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 Automation, Control & Plant Intelligence - Articles, Analysis, Reviews, Interviews & Views
  April, 2015
Automating Safety Management to Third Party Experts
by Thomas R. Cutler

Several years ago looked at how small and mid-sized manufacturers stay in compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations. Concluded, before the current explosion of new rules, that progressive, best-of-class manufacturers were increasingly pro-active and less reactive to safety management.

Things have changed. The sheer volume, rapidity of regulatory compliance rule changes, and influx of new workers with a manufacturing sector on a strong rebound, forces best-of-class manufacturers to outsource regulatory compliance to experts. It is a more cost-effective way to hire knowledgeable experts without interrupting the basic work flow needed to continue accurate on-time delivery.

In four decades, OSHA and state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety. Since 1970, workplace fatality rates have been reduced by more than 66 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has almost doubled.

Worker deaths in America are down-on average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 12 a day in 2013. Worker injuries and illnesses are down-from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.3 per 100 in 2013.

Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses

Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, issued the following statement on the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics' Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses: "Approximately three million private sector workers in America experienced a serious injury or illness on the job. In this extraordinarily high number, it is easy to focus on the headline and miss the trend line. We are encouraged that the rates continue to decline over the past few years, even during this period of healthy economic growth when we would expect the rate of injuries to rise. The decrease in the injury rate is a product of tireless work by those employers, unions, worker advocates and occupational safety and health professionals all coupled with the efforts of federal and state government organizations that make worker safety and health a high priority each and every day. But we cannot ignore those three million workers. The severity of their injuries and illnesses varies widely; some are amputees, some suffer back injuries, while others have to struggle for each breath."

Why Third Party Compliance is Best

Organizations with multiple plants or sites across North America or globally can now track safety performance data across the entire enterprise in a single management platform. The end result is a completely transparent representation of the organizational safety performance and there is not a single automated process as vital to ensuring and maintaining safety standards.

U.S. Compliance Corp., managing partner Scott Stevenson pointed out that only experts in compliance rules and regulation can efficiently and cost-effectively organize data into real-time reports that can be displayed on corporate dashboards, with the ability to drill-down into individual reports and scorecards for granular reporting details. Objectivity is essential and third party compliance organization bring experience and expertise ensuring effective safety programs including safety objectives and targets; safety incident reporting; safety hazard and risk assessment; safety meeting management; work observations; safety policy; training management; document control; records management; audits management; non-conformances and corrective/preventive actions; permits and other legal requirements; maintenance, measuring, and reporting; emergency response; and operational control.

Inadequate Insurance Company OSHA Training

Insurance companies offer basic guidance on compliance and safety and tend to concentrate on areas where they have the greatest exposure for loss. Ultimately that training is protecting the interest of the insurance company, not necessarily the manufacturing firm.

Objective third-party vantage ensures that OSHA and Environmental rules and regulations, applicable to each individual business operation is considered and includes federal, state and local regulations. Like a kaizen event, fresh eyes can see and identify gaps that exist in safety programs, address the appropriate programs applicable to the business along with the required training materials.

OSHA compliance is achieved with on-site employee training, whereas the insurance company programs typically end at the general safety level and they do not have the expertise regarding environmental compliance.

Shop Foreman Cannot Be Held Responsible for Regulatory Compliance

The shop foreman typically has multiple responsibilities. From production challenges to quality assurance this position, whether called the operations manager, production manager, or shop foreman, wears many more hats to manage employees. Seldom does a shop foreman have the in-depth training and knowledge required; outside expertise and regulatory compliance knowledge is vital to ensure the health and safety of all employees.

These managers also have a bias. They want to "look good." They are not incentivized to share the problems and potential violations impacting the health and safety of workers. Outside third-party audits of all programs in the workplace, ensure that each is updated to the newest standards and identifies the missing components of programs based on specific business requirements.

Once these standards of compliance are identified, creating the training materials for the employees, creating active participation in the training sessions is essential. Only with a higher level of understanding are all workers and working environment safer.

Beginning January 1, 2015, OSHA reporting requirements changed. Employers are responsible for reporting all fatal work injuries within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. The agency has also updated the list of industries required to keep injury and illness records. Updates to OSHAs recordkeeping rules are challenging for most manufacturers to manage and increasingly drive busy operations managers, human resource professionals, and safety and quality personnel to seek outside third party assistance.

Automating safety compliance means hiring best-of-class safety experts, so the plant floor can be optimized without endangering the employees, the company, or the customers.

U.S. Compliance Corp. - (888) 897-8681

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 5000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide and can be contacted at and can be followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler. See More Details.

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