Rich, the emphasis seems to be working, at least in the West. The US has not had a fatal passenger aircraft crash since 2009, I believe. Although there have been some mine accidents in the last few years, they have been newsworthy precisely because they have been rare.
On the manufacturing side, safety is way up. This is why the issues experienced by some large companies, such as Apple, who do lots of manufacturing in China, have been brought to the fore. Interestingly, the employees at Foxconn resisted having their hours cut. One of the issues for safety, and employee health in general, is where they are coming from. Many employees in the developing world are actually in improved conditions at places like a Foxconn factory, even though we would not be satisfied with it. Safety may not be first on their list. That is why, as you point out, the impetus needs to be with upper management, often driven by customers.
Yes and no. Some industries have made great progress, especially but not only in the US, but several other old and new industries are still very dangerous for workers.
Today, instead of loosing an arm, workers are more likely to develop slow cancers or other diseases.
I recently listened to an interview with activist in Texas protesting today for worker safety in refineries. The tar-sands oil that is piped to the US from Canada requires a very intensive process that, according to the interview, endangers workers. Here in San Francisco, Chevron is still in the news since the explosion last August. There is lots finger pointing between workers and management. The bottom line is that something wasn't safe in a very populated area.
I'm not sure if new industries have processes that are safer or if the PR professionals are more adept at mitigating any fall out or exposure.
I have to agree with Nadine: in some industries, big companies and big PR dollars are masking big safety problems. And some aren't doing a good job at either safety or masking their problems: witness PG&E's San Bruno, California residential natural gas pipeline explosion in 2010 that killed several residents (not workers), due primarily to aging, unrepaired infrastructure. A state audit has found that some of the money set aside for the repairs that weren't done was illegally diverted into executive bonuses. Yet PG&E wants residents to pay for the repairs by raising rates.
Excellent post, Rich. It's important that studies show a link between safety and productivity, which means that better disciplined and improved processes produce both safer environments and better manufacturing efficiency. With the glut of processing power and networking solutions in the newest generation of controllers, integrated safety should finally become more and more commonplace. At least among the companies that are executing at the highest levels.
Not only do jobs take the best years of our lives, in some cases they take the entire life.
With so many regulations, I am surprised so many are hurt. I imagine those deaths and injuries happen more in unregulated or harsh countries. I wonder how much money would be saved if companies were more safe.
I'd be careful with that staggering statistic of yours.
1. "Somewhere in the world" is probably concentrated in those countries which do not have a well developed safety and accountability ethic.
2. Some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others. Spilt that statistic into agricultural, manufacturing, technology, infrastructure jobs etc and it will look might uneven. For example, where I live the highest statistic is in construction work, in other fields it is close to zero.
3. What is a work accident? According to the local law in my country, if I trip over the cat outside my front door on my way to work (or returning from work) thats a work accident. If I'm involved in a traffic accident while driving to a sub-contractor, is that a work accident or a traffic accident? Technically, a work accident, but the lawyers will check first which category has the higher compensation.
Another angle to this problem is that of employee cooperation. As a test engineer for a major semiconductor company, I often designed and build test sets for our plants that were located out of the U.S. Not only did we keep safe operation in mind when designing our test sets, we had to take it even further and try to predict how employees might try to defeat our built in safety measures. For example, one test set I built had a cylinder that came over the test bed with some force. In an effort to prevent someone from getting their hand caught, I used dual sensors that required the operator to place their hands on either side of the tester to in order to actuate the cylinder. One of our engineers called me during his visit to the plant and informed me that the employees simply put a glove to block the sensor on one side - intentionally defeating the built in safety measure...
I have also seen shortcuts taken in pressure situations - the employee felt that their job was at stake and so they bypassed normal safety protocol to get a job done more quickly. Safety must also become cultural - it must come from the top down and also be enforced as the priority in any situation regardless of the perceived need for speed...
My first question is about the veracity of that claim about the number of accidents and injuries. I do not accept assertions that are not attributable. They are only as good as gossip, and probably not as reliable. they may even be total fabrications.
Of course it is our duty to design safe equipment, there can't be any question about that. BUT do we need to take extrordinary efforts to protect the drunks bent on self destruction? Electrcal panels are a good example. Not only do the doors need to be interlocked with the disconnect switch, so that power must be switched off to open the door, but also, all of the terminals inside must be guarded so that they can't possibly be touched. This means that to replace a failed motor starter a lot of time must be wasted removing the shields before it is possible to start removing the starter. And changing a fuse, which should only take a minute, instead takes 10 minutes to remove all of the guarding. That might make a small amount of sense, except that those doing the work are experienced service people, not somebody who wandered in off the street.
My point is that so often the safety standard is in place to protect those who should never be in the area at all, and who have no reason and no business being near the hazardous hardware. Why do we need to be so very over protective of the people who would never be in the area? Why would somebody who does not know where the high voltage terminals are, or even what the high voltage terminals are, be poking around in the electrical enclosure in the first place? Worse yet, why should we expect that they would be poking around? Does anybody have a rational answer that does not include the vulkture lawyers?
I agree, Naperlou. My anecdotal view of the situation is that factories in the West seem to be safer than they were many years ago. One of the differences is in visibility. Today's factories are far brighter than the ones we may remember from the 1960s and '70s, and employees seem to be more aware of safety issues than they used to be.
"Safety first. That's a motto we hear all the time, and many manufacturers not only preach and believe it,"
Richard, you are right. Eventhough saftey come first, most of the employers are neglecting it for their own financial benefits. If something is happens to employees also, from management side their involvement is minimal. So I think employees has to be take care about their saftey and some software run tools or automation may help for rescue purpose in industrial floors.
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