2020 Plant Safety

Trends in ... Plant safety

Failure to control hazardous energy; a lack of equipment, training and/or maintenance; and now COVID-19 are just some of the hazards that put plant workers at risk of injury or illness.

Safety+Health spoke with Ben VanOuse, product manager, plant safety portfolio, at New Pig Corp., and Jason Lemke, southern regional sales manager for MELTRIC Corp., to find out what recent trends and innovations they’re seeing in plant safety, as well as what they wish employers and workers better understood about the topic.

What are some recent innovations in the area of plant safety?

Lemke: In the electrical safety world, there have been a lot of interesting technologies around arc flash safety that have yet to be implemented. For example, the light detection relays that are able to “see” an arcing event and quickly clear power to reduce the arc-flash energy is an interesting use of multiple technologies to improve safety.

VanOuse: How cleaner, safer environments and processes lead to greater productivity. A frequent misconception that plagues many companies is that too much emphasis on safety will slow down an organization. Companies are realizing a true focus on cleaner and safer ways of operating earns them higher productivity dividends.

What do you wish employers and workers better understood about plant safety?

Lemke: Employers, it’s your responsibility to keep your workers safe. If an accident happens in the workplace, it’s a result of a lack of equipment, training, maintenance or effort taken because the employer makes safety a lower priority.

VanOuse: The key to a thriving safety culture is building it on a cornerstone of innovation. This proactive posture requires continuous engagement with frontline employees and customers by actively listening to their concerns and ideas. From this starting point, a company has the best chance of making the most effective processes, products and services.

What concerns or questions are customers coming to you with?

Lemke: The people who seek me out are usually doing so after something bad has occurred. I wish this weren’t the case, because by the time this happens, it’s too late for the person who was injured or killed. Very often, some of the simplest solutions around lockout/tagout could have prevented many of the accidents.

VanOuse: Our customers are looking for help in both the routine aspects of their operations as well as preparation for unplanned safety risks. A question that we’ve been consistently asked by our customers is, “How do I effectively plan for such events?” – a question that is frequently tied to weather events and the risks associated with water unexpectedly entering facilities.

What’s on the horizon for plant safety?

Lemke: The practice of Prevention through Design – designing a plant and/or equipment for safety and efficiency – is a concept gaining traction. PtD focuses on risk elimination rather than just mitigation. It can be a successful method of creating safer plants in the future.

VanOuse: Human health and safety are undoubtedly the greatest business risks brought about by COVID-19. Adapting quickly to these risks has required businesses to embrace technology to limit human exposure. A primary example is the widespread adoption of telecommuting policies, equipment and services.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

COVID-19: Return to work

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