Creating a safe working environment for the maintenance team and production workforce is a priority for every organization. Safe workplaces protect workers from physical harm, and they also protect organizations from the hefty price tags of an OSHA compliance fine.
The consequences of an unsafe workplace are high. The U.S. manufacturing industry loses more than $8 billion a year to serious, non-fatal workplace injuries, according to the 2022 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. Unsafe workplaces or those with multiple violations are more likely to have lower workplace morale, which in turn can create more safety hazards.
While most organizations adhere to standard safety protocols such as health and safety training and the use of an OSHA compliance checklist, there are other aspects of the workplace that can impact safety. One such contributing factor is an emergency breakdown, which leads to unplanned downtime in the facility or on the plant floor.
How Unplanned Downtime Creates Safety Risks
When business leaders and managers think of downtime, they typically think first about the costs. For asset-intensive industries, industrial maintenance is critical for equipment performance and the bottom line. According to McKinsey, "Poor maintenance strategies can reduce a plant’s overall productive capacity between 5 and 20 percent. Recent studies also show that unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion each year."
Poor maintenance is one of the most common safety hazards in manufacturing. Equipment that does not receive preventative maintenance is more likely to fail. The immediate risk of machine failure is an injury to operators or other nearby workers from the breakdown.
Additionally, reactive maintenance, often called breakdown maintenance, for failed equipment poses safety risks. The process to repair complex machinery, and do so in a way that is compliant, requires a team of highly trained specialists. Beyond the maintenance or repair staff, breakdowns may also require a team of electrical engineers and other highly skilled workers. When these types of jobs are planned under preventative maintenance programs, the right team with the right tools will be scheduled accordingly. But unplanned work can have the unintended consequences of sup-optimal repairs due to lack of availability of the right worker.
Steps to Creating a Safe Work Environment
Following best practices and work procedures are the best ways to mitigate safety issues.
Use an OSHA Compliance Checklist. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has industry-specific guidelines intended to create a safe working environment. An OSHA compliance checklist should be used internally to ensure that every member of the workforce is aware of and following proper protocols. The checklist guides organizations in conducting self-assessments of safety and health policies, administration, and reporting procedures. It also helps companies stay in compliance with workers´ rights.
Rely on preventative and predictive maintenance vs reactive. As mentioned above, a comprehensive maintenance program will keep equipment operating at prime levels and reduce the safety threats associated with emergency breakdowns. Planned maintenance improves safety and compliance by ensuring that assets are performing as intended and that any repairs are scheduled with the right team who have the right skills and tools to complete the job.
Improve work order management. The best work orders improve efficiency and safety. Assigning the right technician to the right tasks optimizes resources and improves uptime. A thorough work order improves worker safety by including everything from safety checklists to exacting equipment and repair details.
Take steps to avoid the leading OSHA violations in manufacturing. The top violations, including hazard communication, lockout/tagout, and falls, are largely preventable when the right steps are taken to mitigate dangers. These steps can be addressed, in part, with more accurate work orders and robust safety checklists.
3 Ways Mobile Maintenance Processes Improve Safety
Workplace safety needs to be prioritized by all levels, from management to the plant floor, before an organization can create holistic safety practices. Deploying mobile technology across the workforce not only adds to productivity gains but also plays a role in creating a safe work environment. Here's how.
- Enables accurate work orders. Paper-based work orders are not always up-to-date, and critical information is often omitted due to employee error or oversight. Digital work orders provide technicians with easy access to accurate and mission-critical information in real-time. They can also be updated to include checklists that put safety first.
The ability to access data in real-time, online or offline, is one of the most important mobile app features for industrial maintenance. This allows the entire maintenance team to execute more jobs with greater accuracy each workday, improving efficiency and worker safety.
- Facilitates reliable operator rounds and inspections. Switching to mobile processes greatly reduces downtime and safety risks by standardizing this crucial step in the maintenance process. Operator rounds and preventative maintenance inspections are part of the routine program to ensure that equipment is working properly. Today, many organizations continue to use paper checklists which slows down rounds and lead to data errors.
By switching to a mobile app, operators and maintenance technicians can easily conduct inspections, record findings, and immediately notify management of any issues identified during rounds. These real-time processes facilitate quick repairs, while negating the risk of unplanned downtime or safety issues.
- Provides access to up-to-date maintenance checklists. In addition to OSHA checklists designed specifically for safety protocols, the use of preventive maintenance checklists increases productivity and safety, while allowing for faster troubleshooting and more accurate resource planning.
Preventive maintenance checklists can also help companies meet safety and compliance requirements. In industries that are more highly regulated, such as oil and gas, utility, or food production, maintenance checklists can be used to provide a record of completed inspections and can be used in a compliance audit.
How Sigga Improves Safety and Reduces Unplanned Downtime
Sigga helps improve safety and reduce downtime in plant and facility maintenance by providing workers with the right information at the right time through a comprehensive mobile maintenance solution. Armed with accurate information, maintenance teams experience less stress and can focus on the safe implementation of proper repairs.