Integrated Safety Connects the Productivity Dots

Top-Performing Companies Embrace Safety as a Company Value and Back It Up With Enabling Tools and Technology

By Joe Feeley

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Every 15 seconds somewhere in the world, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease. That's an astonishing number. "So in an hour-long presentation on safety, 240 people on the planet will die because of an occupational accident, said Steve Ludwig, Rockwell Automation, Safety Programs Manager. "That's more than 2.3 million deaths per year, according to data from the International Labour Organization."

It's a very costly issue as well. "The economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4% of global gross domestic product each year," Ludwig added.

Ludwig pointed to the results of three Aberdeen Group studies, one of which Rockwell Automation commissioned for internal planning research, which pointed out that best-in-class manufacturers that understand the impact of employee behavior, processes and procedures, and technology implementation achieve 5 to 7% higher OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), 2 to 4% less unscheduled downtime and less than half the injury rate of average performers.

The Safety "Epiphany"

"We needed to understand the 'epiphany' moment that best-in-class companies experienced at some point," Ludwig explained. "Companies can go along for years and have, to pick a number, 76 injuries, and then the next year have 77 and suddenly decide that 'enough is enough,' and that their safety performance has to improve. We wanted to understand what causes that light bulb to go off."

Now some were driven by not wanting to be the subject of bad news in the press and an instantaneous, global and unbounded social media environment and its potentially catastrophic effect on sales. "In addition, there are supply chain risks," Ludwig stated. "Accidents are the number one cause of supply chain disruption."

Some of these changes in safety behavior also come from genuine leadership changes or other factors, but Ludwig said the best-in-class manufacturers, those 20% of all manufacturing companies, share common best practices around three core issues: culture or company behavior, compliance to procedural issues and capital to embrace technology.

"Companies that approach safety holistically improve their productivity, gain efficiencies and experience improved employee morale, all while protecting their reputation," Ludwig said. He believes culture is the foundational issue. "If you don't have that, you probably won't be successful with the others."

The EH&S Perspective

Rockwell Automation wants to show the people in attendance at RSTechED this week that the enablers for these issues tend to fit into two job areas, and that the company has tools to help.

"Culture and a part of the compliance element tend to fit into the EH&S (environment, health and safety) space," Ludwig said. "The procedural and compliance piece is the broad area that includes personal protective equipment, the level and scope of training, and things like that. But a significant part of the compliance and procedural element falls in the engineering space. It's about what standard you apply, how you document the verification and validation of your safety system, and that's where the technology piece comes into play. Are you using the cheapest components available, or are you trying to design machines that are the most productive that include things such as safe speed control and zone control?"

This, Ludwig said, requires close collaboration between engineering and EH&S, but some companies already recognize that, pointing to P&G's decades-old structure that includes EH&S as a career path for engineers. However, in many companies the reporting lines remain a bit cloudy, which inhibits the ability to collaborate.

The Safety Life Cycle

Another point that RSTechED stresses this week is the safety life cycle, which helps maximize productivity and improve safety by identifying the steps required to assess and mitigate machinery risks. The steps of the safety life cycle include:

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