The plant safety program is one of the most critical facets of a successful operation. Yet it can be an overlooked part of the day-to-day activities. A poor safety program can sink a plant’s reputation, morale, and bottom line. Thus, it’s important to think carefully when creating safety guidelines.

Here are 5 tips to help you build an effective safety program.

1. Culture Is the Most Important Aspect

The most important facet of your plant safety program is not the equipment, manuals or software - it’s the people at your plant. Therefore, the safety program needs to focus on people first.

(Find out why you should Focus on Safety People, Not Safety Numbers)

How do you accomplish this?

A strong safety-minded culture begins with plant leadership setting a tone. If management does not take part in the safety program, it will struggle. All employees should know how important safety is at the plant, and leadership must set an example.

Some methods to emphasize safety are:

  • Addressing safety prominently in meetings
  • Establishing safety goals as a team and tracking progress
  • A statement of no-tolerance for safety violations
  • An open-door policy for management to address safety concerns
  • Fast-tracking safety improvement projects
  • Bonuses for safety goal completion
  • Near-miss reports, close calls and suggestions are seen as opportunities

With plant leadership emphasizing the importance of safety, it is easier to get buy-in from the lower ranks. This is critical, because the goal is for everyone at the plant to take ownership of safety.

2. Good Employee Engagement Drives Safety Forward

When all employees believe that they can contribute positively to safety, real gains can be made. Staff that are engaged on safety topics will find more ways to lead the plant in becoming safer.

If work onsite ever seems unsafe, all employees should be empowered to call a halt to the process. This practice gives credence to the concerns of everyone, and shows that nobody has less worth when it comes to safety.

(Learn about The Importance of Employee Engagement and Its Impact on Your Bottom Line)

All incidents, including near misses or potential hazards, should be reported. Obviously, there should be no retaliation for reporting. This information is encouraged and welcomed as data to help the plant improve.

The incidents and potential hazards should be investigated thoroughly for root cause. With the cause determined, actions should be developed to address and remedy it. This information should be transparent and clear to all.

Form a safety committee consisting of cross-functional members from across the plant. This helps to spread ownership throughout the factory floor, and supplies another conduit to address employee safety concerns.

3. Execute on the Fundamentals

Before spending money on software and equipment, work on the basic building blocks of your safety program. Like many things, mastering the fundamentals of a safety program will go a long way.

Start with the training program. Since it forms the foundation of the safety program, it must be a point of focus. Make the most of this training so that safety protocols are clear across the site. OSHA provides guidance on this subject. Some of the more helpful tips include:

  • Trainers are well-versed in the subject matter
  • Activity-based training is favored where possible, instead of lecture-based training
  • Methods to check understanding of material are included
  • Workers are included in the development of the training

Fundamentals don’t end with training, though - another area of focus is visitors at the plant. Have a visitor badge system that clearly identifies people who aren’t regular workers onsite. Along with an escort policy, this measure will reduce the risk of visitor-related incidents.

Documentation forms another cornerstone of the training program. Documents must be clearly understandable and easily accessible. Procedures are less likely to be followed if they are confusing or difficult to locate.

Finally, a formal change management program should be in place to capture modifications to the plant. This process should include official reviews of plant changes from a safety perspective.

4. Focus on Equipment Operation and Maintenance

Keeping equipment in proper order is a valuable part of a safe operation. When machines are not running well, non-standard working conditions can arise. This can lead to safety hazards. Thus, weight should be given to equipment maintenance.

Additionally, measures should be taken to avoid accidents near equipment. Machine guarding must be considered where appropriate. Emergency stops should be available to operators where needed.

Good housekeeping can also help to reduce risk of incident. Techniques like 5S can improve worker safety, as well as foster a culture of ownership and pride in the workspace.

(Learn more in Creating a Lean Safety Culture: Does 5S Need a Sixth S?)

5. Recognize the Riskiest Events

Understand where the most dangerous situations can occur at your plant. Then, take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk.

Where the risk is high, remove the person from the hazard, if possible. For example, remotely monitor dangerous equipment, or use remote inspection devices in lieu of sending people into the area.

Falls are typically the top accident category every year, so pay close attention to this hazard. Use fall protection where appropriate, and concentrate on scaffolding and/or ladders if they are needed. These subjects are among the top most frequently cited OSHA standards.

The Lockout Tagout program is a key component of this subject, and should be a source of focus. Working on equipment that is not properly shut down can be dangerous, which is why LOTO is another subject on the top ten most frequently cited OSHA standards.

Conclusion

These five tips will help to establish your plant safety program as among the top in class. The tips are simple to understand, yet difficult to implement. Constant attention to each facet will help move you in the right direction.