Manufacturers must consider many factors: processes, workers, technical aspects, and the final product. Above all else and in every step, manufacturers need to keep safety in mind.
Making safety a top priority in everything a manufacturer does is of critical importance. Safety is not a simple consideration, however. Multiple types of safety need monitoring. Managers have an overarching responsibility to keep the workers who are engaged in the manufacturing process safe, designers and engineers need to manufacture products that are safe for the end-user.
In order to keep both the processes and products safe, manufacturers should constantly watch several important elements. Here are five key factors that lead to safe manufacturing.
1. Defined Protocols
The first step in establishing a safe manufacturing workplace that produces safe products is to put clearly defined protocols in place. Rules, regulations, and clearly spelled out procedures should be in place for every aspect of the manufacturing process.
Among other points, the protocols should address workplace conditions. This includes how to dress, organization, and cleanliness expectations of the work area, how to maintain machinery, and more. There should also be directives governing procedures for operating machinery, working with raw materials and how to handle finished products.
Finally, even in the safest and most well-run workplaces, accidents and issues will arise so manufacturers should clearly spell out responses to dangerous situations when they do occur. Workers should know how and when to shut down production, where safety equipment is stored and how to use it. Workers should also be familiar with other emergency procedures such as the location of exits and first aid kits.
One major piece of any good manufacturing quality assurance program is called “qualification”. This refers to the process of checking and testing all new machinery to make sure it can perform the functions it is meant to perform, do them in a safe way, and create a safe and standardized product.
One way to do this is through a process known as IQ OQ PQ, which stands for installation qualification (IQ), operational qualification (OQ), and performance qualification (PQ). As noted in this Dickson article, IQ OQ PQ is particularly important in regulated industries that deal with sensitive products. It can work in any manufacturing industry, though, and putting machinery through an IQ OQ PQ process means manufacturers can be confident their machinery will work as needed when called upon to do so.
The three-step process starts with IQ which checks that the machine is what is needed and that it is correctly configured. Step two is OQ where the machine is run in simulated conditions to confirm that it works as needed. The last step is PQ in which the machine is incorporated into the manufacturer’s process and is used under extreme conditions to see how these will affect production.
3. Proper Training
You can have the best safety procedures, processes, and protocols in the world but if the people responsible for working within these parameters and carrying them out are not properly trained, it is all for naught. Proper and regular employee training is a big key for manufacturing safely.
Employee training should not end after a new hire is handed a handbook. Companies that are successful in establishing a culture of safe manufacturing have in-depth and hands-on training for new hires that show, not tell, them how they should work to create the safest possible environment.
Overarching, easy to understand goals should be set as well as training for specific roles. Each employee should be trained and empowered to become a company safety monitor.
Training is a never-ending process. It should be continuous so that employees become so familiar with the knowledge that actions become automatic. Regular check-ins and evaluations make sure the training has stuck. Retraining and updated training should be delivered on an ongoing, regularly scheduled basis.
4. Supply Chain Management
How long a manufacturer is involved in the supply chain will most likely depend on the nature of the manufacturer and the industry. For however long that is, a manufacturer must manage the supply chain in a thorough-going way in order to keep its workers and its products safe.
Especially in highly regulated industries, that deal with sensitive products, supply chain (and often cold chain) management is crucial. Correctly managing receipt of raw materials, their handling in each step of the manufacturing process, and the transport and delivery of the finished goods to the next step in the chain, can mean the difference between creating a safe product and a dangerous one.
Manufacturers must focus on monitoring and properly handling the conditions materials and products are in throughout the entire process. With current technology, manufacturers can use tools such as data loggers and cloud-based remote monitoring systems to keep an eye on how the supply chain is functioning and ensure that every part stays safe.
5. Sampling and Testing
Although it is less likely, even if you have accounted for all these factors as a manufacturer, products can still reach the end of the line and be unsafe. That is why manufacturers need to sample and test all their products. This helps in identifying if a product or a batch may be unsafe and can allow manufacturers to stop the process before it goes out.
Depending on how sensitive the products are, manufacturers may engage in different levels of sampling. A company can choose to use single sampling, multiple sampling, or random sampling for batches or individual products within a batch. Progressive samplings, such as double sampling or unit sampling, help determine whether to accept the batch or take another sample.
If these five key factors for safe manufacturing are well-considered and followed by a manufacturer, there is a much better chance workers and consumers will be safe. These plans aren’t always easy or cheap to create but the long-term benefit of safe manufacturing far outweighs the upfront investment.
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