The Safety Myth

Safety and productivity are inseparable. If you need to make your manufacturing facility more productive, begin by sharpening your approach to safety.

 That’s the lesson learned by best-in-class manufacturers around the globe, including Malt-O-Meal Company and pulp-and-paper equipment builder Automatic Handling International.

  •   “We’re using integrated safety automation technology to improve safety and also to increase productivity for our customers,” said Dave Pienta, vice president and director of sales and marketing, Automatic Handling International. “Our own productivity, efficiency and quality have increased as well, and we’ve significantly reduced the time required to deliver a new system.”


  • “With the previous relay-based system, we had to rely on a series of lights to identify and solve issues,” said Scott Kluegel, manager of corporate electrical engineering at Malt-O-Meal Company. “With the new safety automation system on our machine, all alerts and operational data are plainly available on the operator interface, which significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to diagnose and fix any problems that arise.”

 They have debunked the myth that helping protect people and equipment takes a toll on productivity, and thus, the bottom line.

 Rockwell Automation recently commissioned two studies from the Aberdeen Group that measured the relationship between safety and productivity. After dividing manufacturers into three groups (best-in-class, industry average and laggards), Aberdeen researchers found that best-in-class firms scored highest on a number of safety measures.

  •     5-7 percent higher overall equipment effectiveness
  •     50% Fewer injuries and repeat accidents
  •    2-4 percent less unscheduled downtime

 But where specifically should your focus lie? Adopting a formalized risk management process, proactively assessing and mitigating risks, and using technologies that integrate safety systems with the standard automation system and eliminating threats, you can better protect your people and reduce liability, while increasing productivity and profits.

 In addition, look at leading, rather than lagging, indicators to evaluate safety. Traditionally, manufacturers have used lagging indicators to evaluate safety. These indicators are reactive – they document what has already happened, but do not necessarily affect positive change.

 Fortunately, as the chart below shows, other indicators help provide a safer path forward.


Current and leading indicators measure incident-prevention activities. They can enable you to make real-time decisions and implement changes to thwart safety issues before they occur.

 While proper risk assessment is critical, it is only the first step in developing a proactive safety program. Once you have conducted a thorough and honest risk assessment, take the next steps:

  •   Reduce potential hazards through design. The best way to help eliminate danger is to make it impossible. Designing equipment to function without putting employees in harm’s way will do just that.
  •   Consider equipment guarding. If hazards cannot be improved through design, help protect people and equipment with a physical barrier.
  •  Add advanced controls. If design and hard guarding are impractical, add automation controls to help ensure that equipment is in a safe state.
  •  Promote awareness. What good is a safety program if nobody knows about it?
  •   Provide training. It may take time, but properly trained employees are more comfortable operating and maintaining equipment, and adhering to safety protocols, lessening the likelihood of mishaps.
  • Conduct follow-up assessments. The only way to know if a new approach works is to test it. Periodically examine equipment, and ensure employees know and implement safety protocols.
  •  Seek experience and expertise. If you need help putting the right protocols and technology in place, get help from someone with plenty of experience. Third parties also can provide fresh perspective and objectivity in assessing your safety program.

 Don’t believe the myth. Protection and productivity are allies, not enemies. Embrace manufacturing safety and reap its rewards. To learn how to reduce risk and make safety an inherent value in your organization, join us at the IMTS conference in September.

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