4 Ways to Reduce Human Errors and Accidents On The Plant Floor
Production involves different processes that run concurrently or independently, with operators and technicians handling several tasks at one go. They monitor the working conditions of machinery and the quality of products. As such, plant floors are ever busy, making safety a priority for companies. They establish and enforce safety regulations to enhance the consistency of processes, eliminate workplace injuries and minimize breakdowns.
Human error is among the leading causes of plant floor accidents leading to workplace injuries, equipment and product damage, pollution (non-compliance) and death. Human errors may arise from fatigue, slips and lapses, psychological stress, technical mistakes, or violation of safety regulations. Reducing human error and accidents on the plant floor goes beyond establishing a safety mindset among employees. Below are tips for reducing human errors and accidents on the plant floor.
1. Automate processes
There are several automation technologies for improving the consistency and accuracy of processes while minimizing human intervention. They range from basic control systems for starting, sequencing and stopping production to complex robots with artificial intelligence which perform repetitive tasks without fatigue. Conveyors and autonomous mobile robots replace forklifts for material handling, transporting large loads. Advanced robots have visual guides to enable them to navigate obstacles, thereby reducing plant floor collisions.
Automation systems are programmed to perform tasks following specific procedures, leaving no room for errors. They are equipped with automatic safety switches to stop processes when production conditions are violated. Automation reduces operator exposure to moving equipment parts and improves material handling.
Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) are platforms for automating maintenance workflows. Companies upload equipment safety information, manuals and standard checklists that outline maintenance activities and intervals. Technicians navigate CMMS programs on mobile devices, allowing them to access accurate maintenance information promptly. CMMS solutions reduce maintenance mistakes and standardize operations, guaranteeing uniformity.
2. Develop standard operating procedures
The human factor in production means that individuals may skip or modify procedures to complete tasks faster. In some cases, the company provides mismatched safety and operational policies, breeding confusion during implementation. The incoherence of policies and ambiguity of procedures lead to more errors, more accidents and frequent production stops.
Companies need to compile all procedures in a single document, providing detailed instruction for accomplishing each task on the production floor. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) increase the consistency of floor operations while leaving little or no room for errors. These documents use straightforward language to outline step-by-step guidelines, reducing the misinterpretation of policies.
Technicians de-energize production equipment when performing routine or emergency maintenance. To protect technicians and equipment, companies use equipment-specific lockout tagout (LOTO) procedures. They outline how to shut down processes, block energy sources during maintenance, tag equipment under repairs, startup procedures after maintenance and authorization protocols. In case of a technical mistake or unplanned re-energization of the system, lockout devices block the hazardous energy and signal technicians of impending danger. They halt the repair process and resume once they remove the hazard.
3. Audit facilities and perform conclusive root cause analysis
Equipment design and plant floor layout contribute to accidents. Proper arrangement of production equipment facilitates seamless continuity of processes while enhancing the safety of employees. When designing plant floor equipment, companies should consider ergonometrics. Equipment should be sized appropriately, fitted with protective safety guards and emergency switches. The plant floor should have adequate lighting, clearly marked walkways and visible safety signs.
Frequent facility audits enable companies to identify flaws on the production floor that escalate human errors. They inspect all machinery, check maintenance records and verify compliance of processes to internal and statutory regulations. Through facility audits, companies identify accidents that occur frequently and their causes. Insights from these audits facilitate future optimization plans, focusing on minimizing the impact of human errors in the production process.
Facilities may fail to investigate minor accidents since some operators or technicians underreport or disregard them. However, it is prudent that companies develop an accident reporting format that captures any incident irrespective of its magnitude. Accident reports enable companies to perform conclusive root cause analysis for the elimination of inherent hazards. Results of root cause analysis can be used to tailor safety training.
4. Conduct extensive staff training
Hiring a pool of skilled employees is not sufficient surety that human errors and accidents will happen. Over time, plant floor operations overwhelm the employees as they struggle to hit production targets amid other personal distractions. Companies upgrade machinery and adopt newer technologies as they strive to improve productivity and enhance compliance. Staff training is a continuous process that companies utilize to strengthen the technical capabilities of staff, introduce and explain safety policy changes and the consequences of non-compliance.
Through on-the-job maintenance training programs, technicians gain invaluable skills in troubleshooting and correcting equipment defects within a short time without errors. Technicians become aware of the safety procedures and understand how to exploit technological tools and protective equipment to eradicate plant floor accidents. Companies use training programs to equip operators with fundamental machinery diagnosis and care skills for identifying and correcting minor errors independently.
Reducing human errors on the plant floor is a collective responsibility that requires proactive action by staff and the management. The company provides correct work tools, trains staff, and guarantees the safety of facilities. Employees should follow safety regulations, report defects and accidents, use machinery correctly and adhere to standard operating procedures.
*This article is written by Bryan Christiansen. Bryan is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.