Safety’s role in image and reputation

Company image, cost savings and employee satisfaction are just some of the reasons stringent safety standards are upheld by companies. Manufacturers’ Monthly finds out why teaching businesses about safety is so important.

Here’s a scenario to think about – A company has just opened a new facility that is bigger than any other one it owns. The press around the facility has been nothing but positive as it will help employ hundreds of people in that state. But, within two days of opening the company’s reputation has plummeted as an employee has been left unable to walk due to a machinery malfunction that should never have happened.

This is the worst-case scenario, but for many companies, similar scenarios are likely. Not only can this leave management red-faced, it can also result in severe fines or a valued employees leaving on bad terms.

WorkSafe statistics reveal that almost 450 body parts have been amputated from workers in the state of Victoria by common types of machinery over the past five years. The amputations, together with cuts, crushing and other injuries to nearly 11,000 workers, have led to a $220 million bill for medical treatment, rehabilitation and income support during the same period. These injuries were caused by machines that cut, mix or convey materials and by common power tools.

Information based on recent prosecutions by WorkSafe Victoria show the cost comparison between preventing an injury versus the cost of a fine. In one example, a worker’s finger was crushed and another’s fingertip was amputated, which happened in part due to bypassed machine guards and poor supervision of work. The fine incurred was $124,000, whereas the cost to prevent the injury was $5000.

In another example, a worker’s hand was crushed and burned due to a lack of procedures to electrically isolate unguarded moving parts. The fine incurred was $50,000 and the cost to prevent the injury would have been $2000.

While the number of work-related injuries has dropped by 49 per cent from the peak in 2007, according to Safe Work Australia’s Key Work Health and Safety Statistics 2017, some companies urge more measures to be taken to educate employees and to ensure machinery is safe to use.

Pilz, an automation technology company, is driven by its value, “the spirit of safety”. The company offers automation solutions that are committed to ensuring safety is always prioritised. As part of its safety-driven approach, Pilz offers courses worldwide.

Manufacturer’s Monthly attended one of these safety courses, seeing first-hand how employees from companies such as Orora were learning new skills that would become integral in introducing higher safety standards in their workplaces.

Pilz safety services engineer Serg Ivkovic, who conducted the two-day course in Sydney, gave insights into possible implications of not adhering to safety standards.

He went through statistics that show which industries face the most fatalities per year and many relate to manufacturing. Ivkovic referred to Safe Work Australia’s fatality statistics, which indicates fatalities by industry between 2003 to 2016.

Worker fatalities in 2016 were the most in agriculture, forestry and fishing at 14.0 per 100,000 workers. This was followed by transport, postal and warehousing at 7.5 per 100,000 workers, and electricity, gas, water and waste services at 5.8 per 100,000 workers.

From January 1, 2019, to March 2, there have been 30 Australian workers killed at work. In the same period, there have been 10 workers killed in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry and 10 killed in transport, postal and warehousing. The construction industry has also seen four deaths, and the public administration and safety sector, mining and electricity, gas, water and waste services sector have experienced two deaths each.

Ivkovic said often safety isn’t taught or drilled into people enough in courses that require people to manage worksites. “It’s very hard for people to get their head around how to make machinery safer when that’s not in our education.

“Mostly what you come across is that the operator received training once and then it’s rarely followed up. Whatever the first guy was applying, will most likely be transferred onto the next guy,” said Ivkovic.

Doing refresher courses or sending new employees to learn from experts in the field are some ways companies can boost their safety measures. Pilz safety training course cover a comprehensive range of topics relevant to machinery and staff safety. The courses include a four-day certified machinery safety expert course, a risk assessment workshop, and robot safety training, among others.

The courses teach attendees to think about the safety of people, costs incurred when injury occurs, corporate image and laws around safety. “Corporate image is important. Companies don’t want to see their name being screened on TV or the newspaper for the wrong reasons,” said Ivkovic.

“If something goes wrong nowadays it plastered on social media,” he said.

Ivkovic highlighted the penalties that not only corporations, but individuals face if they do not adhere to Australia’s Work Health and Safety Act. If for example, there is a breach of health and safety involving recklessness as to the risk of death or serious injury or illness, without reasonable excuse, a corporation can incur a maximum penalty of $3,000,000. A worker can incur a maximum penalty of $300,000 or five years’ imprisonment – or even both. For an officer, there is a maximum penalty of $600,000, five years’ imprisonment or both.

In order to minimise risk, Ivkovic suggests that companies think of safety from the beginning of a facility’s life rather than considering it later on. “It’s much easier to get rid of hazards when the machine is in its design stage. If safety is not considered from the beginning of a machine’s life, then the cost will at some point spike up.

“You shouldn’t be looking at just one particular safety measure. It’s a case of having a combination of control measures,” he said.

Safety includes looking at aspects such as the noise limit for a machine and whether that is being adhered to. Ivkovic explained that people can also keep safe by installing safer versions of products, for example, a wheel with spokes could cause more harm than a solid wheel, as objects and hands could get caught in the spokes.

“You need to also make sure that when you risk assess the machine it’s through the full life cycle.” He said from design to disposing of a machine, there need to be safety measures in place.

Ivkovic, kept the course attendees engaged by making them think critically about how they can implement safety measures and by testing their knowledge. He went through the requirements for companies to meet certain safety standards for their factories as well as the importance of implementing best practice solutions to ensure staff are knowledgeable and are kept safe from hazards.

Attendees of the courses include electricians, machine operators and site managers from companies that range from the pharmaceutical sector to manufacturing and automotive industries.

Casey Stephens, who works as an electrical and automation engineer for the Orora Group, attended the course as he deals with machine design and maintenance.

“The course gives a foundation of the requirements for development and safety. It’s a good stepping stone to the TÜV certificate.” Following on from the MachineSAFE Advance course, attendees can participate in a four-day course that will allow them to receive an internationally valid TÜV certificate.

Orora Group graduate process engineer, Muzaffar Goolam, works for a production site as a manager. “I’ve recently stepped into the role and I’m in charge of a quarter of the plant. I’m trying to make sure that systems that are in place are meeting government standards and that we are making sure safety standards are the best they can be.

“We are making sure that we are doing all that we can,” said Goolam.

The courses are available throughout the year in locations across Australia including in Melbourne and Sydney.

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