The 5 Actions Your Facility Must Take to Reduce Risk of Injury
June 20, 2018

Challenge

Workplace incidents cause an enormous amount of physical, financial and emotional hardship for individual workers, their families and organizations. Combined with insufficient workers’ compensation benefits and inadequate medical insurance, workplace injuries and illnesses can not only cause physical pain and suffering but also loss of employment and wages, burdensome debt, inability to maintain a previous standard of living, loss of home ownership and even bankruptcy.

In addition to the obvious social costs, workplace injuries and illnesses have a major impact on an employer’s bottom line. According to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, serious, nonfatal workplace injuries now amount to nearly $60 billion in direct U.S. workers’ compensation costs per year, which translates into more than $1 billion dollars a week spent by businesses on these injuries . The costs of workplace injuries and illnesses include direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services. Examples of indirect costs include training replacement employees, accident investigation and implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.

Below is a sample list of average direct & indirect costs for some of the top injury classifications in the Oil & Gas, Chemical, and Mining Industries in the United States:

Source: OSHA’s Safety Pays Program . Revenue calculations assume a 3% profit margin.

Solution

In our engagements we take 5 practical actions to set an organization on course to reduce the risk of injury:

1. Understand the data.

 

From an occupational safety perspective, we conduct a review of near misses, incidents and injuries reported to highlight priority areas, nature of injury and sources of risk. We find it useful to portray data visually using tools such as a body heat map for an organization’s safety injuries and near misses. For example, below is a model heat map that shows US Chemical Manufacturing Nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in 2016. In different environments it may be important to visually map geographical location of injuries at a site, chemicals involved in injuries, or safety management system elements that may have failed. Such visual representations focus an organization on sore spots that may lead to more focused root cause analysis.

From a process safety perspective, it is essential to analyze the baseline of key Process Safety Management Elements such as: Engineering Standards and Design, Plant Integrity, Critical Controls, Management of Change, Permit to Work, Emergency Response, Continuous Improvement, Procedures & Training and Incident Management. The rigor with which each incident is dissected is critical to highlight root causes, which often have tentacles that spread across the spectrum of these Safety Management System elements. Organizations must understand the sources of existing occupational and process safety risks in the facility before they can act effectively to mitigate them.

2. Conduct Hazard Assessment

To reduce the risk of injury it is of utmost importance to first complete a Hazard Assessment of operator tasks and process safety risks to determine the highest sources of risk. For example, below is a graph that details the nature of injuries or illnesses in US Chemical Manufacturing in 2016, which provides a starting point for the key areas of occupational risk in a typical manufacturing facility in the Chemicals, Oil & Gas or Mining Industries. However, each facility varies in its occupational and process safety vulnerabilities, so we encourage a thorough assessment that highlights individual facility needs. Typically, this involves a thorough review of near misses, incidents, and a process safety evaluation.

3. Prioritize Elimination, Substitution or Engineering Controls

Though it may require more effort upfront, it is imperative that the organization removes/substitutes hazards or implements engineering controls to reduce risk exposure. Too often we see organizations that lean towards implementing actions that solely focus on administrative controls (e.g. provide training, modify procedures, etc.) or implementing personal protective equipment changes that leave the organization vulnerable to human error. Moreover, many organization do not place the necessary focus on process safety management, which is a mistake because while process safety risks have a lower likely frequency than occupational safety risks, the consequences of a process safety risk happening typically have much more dire consequences. We recommend that the organization conduct a hazard assessment prior to implementing hierarchy of controls because it is useful to rank the hazards according to the impact they may have. Organizations have limited resources, so it is critical to go  through a prioritization of these hazards first before committing human resources to the effort.

4. Develop Practical Training Process

A safety training program must include operating procedures that are easy to follow and that highlight safety-critical process steps and why they are important to prevent occupational or process safety incidents. Similarly, the training process should focus on practical training on proper task techniques where trainers model the procedures and operators demonstrate:

       i) Execution of task steps according to procedure,

      ii) Key safety points in each step, and

     iii) Why it is important to execute the task according to procedure.Additionally, trainers should go through a professional and intensive “train-the-trainer” practical module. Too often  we see organizations that put highly experienced operators to train new employees, but highly experienced operators often lack the training expertise to teach new employees how to perform tasks in the safest manner possible, and in a way the trainee will retain the knowledge after training is complete.

5. Determine Personal Protective Equipment policy.

The PPE Policy should be the last effort according to the hierarchy of controls. Realistically, a manufacturing facility will typically have residual risks that need to be mitigated with a consistent PPE policy that addresses chemical, mechanical, environmental and other types of hazards that cannot be reasonably reduced any other way, so it provides a “last line of defense.” At this stage, we recommend clients conduct analysis of hazardous chemicals and PPE assigned for each task and determine appropriate PPE and specific tools.

Audere Partners has extensive experience facilitating the execution of these 5 key actions in manufacturing facilities in the Chemical, Oil & Gas and Mining operations globally. We believe that implementing these actions will lead an organization to stop hurting employees while simultaneously improving its bottom-line performance.


Author Bio

Harry Phillips is Management Consultant with 10 years of experience in the Chemicals, Oil & Gas and Mining industries. Harry has specialized in leading project teams in the transformation and sustainability of management systems, process improvement and organizational change programs in high-visibility environments globally.

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