Industrial safety: the true cost of cost-saving

Reducing costs is a priority for businesses around the world. The traditional view of safety is that it reduces efficiency and costs too much to implement. If safety devices are susceptible to environmental degradation and can be defeated, so the thinking goes, do they have any real value?

In fact, creating a well-designed safety system for a specific operation can have a positive impact on both productivity and costs.

New sentencing guidelines for serious workplace incidents in the UK will come into force in early 2016

There are five separate steps to achieving operational gains and cost savings.

1)    Implement a safety system for the lifetime of the equipment

Ensuring that a safety system is designed for the life of the equipment can reduce maintenance and running costs significantly. Trapped key interlocks have proven over decades that they are durable and robust, particularly in harsh or difficult environments.

2)    Reduce the number of electrical connections

Production managers in industries such as food and beverage confirm that electrical devices have a major impact on downtime, especially after washdown cycles. Mechanical safety systems, such as trapped key interlocks, reduce the number of electrical connections and therefore the number of potential failure points. Removing the need for extensive wiring looms also reduces the initial machine cost.

3)    Design the safety system in harmony with the operation of the equipment

Designing a safety system that safely encodes the operational process of the machinery will reduce variance produced by individual operators running the equipment in different ways. In effect, the safety system can ensure that human variance is removed.

4)    Implement robust safety measures

Operators will try to bypass safety systems, so it is important to ensure that the chosen system is durable enough to withstand such attempts. Preserving both the safe working of the system and the correct operation avoids the cost of potential accidents and prevents the adoption of unsafe processes.

5)    Understand the true cost of ignoring safety requirements

The financial burden of investigations, fines and damages increases every year as legislation and its policing become more stringent.

New sentencing guidelines for serious workplace incidents in the UK are due to be published on 3 November 2015 and will come into force in February 2016. Courts are likely to hand out an increasing number of custodial sentences to convicted individuals, with a minimum of 26 weeks in prison proposed for those guilty of committing offences considered within the highest category of harm i.e. death, high risk of death or catastrophic injury. Organisations labelled large (with a turnover of more than £50m) could receive fines of up to £20m. The tariff for very large companies (whose turnover “very greatly exceeds” £50m) has not been set, but the guidance states “it may be necessary to move outside the suggested range to achieve a proportionate sentence”. Experts believe that fines of £100m are not beyond the realms of possibility.

 

So the most economical way to approach safety is to

                • embrace the requirements early;
                • carry out thorough risk assessments;
                • design in the safety system as early as possible.

This approach maximises operational efficiency and plant uptime, and reduces risk.

By: David Hughes, Sales Director, Castell Safety International Ltd.

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