December 15, 2013 / Employee Morale, Output, Safety
In an industrial metal-cutting environment, safety is critical. Everyone knows that. In fact, most managers would probably list it as a top priority. However, in practice, most of those same managers treat safety more like a necessary evil than a business strategy. In other words, their safety initiatives are built around simply meeting OSHA requirements, not as a means of maintaining—or better yet, improving—the bottom line.
The truth is that most managers need to shift their mindset when it comes to safety. Randy DeVaul, author of Performance Safety: A Practical Approach and Performance Safety: Lessons For Life, argues that safety should be viewed as a value, not a priority. What’s the difference? According to DeVaul, priorities change depending on the circumstances; however, a value is maintained, regardless of the circumstances. In other words, safety should be a constant, and it should be integrated into every aspect of your industrial metal-cutting processes.
The concept is actually fairly simple: Injured operators can’t be productive.
If your best operator is constantly calling off because of a bad back, someone else needs to be trained to take his place. This not only takes time away from production, it could also affect quality. And, of course, there is the cost element.
There are several ways safety can have an impact on overall business operations, but here are three key points today’s managers should consider:
- An unsafe environment is expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “businesses spend $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses—expenditures that come straight out of company profits.” In fact, a 2012 workplace safety study by Liberty Mutual says that overexertion, which is defined as “injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or throwing,” cost businesses $13.61 billion in direct costs. However, by establishing safety and health management systems, the Department of Labor says that workplaces can reduce their injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent. That’s pretty significant in today’s challenging marketplace.
- Low safety scores can indicate poor workflow on the shop floor. Constant injuries can be the symptom of larger operational problems. If an operator has to transport a piece of steel halfway across the facility to perform the next process, both safety and productivity are at risk. The less an operator touches a piece of material, the less likely he is going to get injured and the more efficient he can perform. According to LENOX Institute of Technology’s recent paper, Tackling the Top 5 Operating Challenges in Industrial Metal Cutting, simple changes like strategic equipment placement, adjustable “scissor” tables, and elimination of trip hazards can make your shop safer and, in the meantime, eliminate bottlenecks and improve productivity.
- A workplace built around safety can improve employee morale, especially if operators are included in safety initiatives. No one knows the production process better than an operator, which makes his or her input extremely valuable. Managers should be consistently asking production employees how they can make the metal-cutting process faster and safer, whether that means repositioning the saw at a certain angle or adding a table on the backside of the saw to save a trip after each cut. The key is to not only ask for suggestions, but to also follow through and make adjustments. This increases safety and also empowers employees to be a part of the company’s overall success. It’s a win-win for everyone.
While an operator’s wellbeing should always be the top concern, the value of safety goes beyond employee health. A safer environment is more productive; a more productive environment provides more output; and more output provides more money. Really, it’s that simple.