A tragic reminder

May 3, 2013
By: Dan Davis

Can we write enough about safety in the pages of The FABRICATOR, its sister magazines, and thefabricator.com? Absolutely not.

Do we actually execute that strategy in the media wepublish? No, we do not.

And that's a shame.

Fabricators might argue that safety is a given in their facilities, much like quality efforts. But it's not that simple. Talking about it doesn't make it happen. It has to be ingrained into every aspect of every activity in the facility, so that employees feel empowered to do the safe thing, even if it's not the most cost effective decision.

Actually, it can boil down to one question: Do workers on the shop floor have the authority to halt production if they see an unsafe practice occurring? Most fabricators believe that if capital equipment is running, it's making money. Is company management ready to turn off the revenue spigot so that a work environment can be made safer?
This blog is being written because a contract worker died in an accident at the Nissan automotive assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., on April 25. Ironically, on that same day, the automaker was hosting a group of visitors who toured the plant as the final activity of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association's 2013 Safety Conference.  The day before Ken Frizzell, senior manufacturing engineer for the same plant, was speaking before conference attendees. In his comments, he stressed to audience members that safety has to be a "passion" for everyone.

"When you see a piece of paper, don't think of it as a piece of paper, but as something someone can slip on. Pick it up," he said.

Instilling this type of culture, particularly for a large organization, is not an easy thing. The Nissan facility is more than 1 million sq. ft., and it has more than 1,100 robots, which is an environment where a careless worker can get hurt easily. That's why safety needs to be a constant educational effort.

ADM Mechanical, Decatur, Ill., has won FMA's Rusty Demeules Award for Safety Excellence two years in a row now. Safety is a focus on every shift of every day, even to the point where shift workers engage in stretching to loosen muscles and clear the mind before tackling the day's production schedule. Even with an excellent safety record—the fabrication facility has had no lost-time accidents since January 2007—steps are taken to keep safety at the forefront of thought and activity.

As a whole, manufacturing does well avoiding fatalities. In fact, a person employed in some sort of management function is more likely to die while on the job than someone in manufacturing, but even one death is too many.

You can restart a machine. You can rework a defective metal part. You can't bring someone back from the dead.
Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281