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Integrated Safety Connects the Productivity Dots

June 17, 2014
Top-Performing Companies Embrace Safety as a Company Value and Back It Up With Enabling Tools and Technology
About the Author
Joe Feeley is Editor in Chief of Control Design and Industrial Networking magazines. He joined Putman Media in 1997 to help start up Control Design. He has more than 20 years of engineering and management experience in the U.S. and Europe in industries that include high-purity semiconductor products and other specialty materials that require direct involvement with the associated machine designers.

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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 TechED 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 TechED 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:

  1. Perform a hazard or risk assessment. Identify hazards and estimate the associated risk.
  2. Determine the functional safety system requirements. Evaluate safeguarding options based on industry-acceptable solutions and select mitigation techniques. "This includes more than hand protection on a press," Ludwig explained. "It can include recognition of a strain hazard, where someone has to lift a 50-lb. bag into a bin four feet off the ground. Considering an increasingly aging workforce or younger workers who tend to take more risks, do you design in an automated lift or find another design with a lower lift requirement?"
  3. Design and verify the system. Design system architecture, document safety circuit design, procure materials. "This is where we have a lot of our tools," Ludwig detailed. "Rockwell Automation Safety Automation Builder helps with design of safety systems, including layout, connectivity, safety level analysis, product selection and BOM. SISTEMA (Safety Integrity Software Tool for the Evaluation of Machine Applications) is a globally accepted tool for safety calculations. It provides evaluation of safety-related control components based upon designated architectures. But it's difficult to put your numbers into the format that the calculator requires. So you can do that individually, but Safety Automation Builder simplifies it very nicely. It creates the BOM for a safety function, say, an E-stop, that requires an input device, a logic device to make the decision and an output device to respond to that decision, and then provides the calculation that flows pretty seamlessly into SISTEMA in the right format."

    In addition, the company's Safety Functions tools provide complete, documented solutions to common safety applications.

    Ludwig says with Safety Automation Builder you can scan the drawing of the machine showing all the access points and indicate the safety level you want according to IEC 13849.

  4. Install and validate the system. Verify systems are operating within defined parameters and applicable standards have been satisfied.
  5. Maintain and improve the system. Verify that system requirements operate within specified parameters for production and safety preventative maintenance and system upgrades.

The safety life cycle process provides the structure and tools to develop integrated safety systems that not only protect assets and employees, but also enhance machine and process up time and productivity. In the Rockwell Automation view, when safety and productivity are mutually inclusive, the attitude of employees and management begins to understand that safety should be a core company value beyond compliance to standards and regulations. This can be a key element in why and how companies become the top performers seen in the studies.

Ludwig went on to say that one of the Aberdeen studies told Rockwell Automation that end users have great need for outside resources to help with safety assessments. "Unless you're building machines in-house—as some manufacturers do—it's less expensive to hire that skill when you need it instead of trying to support it on a permanent basis in-house and not fully use it. And it can be good to get an expert set of eyes that aren't as familiar with the process as the manufacturer."

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