Workplace Safety – A Matter of Dollars and Sense

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Jimmy SloopSenior Operations Engineer

Articles by Jimmy

Workplace safety is a crucial part of any successful business but especially so in the iron and steel industry, where the potential for serious or even fatal injuries is very real and always present. It speaks well for our industry that iron and steel production facilities are safer workplaces, statistically speaking, than many other physical labor-intensive jobs like logging, fishing, and construction.

The key to obtaining and/or maintaining a zero lost time accident safety program is to adopt a safety culture. Real on-the-job safety is more than just slogans and posters. When your team is trained, encouraged, and motivated toward a total commitment to your facility safety program, the phrase “Safety as a Culture” becomes a reality. It is up to everyone in the plant, shop, or office to be vigilant because safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Before a plant is purposefully built to maximize production, it must be purposefully designed to be safe. MIDREX® Plants are a good example of this safety-by-design concept and have enjoyed an excellent safety record since the first start-up in 1969. The MIDREX Direct Reduction Process holds to basic design guidelines that have proven time and time again to provide the highest level of personal safety for plant operators while producing the most tons of DRI:

  • Keep it simple
  • Provide safety interlocks
  • Develop procedures for safe operation
  • Train plant personnel to understand the process and follow all safety procedures

A deep, personal commitment to the safety program must be instilled in the workforce from top to bottom; then, zero lost time accidents becomes the reality, not just the goal. It is important to note that achieving zero lost time accidents does not depend on zero mistakes. In fact, it is the proper recording, studying, and management of the mistakes that help shape safety procedures into a program that can provide zero lost time performance year after year.

A lack of diligence and commitment to workplace safety is too costly to let happen. Direct costs for a major accident can quickly exceed seven figures, and the indirect costs can be much more over the long-term. Typically, the indirect costs of a major injury exceed the direct costs by a ratio of at least 4 to 1. Clearly, the best way forward for any industrial company is to invest in the ongoing improvement of an established safety program to provide the safest possible conditions for the workforce.

Safe operations contribute to the bottom line. Eliminating all risks is not possible but having a proper safety program can provide a safer, more prosperous, working environment. Excellence in health and safety performance leads to improved productivity and lower costs from less time spent dealing with worker injuries, accident investigations, and legal proceedings.

In the modern industrial environment, a company that does not actively invest in the ongoing improvement of its employee’ health and safety is putting the entire corporation at risk. The more effective a plant safety program is, the more time there is to focus on company profitability and other performance goals.