The Crucial Role of Apprenticeship and Training in Manufacturing Safety
Safety is a paramount concern in the manufacturing industry, and engineers play a crucial role in ensuring a safe working environment, whether it is by training or learning. While technological advancements have improved manufacturing processes, they have also introduced new risks and challenges. In this blog post, we will delve into the significance of apprenticeship and training in manufacturing safety from different aspects. By understanding the importance of comprehensive training programs and the benefits of apprenticeship, we can cultivate a culture of safety, reduce accidents, and enhance overall productivity in the manufacturing sector.
Section 1: Compliance-Focused V.S. People-Focused
One of the primary objectives of apprenticeship and training programs in manufacturing safety is to enhance hazard awareness and risk assessment skills among engineers. Organizations can significantly reduce accidents and prevent occupational hazards by thoroughly educating engineers about the potential hazards and risks associated with different manufacturing processes and equipment. We often create a system for these through compliance.
Many employers focus on the enforcement of compliance because the concept is to warn and remind employees to be ‘safe’. But according to many leaders in the industry, too much compliance can hurt.
Jonathan Shaffer, CSP, Re:Build Optimation’s Safety Director said, “Have you ever walked into a facility and seen signage everywhere saying “Don’t do this, don’t do that, Don’t touch this, wear your glasses..?” He believes that too much signage without people-focused training would be considered signage pollution.
Safety inspections are one of the most common routines in a facility. One would walk in and ask for TPS reports for safety inspections immediately, and the workers have to do it many times every week.
“By the end of it, you just get people who are either going with the motion just to be in compliance, or you get people that are robots. And I don’t want either or. I want critical thinkers making good decisions for their safety out in the field.”
During his interview, Jonathan talked about one of Re:Build Optimation’s brilliant apprentices. Marcie was a young journeyman welder. During a project in a chemical company, the team of welders was about to light up a job that could blow a large tank up. There was a lack of communication between the Safety Department at the chemical facility and the workers there who had to prepare the tank before welders came in.
If the welders were to blindly execute the job, that tank would’ve blown up. Fortunately, the welders had a questioning attitude and questioned the environment and the details of the preparation process, further preventing the accident from happening.
Jonathan emphasized, ”I give them training that treats them as adults, that treats them as intelligent thinkers, that “Hey, here’s how things can go wrong, and here’s how to mitigate them” And one of the things I teach a lot is that questioning attitude about your environment. Don’t just blindly go through the motions and… focus on compliance only…”
Although tape and guardrails are set up, forms and reports are filled out, or the latest and greatest programs are being implemented, it’s very important to train people to treat everything as people-focused as possible to ensure safety and mitigate risks.
“Treating people right and engaging and supporting people to take their own safety into their own hands. I think that’s the biggest thing,” said Jonathan.
Apprenticeship programs provide hands-on experience, allowing aspiring engineers to learn from experienced professionals in real-world manufacturing environments. This exposure helps them identify potential hazards, understand their consequences, and develop effective risk assessment strategies.
By recognizing the importance of situational awareness, engineers can proactively implement safety measures, such as installing safety guards, implementing lockout/tagout procedures, utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE), and many more.
Section 2: Apprenticeship and Training Programs
Apprenticeship and training programs in manufacturing safety are instrumental in developing and implementing robust safety procedures and protocols. Engineers undergo comprehensive training on industry standards, regulatory requirements, and best practices to ensure compliance with safety guidelines.
Through apprenticeship, engineers gain firsthand experience in implementing safety protocols, such as machine guarding, emergency response planning, and incident investigation procedures. This practical exposure helps engineers understand the importance of adherence to safety protocols and fosters a proactive approach to safety.
Moreover, apprenticeship programs allow engineers to work alongside skilled mentors with extensive experience in manufacturing safety. This mentorship aspect is invaluable in instilling a safety-first mindset and guiding engineers to apply their knowledge effectively.
When analyzing your own manufacturing companies’ program, Jonathan mentioned that it is critical to ask the questions: “Is this right for us? Have you been having a lot of injuries lately?”
“You can’t get to perfection. I’m a firm believer that you can’t get to zero. I mean, I’ve been in the military, I’ve been in construction… I’ve supported safety programs for years now. I’ve never seen anyone get to absolute zero. The goal is to have a program and a culture that is continually improving”
The leverage in measuring how effective a company’s safety training is comes back to calculating a set of exposure times and within that time, how many incidents happen and taking into account how severe the incident was.
Questioning whether your employees report incidents and whether the company is keeping track of near misses is important. In addition, it’s key to question whether the company is also empowering employees to make good safety decisions.
When it comes to programs and training, question if the company is polluting employees too much with non-pertinent training, or even filling out documents that can be done more efficiently. Taking away those things and simplifying processes are in fact the best way to ensure safety and create a healthy apprenticeship environment.
In Re:Build Optimation, apprenticeship is viewed from an experience-based perspective, allowing not only veteran training but also high-school/college students training. Re:Build Optimation is now certified, allowing veterans to get their GI Bill while they’re in the apprenticeship program, which is a game-changer!
One of Re:Build Optimation’s apprentices is a tank crewman who got out of the military a little while ago, and he is making his Post-9/11 GI Bill living stipend in addition to his apprentice pay.
Jonathan confessed that he started as an intern himself in Re:Build Optimation, which led him to the passion for the apprenticeship programs.
“You know, I was an intern here at (Re:Build) Optimation when I was in college, and I saw that we do a lot of co-ops with RIT and RPI for Engineers. I’m like, “Why don’t we do co-ops for skilled trades?” Why don’t I go to a high school and say, “Hey, do you want to come here and work 15-20 hours a week until you graduate? And so that’s what we started to do.” Jonathan shared.
Re:Build Optimation now links up with local BOCES. Since then, many hard-working students have been enrolling in the internship program. Some of them even have another part-time job, and those type of hard workers are exactly the type of people Re:Build Optimation are interested in hiring as soon as they graduate.
That being said, Jonathan believes that the two programs through the veteran angle as well as internship are great ways to improve the apprenticeship program in both recruitment and retention.
In some cases, students who are not only interested in skilled trades but also in engineering can try to experience real shadow work and pursue the path and passion they desire. An apprenticeship gives them an idea of what it would be like to work in Re:Build Optimation, how much they can reasonably make, the type of projects they’ll work on, and where they go to school at night.
In today’s job market, Jonathan believes people are looking for more than pay and time off. He said, ”Well, that’s the job market right now. More than money and time-off, and retirement, I think more than any of that, people are looking for culture.”
Jonathan confessed that after working in Re:Build Optimation during college, he had left the company for a little while to pursue other things. However, he continued his confession by saying, “I came right back because I love the culture here, the friendships I’ve made and the stuff we work on is just so unique.”
Today, Jonathan and the team in Re:Build Optimation present the same unique values and propositions to attract more apprentices to nurture and flourish their skilled trades and engineering talents, and passion. The approach of ‘What Re:Build Optimation can do for you, and how you can fit in here” has brought in 16 diligent and intelligent apprentices.
Depending on the project, there are certain ratios of journey workers in comparison to the apprentice. The average ratio is around 3 in journey workers and 2 in apprentices to ensure project performance quality and safety based on the intent of the State.
The risk comes if an apprentice doesn’t have enough experience in operating equipment or connecting certain wiring processes, etc. When multi-million dollar pieces of machinery are involved or important detailed processing activities are required, having an apprentice without enough journeymen supervision and training will cost the company big losses. This is why Re:Build Optimation keeps a limited amount of in-field apprentice capacity to make sure each apprentice is trained and educated with the utmost care and guidance.
In this case, the idea of ‘practice makes perfect’ is applied in implementing the apprenticeship because just like every other scalable skill, it takes a decent amount of operational practice before one can actually operate the real machine or do the real work in the fields.
This is why Re:Build Optimation developed a creative program called the GSM (General Service Mechanic) to expand and broaden the opportunity and remove the learning barrier to the apprenticeship program, by allowing students to collect hours of experience with tool work and many other practical resources.
Whether it is someone with clear experience, or it is someone younger who has been through a BOCES technical school, Re:Build Optimation finds channels to have anyone with the basic skills so they can come out and be a helper in this rapidly changing industry apprenticeship.
Here in Re:Build Optimation, hiring processes, and apprenticeship programs are very transparent to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to become a journey worker with a higher compensation structure. With clear charts and requirements, we judge experience and working/learning hours based on clear skills no matter the number of certifications or if you’re fresh out of college, or even still in college! Where there is a will, there is a way.
The selection process is clear, transparent, and accessible. In addition, Re:Build Optimation completely facilitates and pays for the books, resources, school, PPE, as well as toolboxes to help the apprentices contribute to the company. On top of that, a retention agreement has been set in place for certain years of commitment, and after the agreed years of commitment, the employee is free to work anywhere they want in case they choose to stop working with Re:Build Optimation. This is an educational and practical catalyst for anyone with the basic skills looking to pursue skilled trades or engineering.
Lastly, a ‘Skills Bridge’ program is also a recent program launched by Re:Build Optimation where veterans who are exiting the military can join the program six months before they officially get out of the military and join Re:Build Optimation while still getting paid by Uncle Sam. This program is for the best of the best, with an approval requirement from their chain of command to pursue their passion. While being active on duty, they will be endeavoring the Skills Bridge program as a co-op where the Re:Build Optimation facilitates an unpaid apprenticeship during the Skills Bridge period.
Section 3: Promoting Continuous Improvement and Innovation
Apprenticeship and training programs in manufacturing safety contribute to a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. Engineers who receive comprehensive training are better equipped to identify safety gaps, evaluate existing processes, and suggest improvements that enhance both safety and productivity.
Training programs empower engineers to stay updated with the latest technological advancements and industry trends. By understanding emerging safety technologies, engineers can assess their potential applications and integrate them into manufacturing processes. For example, engineers can leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics to monitor equipment performance, predict failures, and prevent accidents.
Apprenticeship programs also encourage engineers to engage in cross-functional collaboration, promoting a holistic approach to safety. By working alongside professionals from different disciplines, such as operations, maintenance, and ergonomics, engineers can gain diverse perspectives and identify safety issues that may have been overlooked.
Apprenticeship and training programs in manufacturing safety play a vital role in cultivating a safety-conscious workforce. By equipping engineers with the necessary knowledge and practical skills, organizations can minimize accidents, reduce workplace injuries, and enhance overall productivity.
Through hazard awareness and risk assessment training, engineers become adept at identifying potential hazards and proactively managing risks. By implementing robust safety procedures and protocols, engineers ensure compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements. Moreover, apprenticeship programs foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation by encouraging engineers to explore new technologies and collaborate across disciplines.
Ultimately, the investment in apprenticeship and training programs yields long-term benefits for both organizations and employees. Re:Build Optimation welcomes apprentices to apply and join our programs of Apprenticeship, GSM, and Skills Bridge in our facilities with a strong safety culture experience.
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