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Workplace safety on the factory floor

August 14, 2020

The occupational health and safety of the people who operate and maintain industrial machinery and equipment is one of the most recurrent themes in industries of various sectors.

New technologies, employed over the years, have reduced the incidence of very serious and irreversible injuries.

However, risk management is a topic for continuous improvement in factories because of the impact it has on the business as a whole.

REGULATION AND DATA ON WORK ACCIDENTS IN BRAZIL

The Ministry of Labor and Employment (MTE) is responsible for the standardization of specific work aspects, defined through Regulatory Norms (NRs).

In them, the mandatory compliance aspects related to occupational safety and medicine are established. They define, for example, the mandatory procedures in places destined for machines and equipment.

Social Security statistics, in its Statistical Yearbook of Occupational Accidents – 2016, lists the numbers of occupational accidents by National Economic Activity Code (CNAE), state and municipality.

There were 578,000 workplace accidents in 2016. While industry figures are not readily identifiable, it gives the extent of the implications of accidents. Among them are:

  • Absences of up to 15 days;
  • Absences longer than 15 days;
  • Permanent disability;
  • Deaths.

IMPACTS OF ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS TO THE INDUSTRY

Accidents and incidents generate impacts to the factory floor and to the industry as a whole. Some aspects of losses and costs can be inferred from the Social Security data, for example:

  • The cost of time off paid by the employer;
  • Overtime to replace the hours of the absent worker;
  • Selection and training of a substitute when applicable;
  • Costs with production stoppages due to accidents;
  • Impact on team morale;
  • Impact on the perception of the company’s image and reputation.

It is worth noting that the losses indirectly affect, and almost always, other companies where family members of the affected employee work.

Because of the stronger emotional bonds, they are obliged to take care of the injured person, and as a result, they miss work and are emotionally damaged.

It is a social cost that expands to the community. All the more reason to put efforts into accident and incident prevention.

How many of these accidents do not occur due to overconfidence, among other rather trivial reasons?

The responsibility is collective! Of the company in its formal structure, in the fulfillment of norms, in the continuous training, in the process revision.

And, even more so, in the attitude of each employee in diligently applying the health and safety rules to each situation. Expressed most forcefully, it is the direct responsibility of the leadership.

It is the leadership who must take stern action when someone does not meet safety requirements, such as relieving themselves of PPE during the workday, exposing themselves in exchange for momentary and unacceptable comfort.

RISK ASSESSMENT FROM DESIGN

Risk management and machine safety considerations must be started at the design stage.

As a suggestion, NBR ISO 12100 “Safety of machinery – General principles for design” is a reference material and, obviously, a great help for quality certifications, should the organization decide to implement it.

It explains principles for risk appreciation and risk reduction that help designers achieve this goal.

These principles are based on knowledge and experience from multiple previous projects, machine use, incidents, accidents, and associated risks.

The NR 12 “Safety at Work in Machines and Equipment” is one of the most relevant Regulatory Norms for the safety of operators and maintenance personnel.

The adequacy to this Standard should be sought by industries of all types. It should be applied to new and used machines and equipment.

If possible, it also shoud be applied in the design phase and the specification of the machinery to be purchased by the industry.

HOW TO DEAL WITH EQUIPMENT THAT IS DIFFICULT TO ACCESS?

The adequacy to NR 12 will address the analysis of risks related to working with machinery and equipment subject to adequacy. Addressing risks allows establishing protections, usage processes, and training to minimize these risks.

Machines can fail and people make mistakes for trivial reasons, such as inattention or overconfidence. Therefore, continuous training and visual alerts are of great value on the shop floor.

However, applying the health and safety rules to each situation may not be possible due to environmental conditions.

Although many new pieces of equipment already come with safety devices, it is important to remember that an industrial park is composed of different generations of assets.

Older equipment in use is a separate risk situation.

In interactions with industries in various segments, Dynamox has been noticing the existence of points of difficult access in machines and equipment, which need to be inspected or monitored.

Access is hindered by height, enclosure, ergonomic risks, noise, various gas, vapor and odor emissions, vertical and horizontal slippery spots, difficulties with proper insulation, etc.

Other risks are the inadvertent triggering of machinery under maintenance, the pressurized closing of doors, among many others.

Today, these hard-to-reach points, especially for critical assets, can be monitored continuously and have spectral analysis performed from several meters away.

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