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By: Sylvie Couture
August 31, 2021
Smart manufacturing technology is changing the way we think about safety in the workplace.
As the industry becomes faster and more efficient, constant pressure is put on operators to produce more while adhering to tighter and more frequent deadlines. This increased stress opens the door to work-related injuries that not only affect your workforce but also impact morale and productivity.
So what can you do to increase workplace safety without significantly slowing down production? Fortunately, smart manufacturing technologies like work instruction software and smart tools provide the safety solutions you need to make your shop floor a more productive and safe place.
Although traumatic injuries still take up most of the press when it comes to lost time injuries, smaller yet more frequent injuries play a larger part in workplace accidents. Emilie St-Denis, resident kinesiologist at VKS and its sister company CMP AMS, thinks that it is important to call attention to this subtle yet growing issue.
“Right now, the industry is dealing with a rise in injuries caused by repetitive motion as well as overextension. These injuries can lead to serious health issues such as tendonitis and chronic back pain”.
In fact, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, in 2019 the number of accidents due to bodily reactions and exertions were almost twice as high as the next two leading event categories. In the U.S., OSHA cites that ergonomic injuries have a direct cost of 15-20 billion dollars per year.
St-Denis continues: “What people don’t realize is that most people pay no mind to these injuries at first. They tell themselves that it is part of their job and that a little aching is normal after a long day. The problem is that pain is not normal. Those small aches and pains can eventually become debilitating. Employers have to be wary of that and look for ways to keep their workforce healthy.”
Fortunately, the advancements brought to us by smart manufacturing technology can help employers do just that.
Robyn Green, the Marketing Coordinator at ASG, explains: “It is important to account for ergonomics from both a tool standpoint, as well as dealing with the torque reaction produced by the tool. When we design a tool, the weight and physical design must promote comfort and ergonomics to avoid strain and repetitive stress. Some tools produce higher torque, and that reaction must be removed from the operator. With our ergonomic positioning arm system, we are providing a complete torque reaction, taking that force off the operator.”
This product from ASG is all about protecting operators from repetitive physical stress. With intelligent tools that enable anyone to comfortably use them, companies are taking greater steps towards their employees’ health and wellness.
Not only does ASG value the importance of ergonomics and the health of your operators, they also deliver tools that feature the latest in smart manufacturing technology. With smart tools connected to your work instruction software, operators can automatically capture assembly data and guarantee the right actions are being performed.
So not only are these smart tools ergonomic to the movement of the operator, but they also seamlessly integrate with the production system.
“Customers appreciate the ergonomic benefit of the tools" confirms Robyn Green, "but they also take advantage of the features incorporated into the system; accurate and repeatable torque, torque data collection, and several levels of error-proofing.”
Ensuring that operators have access to ergonomic tools is a great first step to reducing repetitive motion and hyperextension injuries. But we should go further than that. Manufacturing safety has to be incorporated into the company culture to have any lasting impact. Smart and safe practices need to be incorporated into the technology and the workforce.
It is imperative to ensure that your workforce has safety on their minds. Smart manufacturing technology like digital work instructions helps take your safety awareness to the next level, bridging the gap between technology and the workforce.
In addition to enabling you to distribute quality visual work instructions to your workforce and assisting you with your smart manufacturing needs, VKS also assists you as a safety tool.
With smart manufacturing technology like our work instruction software, visual safety guides are integrated into work instructions so that your employees always know how to do their job safely. Alerts and reminders prompt workers and operators to consider safety every time they perform a task.
Here are some suggestions from Emilie St-Denis on how you can use these 4 VKS features to reinforce your company’s safety culture.
If a large piece of machinery is not set up or calibrated properly, there is a significant chance that the machine could be damaged when used. And across the industry, people use work instructions to standardize these processes. Likewise, employees need a standard process to properly set up their tools and their bodies for the correct work movements.
How many of us have forgotten to lift with our legs and lifted with our back instead? I surely have, and I felt it the next day.
Use the Setup Step option when authoring guidebooks to explain to operators how to begin work correctly with the proper movements and tool setup. Prompt and guide your operators to properly maintain safety, mitigate machine breakdowns, and avoid injury every time they go to work with the use of visual interactive step-by-step guides. This method helps to reduce the risk of hyperextension or physical stress and is also a great reminder for the operators to be mindful of their health and safety.
It is also a good place to put the symbols of any chemicals or hazardous goods that might be used by the operator. Again, this creates greater awareness through helpful reminders. With VKS, any special or complex notes for certain chemicals and substances can be stored to the side and referenced when needed.
Alert notifications are an extremely useful tool when communicating health and safety in the manufacturing environment. Think of alert notifications as a friendly set of reminders that help workers pursue best practices while not detracting from their work.
While working, we can get stuck in one position for hours, often without realizing it. Once we’ve maintained a position of sitting, standing, or bending over for an extended period, we begin to feel the pain and discomfort, and this may last longer than we expect. But notifications can be inserted into a guidebook to remind operators to take a moment to stop, stretch, or give their eyes a quick break. Then they can then resume work with greater energy and exuberance.
Additionally, since these alert notifications can be added to published work instructions, they are a great way to easily communicate new safety tips, regulations, and any new information to your operators. If a process has changed or a new safety concern needs to be addressed, notify and remind your employees through well-timed alert notifications.
Acquiring feedback from your employees can be a daunting task. It requires that you and your operators stop working and discuss or separately record their thoughts and ideas for improvement. But with smart manufacturing technology, we can streamline this process and make it easier and more productive for everyone.
With data forms built into your work instructions, collect feedback from your operators while they are working. This way, operators can comment on issues or safety concerns at the moment they occur.
Do they find their environment safe? Is their setup comfortable? Do they have any concerns or suggestions regarding manufacturing safety topics? Forms are a great way to make sure that information is communicated and recorded. This provides a better opportunity to address issues quickly as opposed to waiting days or weeks to hear feedback or schedule a meeting.
Understanding the safety concerns of your employees is crucial since they are the ones physically working on the shop floor.
Has your company used VKS for health and safety in manufacturing? If so, please contact your VKS representative and tell us about it. We love to hear about how you use our product!
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