The Many Levels of Safety
Safety is not trivial or to be taken for granted. It comes in multiple varieties, is multi-level, and is inherently tied to the long-term success of each project and every client. These levels of safety include operator, consumer/customer, product/process, equipment and environment. Each level requires and receives due diligence, understanding the unique parameters of the project and the measures of success that bound the work. Several of these levels will be described further here, highlighting the value delivered to the project in the safe and efficient process and outcome of the work. The remaining safety levels will be discussed in a subsequent post.
Operator safety is commonly thought of as the first feature of a safe project focus. People are not only the biggest variable in any production system, but they are also the most flexible and adaptable assets of any organization. It is essential to protect and safeguard the well-being of maintenance teams, machine operators and others who work around the automated equipment we design and deliver.
All is lost if there are preventable accidents and injuries suffered in the operation of systems designed and integrated by experts. Financial, emotional, technological and other losses and damages occur if operators are hurt. Prevention must be “Job 1.” The human factors in this field are primary and great lengths are pursued to ensure that the people closest to these automated processes are trained, protected, and equipped for the safe performance of their tasks, interacting with all kinds of sophisticated equipment and products.
The onus is truly on the system owner and the integrator to anticipate the scenarios that could cause risk and harm to people and thereby avoid and prevent such failures. Techniques that protect workers in confined spaces or that require lock-out/tag-out efforts to de-energize equipment and account for worker protection are now very well-known and have become standard best practices.
Consumer and client safety are the second areas of concern when engineering in safety to any automated system. The client’s objective is to produce a product which itself must be safe (discussed next post) and accepted by the market with confidence and trust.
The quality, integrity and veracity of an automated system’s design, fabrication, and operation is in direct proportion to its output. That means having processes free of knowable deficiencies, incorporating best-practice outcomes in design, and taking all reasonable precautions to safeguard the customer. Testing products for compliance, combined with monitoring and controlling processes, deliver highly reliable and trustworthy results. That means high quality, sought-after products, and safe and reliable systems that can be counted on to deliver the desired experiences to owners and consumers alike.
Engines that start the first time every time, yogurt that stays fresh until the expiration date (or longer!), medical devices that deliver to stringent protocols and exacting regulations, chemicals and food additives and fertilizers that safely and cost-effectively please the market every time are the examples. Customers who choose to buy those products, and the people who use and enjoy them are the beneficiaries of all the safety measures that go into the design and deployment of today’s automated production systems and the efforts of the people behind them.
Next post, I’ll discuss product/process, equipment and environment safety variables.