By Dennis Sanacore
In today’s economic climate, many manufacturing and supply chain leaders are tightening budgets and re-evaluating plans to construct new facilities. Instead, leaders are increasingly pivoting their focus to maximizing productivity, efficiency, and uptime at their existing facilities. This is a strong strategy for times of economic uncertainty, especially because there are countless ways to improve facility management and operational efficiency without breaking the bank.
One strategy for increasing efficiency is not often discussed, and in my experience working with hundreds of facility leaders and managers over many years, this is a huge missed opportunity. I’m talking specifically about safety.
We’ve all heard the statistics around safety when it comes to facility operations. Here are just a few:
- 70% of all workplace accidents could have been avoided with proper safety precautions
- Every three days, someone is killed in a forklift-related accident
- $135 million in immediate costs are incurred due to forklift accidents annually
- According to the American Supply Association, 25% of all industrial accidents occur at the loading dock
But here’s the thing—while we often discuss safety as our “number one priority,” and a major aspect of our day-to-day operations, we rarely look at safety as the most critical key to maximizing our bottom line. We just don’t draw that specific correlation between our safety practices and our revenue.
This is flawed thinking, because nothing is more inextricably linked to our productivity, uptime (and profitability) than the safe or unsafe choices we make around working conditions, equipment, and team behavior. These choices affect everything.
Safety Checkpoints In Facilities
Most of us are intimately familiar with the standards and recommendations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The government entity exists to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, providing training, conducting outreach, and leading educational initiatives.
While some of us may at times lament the watchful eye of OSHA, the organization is ultimately there to serve our biggest-picture objective: safe, seamless, and well-oiled operational excellence. At my organization, OSHA guidance directly informs the strategies and solutions we put together for our clients. Specifically, we like to use OSHA’s eight key safety checkpoints for warehouses as a starting point for evaluating clients’ facility operations, productivity, and efficacy. These eight safety checkpoints are as follows:
- Is the warehouse well ventilated?
- Are employees driving forklifts slowly on docks and dock plates?
- Are employees securing dock plates and checking to see if the plate can safely support the load?
- Are employees keeping clear of dock edges and never backing up forklifts to the dock’s edge?
- Are visual warnings provided near dock edges?
- Are there dock ladders and stairs in place to prevent dock jumping?
- Does your loading dock area and other areas that employees could fall four feet or more, have drop off protection?
- Does the facility have lockout/tagout procedures at loading dock?
If you haven’t already explored your facility’s adherence to these safety checkpoints, consider enacting a plan to do so—either by assigning a team member to lead the charge, or by selecting an expert partner to conduct the evaluation for you. Once in place, this team member or partner could also work on complementary approaches to further increase uptime and efficiency at your current facilities, such as building and executing a more rigorously executed maintenance program, and researching more modern, innovative equipment solutions that may keep your operations running smoothly for even longer.
Everything we do should start and end with safety, and that includes our approach to financial outcomes and profitability. OSHA’s checkpoints will point you in the right direction for immediate changes that could be implemented to improve your operations, uptime, and perhaps most significantly, profit margins, at one or more of your existing facilities—all within a minimal timeframe and investment.
Sanacore is Vice President of National Accounts at Miner, the docks and doors special division of OnPoint Group. He has more than two decades of experience within the facility services, warehousing and logistics sector.