A blueprint for improving safety compliance using work orders

A blueprint for improving health, safety, and compliance using work orders

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Why risky work orders are risky business

The cost of a workplace injury is staggering.

The total cost of workplace injuries worldwide is $128 billion, according to a study by Colorado State University, while the average injury adds up to $30,000 in lost time. OSHA fines cost manufacturing companies more than $6 million in 2019.

Of course, these costs are nothing compared to what an individual could lose from a workplace accident.

“Health and safety, for a lot of manufacturing companies, is more important than profitability,” says Scott Decker, the Director of Customer Success at Fiix.

“That might seem obvious, but that wasn’t always the case.”

The issue of health and safety is especially important in maintenance where professionals experience over 23,000 injuries per 100,000 workers every year, according to a USA Today article. That’s more than almost any other profession in America. Work orders have a lot to do with reducing this number.

“A lot of companies have a better understanding of how much of an impact they can have on stopping something from happening, whether that’s a small injury or something truly awful, just with better work order processes,” says Scott.

What does a safe work order look like?

Proper training and safety infrastructure (like guards or light curtains) play a massive part in the health and safety of the maintenance team. But emphasizing health and safety processes in work orders is one of the best ways to make safety a habit.

There are three big ways to help technicians stay out of harm’s way through better work orders:

  1. Writing detailed task lists with safety instructions
  2. Adding PPE to the bill of materials
  3. Including pictures, diagrams, and repair histories

Writing maintenance task lists with safety instructions

Always bookend a work order task list with safety instructions, says Jason Afara, a former maintenance manager and a solutions engineer at Fiix.

“Your number-one task should be about safety, whether that’s lock-out tag-out procedures or a simple visual inspection of the area before starting,” says Jason.

The last task should also include safety instructions to make sure everyone coming into contact with a machine is safe.

Detailed and clear task lists are one of the surest ways to help technicians stay safe:

  • Be as specific as possible about different areas of the machine, activities, or instructions
  • Add expected times for each safety task on the work order
  • Add instructions so technicians know who to consult if they’re unsure of a task

Adding PPE to the bill of materials

Make sure technicians know what PPE to use for a job by including safety gear as part of the bill of materials on a work order. This also makes it easier to track these supplies so you don’t run out of them.

Add PPE as a mandatory field in the required parts section when creating work order templates. This will help requesters remember to add safety equipment to requests. It also allows you to review work orders and find ways to make safety more efficient. For example, if every work order requires earplugs, you might want to invest in a long-term solution for technicians.

Including pictures, diagrams, and repair histories on work orders

Access to information and safety are strongly related. One misidentified switch could lead to a preventable accident. Attaching photos and diagrams labelling the important parts of a machine can help technicians avoid dangerous mix-ups. Shadow an experienced technician when they complete a work order, take pictures of what they do, and add them to similar work orders.

You can also add completion notes from past work orders to a current one so technicians can see possible safety issues, near misses, or accidents. Having safety notes as a specific and mandatory field on work order completion notes will make sure these incidents are tracked and easy to pick out for technicians working on the next job.

Using work orders for health and safety compliance

Health and safety compliance is about creating a better maintenance culture with better habits. Passing audits and meeting regulations are just great side effects. The first step in any compliance plan is to figure out what you want and need to measure, says Scott.

“What gets measured gets managed,” says Scott.

“Having a clear idea of the information you need, how detailed it needs to be, and who is providing this information gives you a good framework for deciding how to get that information.”

Once you’ve defined your goals, it’s time to standardize your work orders so you can get the data you need, including:

  • Maintenance type: Designate health and safety work orders as its own maintenance type so you can spot them easier when assigning and prioritizing work orders or preparing for an audit.
  • Completion notes: Put specific categories in the completion notes field for accidents, safety risks, and observations.
  • Failure codes: Create special failure codes that highlight health and safety issues.
  • Follow-up procedures: Outline the follow-up procedures for a failed health and safety inspection so urgent problems get immediate attention.

Everything you just read in three sentences

  • The impact of poor health and safety processes can change a person’s life and have a long-lasting effect on the businesses.
  • There’s no such thing as too much information when it comes to health and safety in a work order so don’t skip the details in task lists, bills of materials, and completion notes.
  • Define what you want to know from your work orders and then make it easy for people filling out those work orders to provide that information.

Read part V: A five-step plan for getting your work order backlog under control →

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