IGMA Viewpoints

Robust Times: New Opportunities Bring Renewed Focus on Safety

By Mike Burk

Indicators show that not only is the economy improving, but that this is going to be a very good season for our industry. As a reader of this magazine, you probably felt this as you read the recent March issue. Publisher Debra Levy wrote about it in her column, saying things like “the economy, as robust as it is now …” and “the amount of glass work has doubled in the past five years.” That issue was filled with articles, columns and comments that reinforce how this is going to be a summer of fast-moving production.

EXPANDING WORKLOADS

While production advancements, rapid growth, new employees, auto-mated equipment and facility improvement are fantastic, they can all bring added safety concerns that must be addressed. As the industry continues to grow and expand, focusing on safety training plays a key role.

I’ve read a number of articles about company growth and development, which warrant the need for safety training. For example, one article talked about how a company’s “expanded workload” has allowed them to double their number of employees. If your company is adding or planning to bring on new associates, you must consider the necessary steps to keep them safe. Statistics show that injuries and fatalities can be higher with new employees who are unfamiliar with procedures, personal protective equipment requirements and safety policies. Make sure that new employees start their first day of work with a complete and documented safety program.

Other articles I read talked about how companies are expanding “assets and process knowledge,” reaching “new geographic markets,” and that “demand in the commercial construction sector has grown exponentially.” All these actions present new safety challenges for you and your workforce. When you acquire a new company, do you ensure that the safety programs at those organizations are sufficient to protect workers? Evaluate those safety programs; their policies may be better than your own. Look for opportunities to implement newly discovered safety ideas at your present facilities. Also, consider that “new geographic markets” might include countries where safety requirements are not enforced or as rigid as those of North America. What steps are you taking to protect the workers in these areas? You must understand that exponential growth demands improvements and changes in your safety program.

NEW GLASS, NEW NEEDS

We’ve all read the articles about the increasing demand for jumbo glass sizes. Keep in mind that demands for new, larger products can also bring new hazards. Be sure that your equipment is capable of handling heavier components safely. Make sure that your associates understand that handling procedures might be different with new products. If new equipment has been added, test to make sure that employees have been properly trained on operation and safety.

Another article in the March issue, Tax Cuts Could Propel Major Upgrades, states that “orders for manufacturing equipment are expected to rise 12 percent in 2018” and there is “evidence that the companies in the industry are beginning to invest in new machinery.” This is great news for our industry. New equipment, often automated, will increase production, reduce fatigue and increase safety. But remember, the new equipment can still be an unknown safety hazard until it’s totally understood by your production and maintenance staff. All impacted associates must be trained, tested and documented on the lock-out tag-out requirements of the newly purchased equipment. Take advantage of training programs offered by the equipment manufacturer. Many of these programs include operation, maintenance and troubleshooting courses. Many courses are also available at suppler training centers, your facility or online.

In her article on prismatic glass, Ellen Rogers writes that “the demand will increase.” In most cases, the demand for new products will increase many times more than you expect. Be ready and plan for the safety issues that come with sudden increases in production, changes in handling and shipment of new products.

Take a look back at the March issue of USGlass and re-read the content with a safety point of view. There’s a lot of good news and ideas for our industry. The future will definitely be robust, so make sure your safety program is even more so.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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