Many aspects vie for your attention in your shop. You have to juggle many plates and wear many hats. One priority comes before all else. The failure to make it No. 1 has some serious consequences.
What is the most important aspect of your operation?
Shipping product and getting paid certainly are priorities. Without income, there is no operation—no way to pay the rent or mortgage; keep the lights on; buy equipment and materials; and no way to pay for the help you need to keep the shop going. Money definitely keeps a shop alive.
However, the No. 1 priority after you open your business and until you close the doors for the last time must be safety. Nothing is more important than life and its quality, and your workers and their families depend on you to provide a safe work environment.
Providing that safe environment also goes a long way toward keeping your bottom line healthy. The costs incurred when an employee is injured go beyond medical care and include direct and indirect costs. Some direct costs are workers' compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services. Among indirect costs are training replacement employees, accident investigation and implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.
If you visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website, you’ll get a good idea of the costs associated with OSHA’s accident investigations. In January of this year, a Green Bay, Wis., muffler component manufacturer faced more than $291,000 in proposed penalties after two workers suffered severe injuries within 10 days of each other.
“Investigators determined a worker had his left hand crushed on July 21, 2016, by a molding machine, when the tamp head smashed his hand as he removed a mold from the machine. OSHA found the machine's safety interlock on the door guarding the operating parts was damaged and not functioning properly, which disabled the safety guard and led to the injury.
“On July 30, 2016, another worker suffered the partial amputation of his left middle finger. In this instance, investigators found the molding machine cycled and caught his finger in an unguarded pinch point. They determined the machine was not locked out as required.
“‘The fact that two workers suffered debilitating injuries is tragic. The reality is that the company failed to re-evaluate its machine safety procedures and continued to expose other workers to the same hazards even after these injuries,’ said Robert Bonack, OSHA's area director in Appleton. ‘Adequate and properly installed machine safety guards and lockout/tag out procedures must be in place to prevent workers from coming in contact with operating parts.’”
During its inspection, OSHA also found the company:
So, why weren’t these safeguards in place and properly installed? This question begs the question: Was safety not the No. 1 priority in this plant?
Is it No. 1 in yours?
A good safety program involves more than keeping machinery safe. Much more. Many resources are available to help you develop and maintain yours. The OSHA website’s rules and standards provide valuable information.
The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl. (FMA) hosts an annual Safety Conference that features speakers, roundtables, and plant tours focused on safety in metal fabricating facilities. The 2017 event, “Modifying Behavior, Motivating the Workforce,” is being held April 19-20 at the organization’s new headquarters in Elgin, Ill.
FMA has long been committed to promoting safety in the workplace. And it’s most fitting that this conference is the very first conference ever to be held at this location. After all, safety is priority No. 1.
Above all, stay safe.