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Machine Design

Safety by design: Safety standards aren’t just guidelines

Whether your production line is fully staffed or semiautomated, its safety should be one of your company’s highest priority.

In the U.S., safety standards are not usually enforced unless there is a workplace accident or an employee injury. Many companies use safety standards and regulations merely as guidelines. They do not make them mandatory, effectively making safety a lowlevel concern for the company.

Some manufacturing companies do not even consider safety a priority because they don’t know enough about the safety regulations, industry standards, and safety equipment on the market. Other companies deliberately modify equipment, making the line less safe for employees. For many companies, safety is ultimately tied to economics. Companies have the misconception that taking safety shortcuts can speed the production line, with the belief that more profits will follow. Companies are also often unwilling to pay the up-front costs associated with safety, namely equipment, training, and periodic equipment upgrades.

Although some safety equipment is costly, the future savings more than make up for it. For instance, safer production reduces employee injuries, saving money in worker’s compensation, lost employee time, and replacement-employee costs.

And when a worker is injured or there’s an accident, OSHA will eventually show up to inspect the premises, making sure the safety standards are being met. Just one accident or injury can unleash a full OSHA inspection which may discover other unsafe, noncompliant conditions. Companies pay a monetary penalty for each safety violation. And violations not only hurt the bottom line, but can also affect company insurance rates, reduce customer confidence, and boost costs of employee medical benefits. Worse, a serious accident or injury can lead to OSHA completely shutting down your facility.

Safe production lines also help companies produce more. Safe lines improve employee morale which, in turn, increases production. It should go without saying employees who feel safe at work, are more effective.

Safe production lines also contributes to higher product quality. When employees are confident the line is safe, they understand safety is a company-wide priority.

There are consultants that can determine your safety needs. If your production line needs an upgrade, your employees should be your first source of suggestions on areas which need improvement. Listening to them will save you money in the long run.

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