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Module 4

Time, Productivity and Safety

Accidents are most likely to occur when normal operations are under extra pressure. During these times safety demands change and as a supervisor you need to be aware of these changes.

Managing increased pressures

All organisations go through periods of increased productivity that is beyond the normal everyday production schedule. These busy schedules often bring with it unpredictable events which put strain on normal operations. The organisation may need to hire new people to meet demands, which means there are numerous unexperienced people on the shop floor that require extra supervision. The organisation may run out of storage space which intrudes on regular work space, meaning there are more safety hazards that normally would not be there.

Balancing Work Pressures
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Unexpected events or unfamiliar schedules always increase the risk of safety incidents because they are situations you would not normally have to deal with. In turn safety can take a back seat because you are too busy focusing on the difficult situation before you. This is because safety issues are easily overlooked when faced with more immediate pressures, and if they are issues that have never been considered then there is no procedure to manage them.

Managing safety during periods of high productivity

Dealing with increased productivity means a number of safety issues become active, and these issues can often cascade out of control. As a supervisor of an area you are the person most familiar with its inner workings; who is involved, what equipment is used, what procedures are in place, etc. A such you are in the best position to make predictions on how heavy production schedules will impact safety.
The best ways to tackle safety issues which arise in these situations is to be prepared. It is better to be prepared for the worse and have nothing happen then to not be prepared at all and have the worst possible incident occur. These incidents can be complex, in that one small event may lead to a series of other events which ends in an injury or fatality. As a supervisor you have the best insight to see where these events are most likely to occur and do something about them.

Resilience

Sometimes incidents occur without warning and begin to interfere with normal work patterns before anything can be done to stop them. In these cases supervisors need to think about contingency plans and how normal operations can be restarted as soon as possible. Such plans streamline the emergency procedures needed to help workers who become injured, while at the same time help get production back to schedule sooner.

This is called system resilience; the ability of an organisation to bounce back from a safety incident. The system will bounce back much easier if there are plans in place that are familiar to you as a supervisor, that are easy to follow and teach, and are practiced. Although the situations may never occur, it is much better to be prepared than not, because if it does happen and you don't know how to proceed it will most definitely make the situation worse. In real cases around the world being unprepared has led to fatalities.  

The benefits of preplanning

Preplanning does not have to be difficult. In fact preplanning can take the form of weekly or daily reminders to workers to keep an eye on a particular issue, or to encourage workers to be responsible for their own safety and the safety of others around them. Of course more complex predictions will require more time to prepare for, but the payoff is that people are less likely to be injured and production is less likely to be stalled.

The best time to do this kind of planning is during times of slower production, when there is time to spare. It is not advised to overload an already hectic schedule with extra planning which take away precious mental resources that may be needed to monitor an already difficult situation.
Getting assistance

Supervisors often talk about skill diversification and getting workers to work on different tasks. The reasons for this are preparing for sick days where other skilled workers are absent, or when the task is under the pump and needs more people involved. During high productivity an often forgotten resource is workers from other departments, who may be able to be poached when their own work demands decline.

The other option, discussed in more detail in a later module, is to directly appeal to management for assistance.