Whether a fabrication shop has been around for 100 years or just 100 days, safety needs to be at the forefront 24×7. Establishing the proper safety plan and protocols can not only keep
employees safe, but can also keep business moving.
As Fabricated Products Group (FPG) began its welding and fabricating services, it had to take the appropriate steps to ensure it was a safe environment that produced high-quality materials. FPG, located in Chicago, is a custom fabricator and machine job shop specializing in the designing, engineering and manufacturing of premium architectural systems and components.
Setting up shop
One of the first steps that needs to be taken when it comes to safety is understanding the flow of the shop. Where will the equipment be located? What is the size of the materials that will be used? How will the materials be modified? What will the shop be bringing in, and what will it be putting out?
It is important to put together a flow diagram of the workspace to help plan out the safest layout possible for employees. Also, develop an escape plan in case of an emergency. When the plan is laid out where the equipment will go, space needs to be left where employees can leave in a quick manner.
Highlight any exit doors where people could enter and exit the shop area. Identifying those exit points and putting fire extinguishers in those areas with clear signage is also a beneficial move for the safety of the facility. The height or stacking of materials used in the shop can block important signage at times, so it is important to also mark these areas so people are aware of their locations.
Any shop will require some manual handling as well as automated handling, whether it is with a forklift, a crane or
anything else that can hoist materials. Those materials will go through various machinery along the way, including a CNC machine, press brake, bandsaw or waterjet machine, among others.
In many cases, a new shop will buy all new equipment. That equipment should come from a manufacturer or dealer with all the necessary safety guards and operator’s manuals and instructions on how to safely operate that tool included. If the shop is purchasing used equipment, it may not be known if guards or any other safety devices have been left off. Doing a thorough investigation of the equipment before having employees use it is recommended.
A job safety analysis should also be performed. This analysis breaks down every job into steps and identifies the hazards associated with each step. Through this process, appropriate plans can be developed for each hazard through elimination, substitution, engineering and administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Aside from employees, safety measures also need to be determined for visitors. It needs to be established how guests will walk through the facility. It needs to be a clear path that doesn’t interfere with production of the shop, but also keeps them out of harm’s way. Marking a yellow line on the floor that visitors need to stay behind can help prevent them from getting too close to the machines.
When setting up safety protocols for a new shop, the bare minimum that the company should do is follow the basic safety standards that OSHA and the municipality the shop is located in
require. A shop should also look at what is considered “best in class” among its competitors and what best practices will exceed requirements to ensure employees remain safe.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, all flammable liquids must be stored away from exits. At FPG, all propane and any other chemicals are kept in a caged area. In order to be kept indoors, the amount of propane stored at an industrial facility must not exceed 300 lbs. to remain code compliant. Additional chemicals that are used to clean the equipment are flammable and must also be housed properly. Have a safety data sheet (SDS) binder available with all the chemicals the shop uses for employees to reference.
When establishing a SDS, any new shop should also refer to the Hazardous Communication Standard from OSHA, which is known throughout the industry as “the right to understand.” This educates employees on what the hazards are for specific chemicals. It teaches how to address a first aid response and what the proper PPE is for that chemical. For example, different types of gloves have different reactions when exposed to certain chemicals.
It also needs to be shared with employees how to handle a first aid incident or serious accident. And a protocol also needs to be created to determine where employees shelter in place due to inclement weather. If there is a fire or any other reason that the building needs to be evacuated both safely and efficiently, a plan needs to be created for that as well.
When bringing a new employee on board, a company needs to ensure they know their role and what they are doing. It doesn’t just end there. For example, if an employee is a welder, do not just train them on welding. Make sure they know how other machines operate even if they will not be using them. They need to know how to stay in the eyesight of the operator so they are not putting themselves in danger.
It is also crucial to understand how all the equipment works so that employees can look out for their co-workers and know what to watch for to better prevent injuries. Even the newest employee can identify a serious problem when trained correctly. Regardless of their experience level though, there is certain training that every employee must have.
Whether working at a new shop or a decades-old manufacturer, safety standards should always be high. Rushing work or cutting corners not only affects the quality of an employee’s work, but it also puts their health in jeopardy. Taking the time to prioritize safety and following the proper protocols and training techniques not only keeps employees and visitors safe, but it also helps a shop manufacture a high-quality product.