Safety & Kaizen in Your Manufacturing Operation
Accidents happen in the workplace and it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that the workplace is
safe. Your company is responsible for putting systems and processes in place to ensure that
each employee is safe while at work. Following these systems may seem time-consuming and costly, but
this is a small price to pay for saving an employee from suffering due to injury or even death.
Here is a true story that easily could have been a nightmare:
One day, one of our milling/transfer machines was down and the operator was not able to get it to work
again. So,maintenance was called. It was our safety policy to have an employee stay at the machine while
anyone was working inside the machine. We had this policy to ensure that someone would be close by
and paying attention in case there was an issue.
The maintenance man was an experienced employee. He had trained many other employees in his
department. Since all employees that worked on this line were each assigned other duties during this
line shut-down, the responsibility of staying with the maintenance man while he worked on the machine
The maintenance man said “you don’t have to stay and babysit me, I know what I am doing and won’t have
an issue, I have worked on this machine hundreds of times”. Although I did have a myriad of other things to
do, I realized that I needed to “practice what I preach” and follow the safety practice that was established for
our employees. So, I told the maintenance man that I would stay with him until he was out of the machine.
He told me to suit myself but it was a waste of time. The maintenance man, tagged out the machine but left
the power on to work on it. He put the machine in maintenance mode and hit the start button. Nothing
happened, so he climbed down into the machine to investigate. He left the machine in maintenance mode
and quickly found the problem. Coolant had leaked into the limit switch so he decided to take off
the switch, remove the coolant and re-seal it.
Since he had pushed the start button after putting the machine in maintenance mode, the switch engaged
and the machine started. This was a milling machine and the milling teeth began to move toward him. The
teeth of the mill were aimed directly for his chest and he had no way to climb out before he would be cut in
half. I responded by quickly hitting the emergency stop button. Thankfully the machine came to a stop just
as the teeth touched his coveralls. I turned the switch to “manual” and slowly backed the mill away from
him. We then pulled him out of the machine and he was white from fear. He knew that he was alive
because someone had followed the safety rules.