Meeting Safety Standards in Industrial Plants-what are the costs?

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Running an industrial manufacturing plant in these days is tough.  First, you have to meet all the production and cost targets, whereas you are not allowed to hire more hands (due to the slowing economy), or to have any safety violations or incidents, nor any environmental issues. With shrinking budgets and an equally shrinking manpower, do you find it challenging to meet safety standards and norms and other safety procedures, that are applicable to your plants?

The buzz is yes, most plant managers do find it tough and the reason is not just that the norms are becoming more tougher and stringent by the day-it is also because there are so many of them-just count how many safety procedures a typical industrial plant has to follow and adhere to. Simply put, a typical manufacturing plant is subject to many many more safety norms & safety procedures than your run- of-the- mill -mall or office or other commercial building.  And I have not even started discussing chemical or other hazardous material processing plants. Even a small discrete parts manufacturing plant, has to meet several of these safety regulations. To start with, the plants have to conform to basic work safety, conduct hse safety training (it’s not just displaying a couple of safety training videos to the workmen with some safety posters thrown in for good measure-but carry out practical safety training like firefighting and emergency preparedness training), do safety audits and assessments and so on. Then there are the environmental norms, even for something like disposing waste lubricants and oils. Add on the standards for adequate industrial grade lighting and ventilation, safe distances, speed limits, testing of various equipment like hoses and hoists, machine safety and interlocks and so on. These are to meet the safety norms of the establishment/equipment.

Then there are the human factors safety norms. In addition to PPE and HSE norms, the increasing age of the average industrial worker means that the plants now have to do more often a combination of both health & safety training programs like back safety and preventing workplace injury, due to poor postures and movements.

And if you run a chemical manufacturing plant, then you have to additionally meet safety norms for storage of hazardous materials, explosive atmospheres, static discharges, safety alarms and interlock checking, fire and gas monitoring, boiler safety, burner management systems, emergency shutdown systems and and…….

I wonder if anybody has any figures of the total costs incurred on these. It’s not just the direct dollars and cents spent on safety videos and posters, but also the indirect costs for having special equipment and installations. It would be interesting to know what these percentages are and what these figures are for factories around the world (say in China).

I am of course not at all saying, that these norms should not be met, in fact these SHOULD be strictly adhered to, to protect workers, other stakeholders and society at large, BUT there should also be enough publicity given by the industrial plants themselves, to all this money being spent for a good cause.  At present, the image in the Mainstream media is somewhat rather different; the MSM thinks that these plants are rusty uncompetitive dinosaurs (being no doubt fed by the Wall Street bean counters-we all know how they used to mislead everybody) ; which is not the case at all. If a tycoon donating a few millions to a college can make the headlines, why not an industrial plant spending millions on meeting safety standards?

The figures would bear it out for sure and show these plants in good light to the average Joe. After all a strong economy is built by strong manufacturing plants too, not just MBAs trading pieces of paper (or bits and bytes) in their surreal worlds : )

As usual, comments are welcome!