is one way to do that. The connected enterprise, or IIOT, empowers safety professionals and those responsible in operations to understand worker behaviors, the level of compliance of your machine, what the causes of safety shutdowns or stoppages might be, and the safety anomalies and trends by comparing assessed to real time operation. Now what that means is, as we talked about risk assessments in a couple of these steps, that's done early on the in the process. So you identify step by step exactly how that machine is expected to operate.

So if you do, for example, have an interlocked door on a machine that is expected to be opened twice per shift in order to feed the machine, or do lubrication, (00:23:00) or whatever that happens to be. You set that expectation during the risk assessment. Now if you happen to see in actual operation that that door is, say it's not being opened at all, what would that tell you? Well it might tell you that that operator, or an operator somewhere along the line has overridden that safety system. They've used a magnet or something to make it appear that that door interlock is engaged, when in actuality it's not. And workers are keeping it open in order to keep the machine running, and simply reaching in there. I've been in a lot of plants that use, for example, two hand switches, that's supposed to keep an operator's hand out of a press, as an example. And sitting right next to it is a broom handle so that they can use one hand to press both of those buttons at the same time, and keep the machine running faster.

Those are cheating the design of the system, (00:24:00) and ideally, if you have a well-designed safety system, it actually helps the worker stay both safe and productive. So understanding that when the actual operation of a machine does not match what's expected should throw up an alarm or a flag. And software can be used to automatically assess that, and just like any sort of operational alarm, raise an alarm when the operation of the machine is not matching expectation. Conversely, if you happen to see that door being operated say, 10 times a shift, well that may be appropriate if the machine is running faster than the risk assessment expected, or something like that. But understand that that door interlock in an electro-mechanical device which will eventually wear out.

So, if the original calculation stated that the machine would be, that the safety system would be verified or validated for the next 20 years based on the safety data that comes (00:25:00) with each piece of equipment, you may actually run very much short of that if you have significantly more operation of an electro-mechanical device than you expected. So the compliance of your machine may come into question. So, getting the real time information out of your machine, comparing it to what we expected in the risk assessment, and then investigating when things fall out of certain tolerances, just like you do with your actual production, is an important step in improving safety and productivity. Number nine, understanding the relationship between safety and security. We've always adopted the idea that if your assets are not secure, they also are not safe. If somebody can hack into them and put somebody in a risky position, then your operation is not going to be safe.

(00:26:00) The inherent safety implications of security risks are often overlooked, and seen to be unrelated. And we're not just talking about IT risks, but in some sense we're also talking about access control to the machinery itself. If the machinery is in a certain mode of operation, does the person entering that gate or operating t hat door have the right training and capabilities of performing that operation? By integrating safety and security programs around a risk management objective, and following the steps that you can assess, manage, and mitigate the safety implications of security risks. And 10, and this is a little bit of a shameless plug, because we have a program that does this.

Identify vendors, system integrators, and machine builders with expertise in current safety standards, that have a proven track record in building safety systems, (00:27:00) and that have knowledge of productivity-enhancing safety system design technologies like safe speed, zone control, some of the ones that I've been talking about earlier in this conversation. So, my shameless plug here is that we have an alliance program, like a lot of manufacturers do, that recognize system integrators. We, two years ago, implemented a safety program for them which is a pretty arduous process, takes months to go through, to provide the assessment and education. And basically what we want to determine, if they have the capability to provide safe productive automation systems. And it also includes having actually provided those kinds of systems to their customers. We do a review with them. We keep an eye on the personnel, do they have qualified safety engineers on staff? So that we're comfortable that they know how to do this. And that's not a guarantee that every safety system will be there, but we know that they have that capability.

So, finding a (00:28:00) vendor and a systems integrator that you trust, that you worked with in the past, and that understands not only how to meet certain safety standards from a compliance perspective, but also how to design machinery to be both safe and more productive is important. One of the things that we repeatedly see, and this also goes back to why do operators override safety systems and put themselves in an unsafe position, is that safety systems are designed to get in their way, frankly. They're not easy to use, they're not an easy part of their operations, and they kinda feel like if I have to open that door and do a lock out tag out, and then take five minutes to lubricate or feed the machine, and then reverse that process and close that door, it's just faster and easier for me to override that safety system and not pay attention to formal procedures.

In reality, if you (00:29:00) design the system so that when they open that door, or when they put the machine into a maintenance mode, it comes to a safe speed, they open the door, do whatever operation it is that they need to do, close the door, put it back in operation, that keeps, that improves up time, and means that the operators are not in an unsafe condition. So, designing safety systems that meet those objectives is very very important. So just to cover again, number one is understand the level of safety maturity within your organization. Do you have a good safety culture? Do you have the right policies and procedures in place? And do you use the technology and take advantage of the technology, frankly, that makes you more productive? Collaborate between EHS, engineering, and operations. On all three of these, culture is usually more in the bucket of EHS.

Also, the (00:30:00) plantwide safety procedures are usually a responsibility of EHS. Whereas the engineering procedures and design procedures tend to fall into operation, or excuse me, into engineering. So, following the safety life cycle, documenting risk assessments, those sorts of things fall under engineering. And then the technology part of it is most often in the engineering area. So, collaboration between EHS, engineering, and operation is absolutely critical. And the better companies, the top performers like Proctor and Gamble, I'll use as an example. EHS is actually an engineering career path for engineers at Proctor and Gamble. And we actually had them speak at one of our conferences, and when I asked them on the phone to talk about collaboration between EHS and engineering, they were actually a little bit confused, because they'd been doing it for almost three decades, and they didn't really understand why anyone would not.

So, there's some companies with some really good practices out there, (00:31:00) and one of them is collaboration. Third is developing a strong safety culture. We don't provide safety cultural development or any of those kind of services, so as we dug into this, we worked with companies like Proact Safety down in Texas, and there's another company here in Cleveland that we worked with, just frankly tried to understand it ourselves, because it's not really something we do. But we understand that that's the baseline, that's the foundation of safety within an organization. So, developing a strong safety culture is mission critical to a good comprehensive safety program. Four, perform risk assessments early in the design process. We're not gonna get the productivity gains if you don't design the safety system and the operation of the machine together. Five is designing ergonomic machinery.

Looking at today, you know, the work force, there's not gonna be (00:32:00) more people, more workers, available well past 2050 according to World Bank and some other organizations. So, this is a long term issue. How do we get workers to be both safe and productive in manufacturing? And part of that is designing ergonomic machinery that's easy for them to use, and that includes safety systems that make it easy for them to be safe. Use alternative measures to improve productivity. I talk a little bit about OSHA's minor servicing exemption, and so there's ample opportunities to use, but not overuse that, to improve productivity. And this is a big area where the best in class manufacturers move from that SMI level four, where yes you're probably safe and compliant, into yes we're safe, compliant, and we've gained productivity out of that.

Seven, use established safety tools to reduce (00:33:00) development time, and help confirm compliance. There are a number of tools available, so please make use of them. Eight is develop a connected enterprise. I know one of the things that is often talked about with the industrial internet of things is, there's almost a belief that is has to be all or nothing. And really, it's something that develops over time. As machines are upgraded, as new machines come into the plant, making sure that they're connected and smart are important things. We noticed, because we did some updates, I know I talked mainly about the Aberdeen studies, we just completed one that we got the data on last week. And we included some questions about the industrial internet of things in that survey of manufacturers and process facilities.

And one of the things that was interesting is, 16 percent of those end users are now willing (00:34:00) to pay more for smart and connected machines, and over 20 percent are willing to pay more for a safe and productive machine, because they know they're gonna get their money's worth out of it in the long run. So when you really look at value, it's important to start looking at things that may seem a little bit leading edge today, but if we wait for another 10 years to start doing it, you're just gonna be 10 years behind the competition, and behind the technology curve. So, developing a connected enterprise, using the industrial internet of things to understand how your machinery is being operated is stat eight. Nine is risk management, understanding the relationship between safety and security. We hear a lot about security and data breaches and things like that today. There's also been a lot of attacks on industrial infrastructure along the way that kind of go under the radar. We have papers, and I'm gonna talk about where you can find more information on each of these in a moment.

(00:35:00) And then number 10 is working with dependable safety allies that have a proven track record of installing safe and productive safety systems. Now part of this information, or most of this information, stems from a blog piece that I wrote back in January of this year, and we'll go back and review it come January. Largely, these 10 steps are still in place. There's some advancements in each of these areas that we'll review, and see if they need to be placed into that blog. But there's additional information on each of these topics, each of these 10. Not all of them lead you to Rockwell Automation site, many of them lead you to a cultural development firm site, or good information that we've seen that we think is informative for readers.

So, each of these you might have noticed a link at the bottom of the slide, and I urge (00:36:00) you to go in and take a look at these. We have, for example, on developing a connected enterprise, we have a white paper developed around that, another one around safety and security, on developing a safety culture, that is off to a site, to I mentioned Proact Safety, which is a cultural development firm on that topic. So there's, on designing ergonomic machinery, there's a paper that we built around the evolving workforce and the aging workforce, and how to cope with that. So, I'd urge you to take a look at more information on areas where you might see gaps in your organization, and act accordingly. And obviously, we'd be happy to help you with any step of that, but I think the key thing here is that safety is kind of a calling, it's not necessarily a competitive issue. So be safe, and be productive, and be competitive. Alright, I hope you found this informative.

(00:37:00) And my name is Steve Ludwig, again, from Rockwell Automation. My email is swludwig, L-U-D-W-I-G, I'd be happy to answer any questions if you send an email my way, or if you need some further assistance with any of these topics. So with that, I'll wish everybody a good day, and I appreciate your time and attention. Thank you. (00:37:26)