Safety Aids Savings and Sustainability

Nov. 19, 2008
Holistic Safety Strategy Increases Safety, Value and Productivity

Safety was once a necessary evil, just a cost of doing business. But today, safety is going way beyond its traditional role to help users gain efficiencies, assist lean efforts, secure savings and even pursue new sustainability goals and drive future innovations.

“A holistic safety strategy isn’t just about increasing safety for its own sake, but about increasing value and productivity.” Rockwell Automation’s Lyle Masimore discussed the bottom-line business value of safety.

To show how safety also can accomplish these efficiency and economic objectives, Lyle Masimore, business manager for Rockwell Automation’s safety business, architecture and software group, presented “Proving the Value of Safety” at the Safety Automation Forum this week in Nashville, Tenn.

“Not only does safety fall into the sustainability area, I think it’s also an excellent way to help accomplish lean initiatives,” said Masimore. “This is especially true as operators are working closer to their equipment and as manufacturers have less floor space.”

Consequently, as the link between safety and sustainability becomes better defined and understood, Masimore reported, how machine builders approach safety can help or hinder their overall business success. He added that there are three key elements to successful workplace safety and risk management; namely, risk assessment, risk mitigation, and training and supervision. However, Masimore also cautioned that just having a training and supervision capability doesn’t constitute a mitigation strategy.

“Basically, the best thing you can do is eliminate risk by designing it out before it gets onto the plant floor, but if you can’t eliminate it, then using safeguarding solutions is the most flexible and effective protective measure to reduce that risk,” said Masimore. “A holistic strategy for machine safety isn’t just about increasing safety for its own sake, but about increasing value and productivity by emphasizing global standards, life-cycle design considerations, risk management and using modern safeguarding equipment. The best of all possible worlds is increasing your productivity enough to pay for increasing your safety.”

To work toward this ideal situation, Masimore explained, it’s important to understand the four main trends now affecting the safety landscape—global standards, machine builders’ individual life-cycle approaches, risk management and upfront design.

In addition, global standards are being revised to include much more of the overall safety life cycle. Though there are still many national and regional differences, the common themes of all new international machinery safety standards are focus on risk assessments, risk quantification, life-cycle design considerations and use of electronic safeguarding products.

Likewise, technological innovations in safeguarding include enhanced sensing technology, electronic and microprocessor-based technology, solid-state outputs, new connections and wiring, safety networking technology, integration of safety into standard automation products and rapid adoption of popular standard automation technologies.  

“Safety is more then a required cost, and it can achieve a contemporary approach if it’s included in the design process up-front, is standards-based and focuses on delivering safety and productivity,” said Masimore. “All machines change over time because there’s always a better way to do their jobs, so the question is how can you accommodate those changes and still be able to validate that your system is safe? This means not getting hung up on standards, but rather addressing their common aims and document what you’re doing.”

Masimore reported the main benefits of a contemporary safety solution include:

  • Risk assessment that improves identification of employee exposure and provides the potential to increase safety,
  • Accommodation of tasks and processes that don’t require workers to “work around” the safety system, which further reduces risk,
  • Reduced time to design, program, install and start up,
  • Reduced requirements for both floor and panel space,
  • Wiring reduction, simplification and network integration,
  • Improved operator diagnostics and increased opportunities for alternative methods to lock-out/tag-out for routine tasks,
  • Reduced maintenance, better mean time to repair and reduced downtime,
  • Accommodation of future process or safety changes.

“Another benefit is that as you do more risk assessments, there will be fewer new items that come up for consideration,” added Masimore. “The issue is to get started and don’t be afraid that addressing safety looks like a mountain at first. Once you validate some safety issues on one machine, there may be only one or two issues on the next version. The fact remains that many people are gaining competitive advantages by implementing safety systems. It’s just good business to take a good look at safety.”