Increasing Manufacturing Productivity with Machine Safeguarding

Safety does not have to come at the expense of productivity. Machine safeguarding can help increase overall efficiency. When you take the time to build a culture of safety – your success will show in reduced workers compensation costs and a prevailing attitude of commitment towards SAFETY FIRST.

Horizon Solutions was aware one of our customers had been assessed a relatively large OSHA fine. Our team reached out and offered help. The customer had robotic cells that needed to be better protected, but they were not sure how to balance the costs to get the improvements that were required.

At this point, the customer faced a challenge that was not unique to them: “Where do we start?”  As with many customers – there was not a dedicated “Safety Professional.”  Sometimes, there is a corporate safety professional based in another facility. Other times, it is a team effort of a local plant manager, an engineer, and others. At this particular customer, many of the employees were committed to safety. The task of making change was given to their safety committee, and one lead engineer who gladly accepted our help when we reached out.

The team at Horizon Solutions explained our capabilities in Risk Assessments and overall Machine Safety. Over a nine month period, we became a valued partner in educating the lead engineer in the process of risk assessment and risk mitigation.  He had many locations to work on, but had a plan of attack, and successfully implemented the required changes.  All while interfacing with our team and his safety committee.

Sometimes it does take time to build an enduring culture of safety, but that is always our goal. So where does one start?  Risk Assessments. A Risk Assessment is the foundation on which to start.  It is an onsite review of machines, equipment, controls, and processes to understand the current risk level. A Risk Assessment can be conducted by a trained professional, or facility personnel can be educated in the process and do it themselves. The process typically involves checklist findings based on standards compliance.

When it comes to Machine Safety, there are many ways to mitigate risk while keeping production throughput high.  The term for this is Functional Safety. In fact, it is proven that many companies with very tight safety controls, have higher rates of ‘up’ time than other non-safety minded facilities. This is because the entire machine is analyzed in the assessment process, rather than just placing barriers at each hazard. Looking at the machine as a ‘system’ ensures all modes of operation are considered; functionality is not compromised and production rates remain high.

Functional safety can feature a variety of safety systems: laser scanners, configurable safety relays, light curtains, and a host of associated connectivity solutions. These systems all integrate into the overall electrical control system. In the world of Machine Safety, there is also “hard guarding” to complement the electrical safety control system. Example of what we mean by “hard guarding.”

A year removed from dealing with OSHA fines, this customer is now fully engaged in building a culture of safety within their organization. They have installed efficient and effective safety systems based on data-driven risk management findings. We work closely with their team to address all types of safety questions, and we are proud and happy to help keep them safe!

For more web-based information on machine safety go to machinesafetysolutions.com you’ll find many useful resources:

  • Pre-engineered safety functions for common safety applications (downloadable)
  • Safety Automation Builder, a free software tool to help simplify machine safety design and validation
  • Controls Architecture examples
  • A Safety Maturity Index

How has your company succeeded in building an enduring culture of safety? What challenges have you faced along the way?

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