How do reliability-based program improve safety?

R. Keith Mobley, Life Cycle Engineering

You don’t need to be an accountant or statistician to know that safety is good for business. The sampling of the annual cost incurred as a direct result of accidents clearly provides a business case – if not an ethical mandate – that safety should be job one for every company:

  • Six million workers suffer non-fatal workplace injuries at an annual cost to U.S. businesses of more than $125 billion. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  • Lost productivity from workplace injuries and illnesses costs companies $60 billion annually. (OSHA)
  • Total annual economic cost of occupational deaths and injuries is estimated to exceed $142.2 billion, with a total of 120 million days lost due to occupational deaths and injuries. (National Safety Council)
  • The median days away from work due to injuries and illnesses for goods-producing industries is nine days each year, with more than a quarter of days-away-from-work cases at 31 days or more away from work. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Businesses spend $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational illnesses and injuries. (American Industrial Hygiene Association, OSHA)
  • Employers spend more than $50.8 billion annually in wage payments and medical care for workers hurt on the job. (Liberty Mutual)

Data compiled by OSHA indicates that since its inception in 1970, a total of 75,000 lives have been saved and millions of injuries and illnesses have been prevented through effective, reliability-based safety programs. These programs focus on three areas: asset reliability, process reliability and procedure reliability.

Asset Reliability
The reliability of the systems, machinery and equipment that make up a plant’s ability to manufacture, produce or generate a sellable product is obviously of paramount importance – both from an economic and safety standpoint. Assets that are designed, installed, operated and maintained properly tend to be more reliable and far less likely to fail or to create a situation that could result in injury or death.

A fundamental tenet of Reliability Excellence is a comprehensive life cycle asset management process that governs the entire life of plant assets – from conceptual design through decommissioning and disposal. The process is designed to assure employee and environmental safety first and best life cycle cost as a secondary issue.

Reliability Excellence also includes failure-prevention-driven asset maintenance plans that combine best practices in preventive, predictive and autonomous maintenance that assure minimal potential for catastrophic events that could lead to accidents or injuries. All assets are thoroughly evaluated using simplified failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) and other reliability-based evaluation techniques that are designed to identify incipient failure modes, causal factors and the steps necessary to prevent them. The asset maintenance planprovides protection against failures over the entire useful life of your assets.

Process Reliability
A business or work process is defined as a collection of related, structured activities or tasks that produce a specific service or product, or serves a particular goal. Processes define what tasks or sequence of tasks is needed to plan, manage and execute every facet of day-to-day work that is performed within a plant.

Safety data compiled since the inception of OSHA suggests that variability in or the lack of repeatable business and work processes is a major – if not the major – causal factor for lost-time accidents, as well as fatalities. Almost all recorded incidents include deficiencies in, or lack of, standardized work processes as the root cause or a major contributor.

Reliability Excellence is predicated on the standardization of all business and work processes needed to plan, manage, execute and measure all work performed within a plant, company or corporation. Eliminating variability not only reduces the probability of accidents and injury, but also dramatically improves operating profitability and product quality. Standardization does not mean eliminating innovation or continuous improvement; rather, it controls these changes in a way that prevents accidents, losses and waste.

Procedure Reliability
Procedures are the actual step-by-step tasks required to perform a business or work process – for example, how an operator starts up a machine or system, or how a maintenance technician disassembles a machine.

It is intuitively obvious that uncontrolled execution of work will result in accidents and injuries – if not worse. This is especially true when workers are tired, distracted or stressed. The absence of clear step-by-step guidelines or instructions is a proven causal factor that leads to a higher number of reportable accidents, lost-time injuries and fatalities. In addition, the variability in the way work is performed results in greatly increased losses and waste that adversely impact operating profit.

Reliability Excellence incorporates standardized business and work procedures that provide clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountability, as well as step-by-step instructions as an integral part of the reengineering process. All affected employees are retrained and supervisory processes implemented to assure universal compliance.

Is safety important to you and your employees? Of course, it is. And the best way to ensure a safe, accident-free work environment is to eliminate variability, anticipate and prevent failures, train employees, and enforce universal adherence to standardized best practices. In other words, re-engineer your organization and implement Reliability Excellence.

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About the Author

R. Keith Mobley has earned an international reputation as a leader in corporat...