No manufacturing plant welcomes an OSHA audit. Even more dreaded than an audit, however, are findings during the course of an audit that violate OSHA codes and standards. Every manufacturer needs to consider their internal practices and standards very seriously to make it through an audit unscathed. But more than just surviving an audit, manufacturers are wise to make OSHA safety standards part of their culture.
Safety-first needs to be more than just an initiative — it should be ingrained into every process, approach, and way of thinking. Not only will your workforce benefit, the quality of your maintenance and repair will also rise.
Skimping on safety leads to problems
Aside from the obvious liability issues of poor safety practices, the lack of adherence to safety standards has wide-ranging ramifications for factory operations, including the following:
- Poor maintenance quality leads to unsafe machine operation, presenting a liability. For example, not checking fail-safe mechanisms during a routine inspection could harm the operator in the event of a failure.
- A lack of risk management procedures can exacerbate existing problems to the point of becoming a liability. For example, lacking a standardized mode of machine maintenance leads to erratic service, which may result in dangerous malfunction.
- Lack of formalized training on machine repair or maintenance may put techs directly in harm’s way. For example, servicing a machine without properly shutting it down could lead to accidental activation and injury.
These are just a fraction of the many problems that may arise when safety is an afterthought instead of the first focus. Any time we deprioritize safety for efficiency, expedience, or cost-savings, potential for harm rises. More than just a failed OSHA audit, ignoring safety issues could result in anything from workplace injury litigation to charges of criminal workplace negligence or worse.
Putting safety first, above all else
Instilling a safety-first culture involves widespread prioritization of safe practices. More crucially, it means reprogramming the way your workers approach even menial tasks. For example:
- Standardization is key in promoting safety. Putting safe practices and standards at the top of every checklist or process framework ensures staunch adherence to preventative measures upfront.
- Retraining is essential for clarifying safety standards. Every worker should be familiar with processes, equipment, standards, and protocol while on the job, regardless of the job they’re doing.
- Internal audits help you maintain transparency and raise your own standard for safety. In the event of an OSHA or similar audit, your team won’t have to deviate from the norm or face unfamiliar processes as they’re audited.
- Create policies for anonymous reporting and encourage workers to voice safety concerns. More vitally, address concerns raised by repair and maintenance techs, to reduce future liabilities and document your focus on continuous improvement.
In addition, providing signage, proper equipment, documentation, and other safety-focused resources will bring you in closer alignment with OSHA standards, while also entrenching safety as a pillar of your workplace culture.
Everyone benefits from a safer work environment
More than just passing an OSHA audit and protecting your workers, making safety a core component of your workplace provides numerous other benefits. Among these benefits are better productivity and overall job satisfaction.
According to a 2016 Plant Engineering Safety Study, 83% of manufacturing leaders cite increased productivity from better safety programs. Of those manufacturers implementing better programs, more than 70% attribute better workplace standards to regular safety meetings, performing safety audits, and establishing a safety committee. As a result, 97% of respondents believe their employees feel safer.
When a workplace makes safety an integral part of the culture, it does more than just lower the risk of getting dinged in an OSHA audit: It sets a precedent for better overall operations.