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Is There No Room in Machine Safety for Common Sense?

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jmiller
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Platinum
Intent and a reasonable effort
jmiller   7/13/2011 11:08:24 PM
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I've often found it interesting how so much of safety, litigation and so forth comes back to the question of a reasonable effort.  Did the employer make a reasonable effort?  Did Mcdonalds have the coffee hotter than a reasonable customer might want?  Where do we get the definition of a reasonable effort?  Or a reasonable person?  Spometimes I think the definition of a reasonable person or what one of these reasonable people might think is absolutely ridiculous.

I pesonally think it is more important to try and understands one's intent.  Did Mcdonalds intend to make the coffee hot enough to burn.  Or did they just want to provide coffee that was hot to their customers.  (On a side note I did have a lengthly lecture in an Engineering Law class regarding this case.  I don't recall the details, however, I do remember most of the engineers thought the judge was nuts.  And the lawyer, turned teacher agreed with the judge).  In the case of sume employers if they are expecting as part of the normal procedure to defeat safety guards, their intent is in question.

Often one's KPIs can include saftey.

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Blame everyone esle
TJ McDermott   7/12/2011 8:33:22 PM
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Timmmy49, I've got another blog on European vs. American safety that I hope will be published soon.  I disagree that nationalities have a role in responsibility; The EU seems to have safety more codified than the USA.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Can common sense prevail?
Rob Spiegel   7/12/2011 5:31:18 PM
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I agree, SoCalPE. Many shops will skirt safety issues if they can get away with it. It's always a balance of pain versus gain. What do they get rewarded for? Skirting safety or upholding safety? I was 17 when I lost that corner of my thumb. If I have been just a couple years older, I would have known enough to grab legal help on a contingency basis and apply some pain.

SoCalPE
User Rank
Gold
Can common sense prevail?
SoCalPE   7/12/2011 2:38:16 PM
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I can certainly relate to all the points made.  I, too, have worked in large and small shops that skirted safety issues for the sake of bumping the production numbers, but, as Beth points out, keeping your job is usually the overriding factor to making noise about the issue.  I've often wondered if people, like forces of nature, are prone to take the path of least resistance for monetary gain, in the name of productivity, or for pleasure.  As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a concerted effort of conscientious employees to build products safely.

Timmmy49
User Rank
Iron
Blame everyone esle
Timmmy49   7/12/2011 11:43:41 AM
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Americans do not want to take responsibility for their actions.  If they get injured on the job by bypassing the safety system, then they can sue the company and the manufacture of the equipment.  That forces designers to make sure that everything is covered.  I think that it is ridiculous but that is today’s society.


Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Bypassing safety
Rob Spiegel   7/12/2011 8:53:03 AM
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Unfortunately, these kinds of stories are common. When I was young, I worked in a small stamping plant. I worked at a machine that stamped small pieces of sheet metal into form. The machine was designed with two buttons you had to push before the stamp came down -- thus making sure your hands were not under the stamp. However, a regular number of the prices of sheet metal would become scrap if the stamper hit the piece inaccurately.

The cure was to hold a corner of the piece in place (just outside the area that got stamped). So, this manufacturer asked its workers to hold one corner of the piece in place, push one button with your free hand the push the other button with your forehead. This eliminated the scrap problem. But one afternoon, I lost a quarter inch of my thumb. That was my last day.

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Management responsibility
Beth Stackpole   7/12/2011 8:11:43 AM
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I think Dave raises a good point. In today's days of metrics and KPIs, machine operators are likely so overly concerned with meeting production goals, that basic common sense goes out the window. Likely, management isn't actively promoting dangerous workarounds, but the pressure to perform -- and consequently, hold on to one's job in a recessionary climate -- probably trumps a little workaround that might be risky.

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Management responsibility
Dave Palmer   7/11/2011 9:23:08 AM
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These are certainly sentiments which have been expressed repeatedly. One thing which often gets missed in these discussions, though, is the question of management responsibility. It's not as though the operator and the equipment manufacturer were the only people in the room. In general, most operators don't value productivity over their own safety - why should they? If operators are defeating guards in order to produce a few more pieces an hour, it's a safe bet that either they were directed to do so, or at the very least they have been inculcated with an ethic of productivity over everything else.

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