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Busting the silos around safety

“In business and government everyone exists in silos," says Michael Taubitz. “Production, Safety, Administration, Quality, and all the others. They have their own industry groups, their own issues, etc. But when you are designing you have to do that as a well integrated whole. You have to bust the damned silos.”

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Taubitz, now retired, who spent 43 years at General Motors, most of it working as the company’s top safety standards executive, says that this is especially important when it comes to safety standards. The alternative can be dramatically rising operational costs.

For example, he adds, “GM used to spend 10’s of millions of dollars retrofitting brand new equipment because it didn’t meet designated standards.” That’s not litigation or compensation in terms of an incident. That’s just rebuilding something that wasn’t done right in the first place.

Traditionally safety has been a challenge for many companies for a number of reasons. First, it can be complicated. There are numerous standards that a manufacturer has to be aware of and they are all in a constant state of revision to account for new technologies. Then there is the globalization factor. Each major nation or economic block has its own standards body so a company with operations in the US, Canada, Europe and South America must keep track of all of them as it tries to navigate its own, internal operational standards.

Then there are the corporate cultural challenges. Says Taubitz, “Basic operations people don’t give two hoots about process, they care about results and standards are all about process.”

And finally, there are the misconceptions.

Many people assume—not unreasonably—that meeting international safety standards is costly. After all, any such program is bound to have significant cost associated with it. However, Paul Gruhn insists the assumption that safety slows down production and reduces productivity by diverting people from non-value added activities is patently false.

During the day, Gruhn is Training Manager at SIS vendor ICS Triplex, but in his spare time, he is a member of the ISA84 Committee that wrote the standard on safety systems, he’s an ISA Fellow, he developed the world’s first safety system modeling program, he developed and instructs ISA safety courses and he’s the primary author of the ISA book on the subject.

“There’s this assumption that safety costs money, but it’s not true. Such statements are a myth that should not be allowed to continue,” he says, insisting that meeting safety standards has significant benefits that actually improve production efficiency.

To support this claim he points to the introduction of the Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHCs) standard, 29 CFR 1910.119 regulation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA – the top US safety regulatory body) over a dozen years ago. “OSHA has reported that not only have the number of accidents gone down over 20 percent, but companies are reporting that their productivity is higher [as a result of doing PSM].”

Gruhn recommends Nancy Leveson’s book Safeware, System Safety and Computers which describes a “study conducted by a group that included the major engineering societies, involved employees of 29 industries and 60 product groups who had a combined exposure of over 50 billion hours. The final report confirmed the hypothesis that production increased as safety increased – a lesson still to be learned by many people today.”

Finally, Gruhn points to the experience of Houston-based ConocoPhillips. In 1997, Conoco put out an RFP for the construction of a refinery in Venezuela, including the required safety features. Managers at the winning contractor did not plan on implementing them, but once forced to comply, found that they’d had to do such a thorough job planning and organizing things that their productivity increased dramatically. In fact, they were able to complete the job at a lower cost than anticipated.

“As long as management believes that safety will cost them money, they won’t want to do the required tasks. However, once they realize that safety will save them money and improve their productivity, their attitudes and actions will change,” Gruhn contends.

Taubitz agrees, but also sees promise in the work being done to harmonize key practices within the manufacturing industry. In particular he is happy with the way lean manufacturing is coming together with both safety and environmental conservation principles.

Upcoming changes to ANSI B11 – a general machine tool safety standard which is currently undergoing one of those aforementioned revision cycles – includes references to a technical report, TR7, which offers guidance on integrating safety and lean manufacturing principles.

Taubitz believes there is “obvious synergy” between lean and safety.

“Lean standardizes work that was previously non-standard. Suffice it to say that foundation for continuous improvement is creating standardized working processes. Don’t just think of Safety, think of good design. Moreover, by building on decades of experience and providing proven methodologies up front, standards are in fact the enabler for designers to move faster and cheaper."

“I’m excited to see the toehold with the lean and safe and the bridge to green. Lean production and the elimination of waste are going to be the make it or break it factors for US industry.”

"Security is another silo that is coming closer and closer to safety," says Charlie Fialkowski, process safety manager at supplier Siemens Energy & Automation Inc., in Spring House, Pa.

“In 2004, when the ANSI/ISA 84 standard was released, it permitted an integrated safety and control solution as long as you could quantify the level of safety was being met and maintained. Now, five years later, there are increasing concerns about security and how that might impact an integrated solution particularly when these control systems are being connected to your your business network. This issue will have to be strongly considered when moving down the path of an integrated solution."

Standards to watch

ANSI B11 is at the top of Bruce Main’s list of standards manufacturers need to be familiar with. ANSI B11 is becoming parallel to ISO 12100 standard on safety of machinery and provides guidance on how to perform risk assessments, says Main, President of Ann Arbor -based Design Safety Engineering, a consultancy that specializes in helping companies perform risk assessments. Main, who wrote a book on risk assessments, has been involved in writing standards and, from time to time, testifies as an expert witness when a safety issue leads to litigation.

Under ANSI B11, every machine builder and end-user has to make sure a risk assessment is done, says Main. End-users and machine builders have to work together to make sure the assessment is done on a particular line, machine or production plan.

Another standard that is getting a lot of attention is ISO 13849-1 – which covers electronic controls and electronic control systems.

“That is a major topic of discussion,” he says. “Changes coming into effect in 2010 introduce performance levels as opposed to categories. The challenging part is how to demonstrate that you’ve achieved a performance level. That math gets pretty hairy and can be very challenging. To demonstrate that you’ve achieved a given level—that is not easy at all. Companies are trying to work through that right now.”

The packaging machine industry also has changes on the way. ANSI/PMMI B155.1, which is a risk assessment standard that provides a benchmark to identify hazards, assess risks, and reduce risks to an acceptable level over the life cycle of the packaging machinery, was published in 2006 and will begin revision later this year.  

Finally, changes to ISO 13849, which provides safety requirements and guidance on the principles for the design and integration of safety-related parts of control systems, including any software, will come into effect in Europe by 2010.

List of Safety Standards

ANSI / RIA 15.06, CAN / CSA Z434: Safety requirements for robots and robot systems

ANSI / RIA15.06, CAN / CSA Z434: Safety requirements for robots and robot systems

ANSI B11.2008: General safety requirements for machinery.

ANSI B11.19: Performance criteria for the design, construction, care and operation of safeguarding

ANSI B11.TR3: Risk Assessment and risk reduction – A guide to estimate, evaluate and reduce risks associated with machine tools.

ANSI B11.TR6: Safety control systems for machine tools

IEC 60204-1: Safety of electrical equipment

IEC 61326-3-1: EMC and functional machinery

IEC 61508: Functional Safety (basic standard)

IEC 61511: Standards for fire & gas systems

IEC 62061: Safety of machinery -- Functional safety of safety-related electrical, electric and programmable electronic control systems.

IEC61131-6: Safety for PLCs

IEC61496: Safety

IEC61800-5-2: Safety function for drives

ISO 12100-1 and -2: Safety of machinery – principles for design

ISO 13849-1, -2: Safety related parts of machinery (SRPCS)

ISO 14121: Safety of machinery – principles of risk assessment.

NFPA79 (2006): Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery

Additional Organizations and Links

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT)

European Norm (EN)

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)


International Society of Automation (ISA)

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI)

Robotics Industries Association (RIA)

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