Five Red Flags that Manufacturing Safety Equipment is Compromised

November 19, 2021 - Author: Matt Thiel - Director, Integration Engineering, Dan Idzikowski - Senior Staff Engineer - Instrumentation & Controls

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Outdated manufacturing safety equipment may be compromised

Compromised Manufacturing Safety Equipment Can Be Detrimental

Is your outdated equipment compromising safety? Can you identify the indicators that your equipment might be unsafe? When it comes to safety, it’s crucial to be skeptical and ask what could happen that shouldn’t and how both the manufacturing safety equipment and the operator will respond in such situations.

The more effective a safety feature is, the less noticeable it becomes. When safety features perform well, they operate seamlessly without drawing attention. In cases where a failure seems unlikely or the risk level is seen as acceptable, no immediate action may be taken. However, the identified risk can be monitored. Neglecting safety as an afterthought increases the likelihood of preventable accidents over time. Many manufacturers only upgrade their safety systems as part of a broader testing equipment upgrade or in response to external regulatory demands.

Here are the five red flags identified and discussed in this article from Industry Week – “Five Red Flags that Safety Equipment is Compromised.”

  1. Operators can access hazardous areas while the hazard is present – The most effective safeguards ensure that operators cannot approach hazardous areas, whether the danger is visible (like moving parts) or invisible (like an electrical current). Ensuring operator safety is consistently the top priority.
  2. People are bypassing the rules – The effectiveness of safety rules relies on individuals choosing to adhere to them, they are only impactful if people are aware and comprehend.
  3. Alarm systems don’t distinguish between emergencies and non-emergencies – If the system treats every situation as an emergency, workers may become desensitized. Frequent false alarms can lead to workers ignoring warnings or finding ways to bypass them.
  4. Safety features are outdated – Regular audits by safety professionals on the shop floor are essential. Identifying potential hazards, assessing risk levels, and staying informed about advancements can contribute to making testing equipment safer.
  5. Safety features are not regularly tested and validated – The most effective way to test a feature is to activate it. While not always practical, simulating emergencies ensures the system is ready to respond appropriately, especially if the actual trigger could damage or destroy the machine.

Quantifying safety ROI poses challenges. Think of a scenario where a company allocates millions of dollars to safety upgrades, and no near misses occur. Was it a waste of money, or did the upgrades effectively fulfill their purpose? A more relevant question revolves around contemplating the realistic outcomes in the absence of safety improvements.

Read the full article here.