Safety first. That's a motto we hear all the time, and many manufacturers not only preach and believe it, but actually enforce it. Unfortunately, too many others talk about it with empty words.
In fact, a staggering statistic I heard recently says that every 15 seconds, somewhere in the world, an employee dies, and 160 others sustain a disabling injury. In most cases, these deaths and injuries were preventable if the appropriate safety measures were taken.
When accidents like this occur, thoughts and prayers obviously go out to the families and loved ones of the victims. However, as big business will tell you, there's a lot more at stake when these unfortunate events occur. The companies have a brand to protect, and they will tell you that protecting the brand is simultaneously protecting the employees behind that brand.
For examples of where a brand took a big hit, look at BP, Toyota, and Firestone. Those companies recovered, but not before undergoing a massive public-relations effort.
"Our customers are asking for more protection of both their people and their brand," Chris Brogli, business development manager for safety at Rockwell Automation, told us. "Safety doesn't have to curtail productivity. In fact, we see that safe companies are actually the most productive."
It's clear that "safety first" has to be a top-down mandate, not the other way around. One of the best approaches is to follow the ABCs of safety: accountability, buy-in, and commitment.
Rockwell is very aware of the technologies that should be adopted to maintain safety. The company is also helping to develop standards to maintain a safe work environment.
Part of that process is helping customers do on-site risk assessments. "Some companies think they're being safe, but because the techniques that they are employing are out of date, they really aren't safe," said Brogli.
A simple example of where new technologies help promote safety is in their programmability, something that wasn't previously available. By having programmable machinery, certain sections of a manufacturing floor can be slowed or shut down for maintenance or cleaning. The impact on revenue is minimal, while the impact on safety is huge.
I learned a lot of these safety issues while visiting the Rockwell Automation Fair, where the company previewed its Safety Automation Builder (SAB) software tool. Due out in February, it will be available for free to customers. SAB is aimed at OEMs building the equipment for their end customers.