The Role of Safety in Workforce Engagement and Business Success in Manufacturing

posted on: Wednesday April 30, 2014

XtremelargeThis is such a critical time for the manufacturing industry. Between operational evolution and current events like reshoring, manufacturers are working hard to become the US powerhouse they once were. Amidst all the new technologies and newly-developing consumer demands, business owners are cautioned not to neglect one of the greatest differentiators between successful and unsuccessful businesses: employee happiness.

More specifically, this secret ingredient is an engaged workforce.

Gallup’s research shows that a company’s profitability, productivity, and client satisfaction are just a few of several performance outcomes that are closely linked with employee engagement. Furthermore, companies with engaged workforces rebounded the most quickly during the economic recovery.

A workforce that feels cared about, important, empowered, and supported is driven to move its company forward. These employees feel passionate about their work because they feel connected to their company. They are engaged in their jobs, and that is one of the most consistent qualities that employees of the most successful businesses share.

Shockingly, the latest data Gallup released on the topic shows that only 13% of employees are engaged, and a whopping 87% of workers are either not actively engaged or disengaged. That means that the vast majority of employees are either mentally checked out or actively weakening the quality of work produced at their companies.

In Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace Report, it outlined three crucial ways to improve employee engagement. They are: selecting the right people, identifying/developing employees’ strengths, and enhancing employees’ well being.

Industry Week responded to Gallup’s report with Pete Fehrenbach’s article, “Employee Engagement: the Jazzed Workforce.” Fehrenbach shares insights from a few successful manufacturers whose employee engagement is off the charts. He focuses on three major themes that surfaced, the most reinforced of which is employee safety.

Worker safety is a huge part of employee well being in Gallup’s report. A focus on improving employees’ lives and safety is a quintessential quality of the highest-performing managers polled.

Straight out of the gate, Fehrenbach quotes Alcoa’s CEO Klaus Kleinfeld and ArcelorMittal USA’s executive vice president of operations Andy Harshaw on the importance of safety. Referring to Alcoa, Fehrenbach writes, “the most meaningful way to build trust and ensure that employees understand they’re valued is to keep them healthy and out of harm’s way.” Furthermore, he quotes Kleinfeld, “That’s the best way to show we care – safety. It’s a core value, and we’re proud to be known for our focus on, and success in, employee safety.”

Further emphasizing safety’s role in employee engagement, he writes, “ArcelorMittal has focused on safety as a primary means of engaging its production workers and getting them to buy in to the company’s goals.”

While safety is not the only significant area influencing employee engagement, it is one of the most definable and measurable. Additionally, lack of safety in the manufacturing industry leads to disastrous consequences – endangering employees, destroying production, and huge financial losses to name a few. Improving workforce safety should include several initiatives.

1. Make your intention known. As Kleinfeld stated in the Industry Week article, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ It starts with respect, treating employees with dignity, ensuring that their ideas count, and including them as part of the team.” Make a big deal out of your improved safety initiative. Share your plan with your entire team, and keep everyone updated on your progress. Ensure to each employee that this is an effort that will remain a priority long-term.

2. Gather feedback. Who knows the dangers of a job better than the people doing that job every day? Ask for input on areas that need the most attention. Find out what employee concerns are. Inquire whether they have appropriate training. Ask key employees from each area to form a task force to help you regularly outline problems and solutions. Put them in charge of these matters that most affect them.

3. Assess the ergonomic needs of physical jobs. What can you redesign to cut down on bending, twisting, reaching, lifting carrying, pushing, pulling, and gripping? What are the most repetitive movements? Additionally, is visibility or an obstructed pathway a dangerous issue anywhere?

4. Provide the right equipment and tools to solve the problems. In some cases, ergonomic improvements are minor, but sometimes you have to do more. What are the biggest, heaviest objects your employees have to move? Can you automate that? How many people does it take to move an object? Is there equipment that allows one person to safely transport that object?

Equipment is a touchy subject for some people because it often requires a major investment. However, if it makes a job safer and easier, several things will happen. First, employees will know you care because you’re investing in them. Remember, employees who feel cared for will work harder for you. Second, if the equipment is eliminating risk of injury, savings can range from thousands to millions from spared medical, insurance, and worker’s comp costs. Third, these machines are designed to accelerate productivity. Output will increase along with quality, thereby increasing revenue.

Some equipment is more versatile than others, so you have opportunities to “shop smart.” For example, the power tug is gaining a lot of traction in the manufacturing industry because of its numerous applications, ease of use, and effect on productivity. This equipment is designed specifically for pushing and pulling jobs. Their load capabilities range by model, but they all attach to anything on wheels. One person – with no special training – can use one tug to move a single heavy object or multiple carts full of material (hooked together like train cars). Work is done quickly and safely when a power tug is used. These tugs are so practical that they are replacing lift trucks in facilities that choose to convert to forklift-free.

For jobs that don’t require pushing and pulling, do some research to see if there is a comparable piece of equipment that can be multi-purposed. However, if a job really needs a special machine to only do that one thing, don’t cheap out by trying to just make something work. Get the automated equipment that is specific to that task. In the long run, it is the smartest, safest decision. If you’re going to truly engage your employees with a safety initiative, be all in.

For information on the applications and specifications of power tugs, contact Load Mover Inc. This company is committed to building the safest, most durable power tugs on the market. Load Mover experts have worked with people in a variety of industries to assess how and if their equipment will benefit a business. For a genuine analysis or explanation of Load Mover tug’s capabilities, email, or call 952-767-1720.