A resource for safe and effective troubleshooting from the leaders in simulation training.

Welcome back, Troubleshooters! Last week our topic was the 5 most common mistakes that maintenance professionals make when they have not had proper training and try to diagnose and repair electrical faults in production line machinery. We saw that those common errors can lead to severe injury and even death of the professionals themselves, and disruption of production. Today we’re going to talk about the top 6 mistakes that Plant Managers often make. Managers may not be dealing with electricity directly themselves, but their mistakes can be just as deadly.

Plant Managers, it’s your job to ensure that workers are properly trained and prepared to face the very real hazards of working with electrical equipment. Under OSH law, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. According to OSHA’s statement of workers’ rights, workers have the right to (among other things) working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm, and to the information and training needed to keep them safe. Companies that don’t provide a safe workplace and/or the necessary training can face serious fines.

With that in mind, here are some of the most common oversights made by managers that put their staff in danger

Top 6 Mistakes Plant Managers Make

1. Not training employees on proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) standards.

Failure to control “hazardous energy” is responsible for nearly10% of serious accidents in industrial settings. OSHA’s LOTO standard establishes the employer’s responsibility to protect workers from hazardous energy. The OSHA standard (29 CFR 1910.147) applies to the control of energy during servicing or maintenance of machines and equipment. Employers are required to train every worker so that they know, understand, and are able to properly LOTO. OSHA states that “workers must be trained in the purpose and function of the energy control program and have the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage and removal of the energy control devices.” Check out OSHA’s lockout/tagout fact sheet for a more detailed list of employer responsibilities.

2. Not providing enough information to workers, in a language they understand.

Workers are entitled to receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary they understand) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. In addition to training, unsafe areas and conditions have to be secured or marked properly.

3. Not providing adequate safety gear and PPE.

Many OSHA standards do require employers to provide and pay for PPE when necessary to protect employees from job-related hazards. Articles of PPE for electric power include safety glasses, face shields, hard hats, safety shoes, insulating (rubber) gloves with leather protectors, insulating sleeves, and flame-resistant (FR) clothing. Employers should check the standards in their own jurisdiction.

Prior to requiring workers to wear PPE, employers are required to perform hazard assessments to determine which PPE is necessary. (See last week’s post where we discuss calculating the arc energy of a potential hazard to determine PPE, and NFPA 70E and OSHA PPE recommendations.) Employees need to be trained to use the PPE properly, too, or it might not do its job.

4. Not maintaining equipment and installations in a safe state.

Faulty insulation, improper grounding, loose connections, defective parts, unguarded live parts, wrong gauge of wire used for the current, and underrated equipment—all of these unsafe conditions in electrical equipment present serious and potentially lethal dangers to electrical troubleshooters and others, and are easily avoidable with adequate, regular maintenance.

5. Not developing an effective safety and health management system.

A good safety and health program will control electrical hazards. Such a program must be run by someone with a complete knowledge of electricity, electrical work practices, and the appropriate OSHA standards. If your organization does not have such a program, OSHA will provide a free inspection and consultation to organizations with fewer than 250 employees at a fixed site and no more than 500 corporate-wide. Certain exemplary employers may be eligible to receive a full-service comprehensive consultation to identify and correct all hazards and develop an effective safety and health management system.

6. Not utilizing data to drive decision making.

In the age of digital transformation, data-driven decision making can provide opportunities for greater efficiencies and safety than decisions based on gut instinct or intuition, because it eliminates the guesswork. It’s a strategy increasingly being adopted by the manufacturing industry. In fact, the number of US manufacturers using data-driven decision making tripled between 2005 and 2010. Leveraging available data can lead to a boost in production numbers, but also positive results in areas such as plant reliability and workplace safety. Various forms of facilities management software will offer data that can be analyzed to identify areas where money is being wasted, or where space is being poorly used. Data from digital training software can put the spotlight on which employees are excelling (or not) during training. When you have hard data about which staff are fully trained and ready to go live, and which trainees still need more practice, it can inform decisions about staff deployment that can save money, and potentially lives.

Creating a Culture of Safety

As a manufacturing manager, you are responsible for ensuring workers are properly trained and prepared to face the very real hazards of working with electrical equipment. Creating a culture of safety will protect the life and limb of your valuable maintenance professionals. The added bonus is the reduced staff turnover when workers feel safe, and the increased production and plant reliability when there are fewer accidents.

Thanks for joining us, Troubleshooters! See you next week, when we begin a three-part series on measuring, forecasting and calculating the ROI of training.

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