Managing safety in a smart manufacturing setting: A safety manager’s guide
By Bryan Christiansen
Smart manufacturing is revolutionizing the way businesses operate, and it has a significant impact on workplace safety. With new technologies like robotics, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT), manufacturers have more tools than ever before to ensure workplace safety.
While these technologies provide numerous benefits, they also come with unique safety challenges that need to be managed. As a safety manager, it is essential to have a plan for managing safety in a smart manufacturing setting. In this article, we will explore some actionable strategies for doing just that.
Perform risk assessment
Managing safety in smart manufacturing requires an understanding of the associated risks, as new technologies, equipment, and processes introduce unique hazards. A risk assessment, which involves evaluating potential hazards and determining appropriate risk controls, is crucial for identifying and prioritizing measures to mitigate risks. The assessment should involve workers and supervisors with hands-on experience. Prioritizing risk mitigation measures based on the severity and likelihood of occurrence will help develop a comprehensive safety program that addresses the most significant risks first.
For example, automated machinery and robots can pose a crushing or collision hazard as well as pinch points if not adequately safeguarded with machine guarding or braces. And it goes without saying that a very prudent common risk associated with smart manufacturing is cyber security. By identifying these risks, you can take proactive measures to mitigate them and prevent accidents from occurring.
Develop standard operating procedures
Developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) is critical to minimizing the risk of accidents in a smart manufacturing setting. SOPs provide a clear outline of how tasks should be performed, and help ensure repeatability in operations and safety. They should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that they remain relevant and up-to-date with codes, standards and most importantly, the rapidly evolving technologies around us.
For example, a company that uses AI-powered robots to handle hazardous materials should have an SOP that outlines the steps required to program and operate the robots safely such as backout conditions, kill switches, and safe work areas. Workers should be trained on the adherence and implementation of the SOPs at all times to minimize the risk of accidents.
Establish robust training programs
Training and education are critical elements of managing safety in a smart manufacturing setting. New technologies and processes can create new hazards, and workers need to understand how to work safely with these new tools. It’s essential to assess the effectiveness of training programs regularly. Continuous training requirements, accompanied with selected regular evaluations, ensure that workers continue to incorporate industry lessons learned, internalize the safety culture, and permeate that through their respective teams.
Training programs should include both classroom and hands-on elements. For example, a company that uses augmented reality (AR) to train workers on complex procedures should provide hands-on training to ensure that workers understand how to use the technology safely. Workers should also be educated on the risks associated with the use of these technologies and how to mitigate them.
Implement strong maintenance programs
Maintenance is a critical component of managing safety in a smart manufacturing setting. Regular maintenance can prevent equipment failures that can cause injuries or create other hazards. Smart manufacturing equipment often has built-in sensors and diagnostic tools that can provide valuable data on equipment performance. It is essential to follow manufacturer guidelines for maintenance and inspections. These guidelines can help identify potential problems before they become serious.
Regular maintenance can help reduce downtime, improve equipment performance, and prevent injuries. For example, a company that uses automated conveyors to transport materials in the production line should have a maintenance program that includes regular cleaning, lubrication, and inspection of the conveyor belts. Workers should be trained on how to conduct basic maintenance tasks and report any issues promptly.
Trend the safety performance
Managing safety in a smart manufacturing setting is an ongoing process. Monitoring and evaluating safety performance is crucial in demonstrating and tracking the effectiveness of the safety program. And, in order to do that, safety managers should establish performance metrics and monitor them regularly.
For example, a company that uses IoT sensors to monitor air quality in the production area should establish a performance metric that measures the level of air pollutants. The metrics should be reviewed to identify areas of improvement and take corrective action where necessary. Regular safety audits should be conducted to assess compliance with internal safety targets as well as regulations, and to identify areas for improvement and reinforcement actions.
Fostering a safety culture is critical in managing safety in a rapidly evolving smart manufacturing setting. Effective communication is critical in maintaining the sustainability of the safety programs and safety culture — including both formal and informal methods. Formal methods can include safety meetings, bulletin boards, and training programs; informal methods can include one-on-one discussions and team stand-up discussions.
It’s essential to encourage open communication and ensure that workers feel comfortable reporting safety concerns. Safety concerns should be addressed promptly, and workers should receive feedback on their reports.
Safety culture is a shared set of values, beliefs, and attitudes that shape behaviors in the workplace. For example, a company that uses AI-powered robots to handle hazardous materials should foster a safety culture that prioritizes worker safety and encourages workers to report safety hazards promptly, such that lessons are learned and actions are taken promptly and decisively. Workers should be recognized and rewarded for their safety performance to reinforce the importance of safety in the workplace.
Managing safety in a smart manufacturing setting requires a proactive and continuous approach that involves performing risk assessments, developing standard operating procedures, establishing robust training programs, implementing strong maintenance programs, trending safety performance, and fostering effective communication.
As a safety manager, you can take steps to mitigate the unique safety challenges associated with new technologies like robotics, automation, and IoT by prioritizing risk mitigation measures, ensuring SOPs are up-to-date, and providing regular training and education to workers. Furthermore, monitoring safety performance and fostering a safety culture that encourages open communication and rewards safety performance is crucial to maintaining a safe workplace. By implementing these actionable strategies, safety managers can ensure that their workplace is safe, productive, and efficient.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations. Remember, safety is everyone’s responsibility, and with a shared commitment to safety, we can create a culture that prioritizes worker safety and well-being. For more information, visit https://limblecmms.com/