Workplace safety is not the most exciting topic for many plant workers, but it is arguably the most important. No employer or employee want to experience a serious injury or even death. We should all be thankful for those who make it their mission to promote workplace safety.
In our industry, the focus of shop floor safety often focuses on mishandling glass, the consequences of which can include punctures, crush and strain injuries, severe cuts, amputations and even death. Observing proper glass handling techniques is a major aspect of safety in any workplace where large volumes of glass are handled daily—from glass fabrication facilities to fenestration manufacturing plants. Fortunately, through the work of the Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance, the Do’s and Don’ts of Glass Safety Task Group (IGMA TM-5000) is developing a comprehensive safety manual on glass handling, slated for release later this year. It is intended to provide a voluntary framework for a manufacturing operation to reference and adapt as the basis for a specific program geared to the unique requirements of its facility.
The manual sets forth examples and suggestions for in-plant safety control measures, which manufacturers are encouraged to review and modify as needed for use in their own plants. It will include photos and graphics, an operational process flow chart and it will address personal protective equipment appropriate for each operation, including how to use it properly.
Milestones of the suggested process are:
- Risk assessment process or identifying risks and prioritizing efforts to minimize them. Priority for controls is evaluated by assessing the likelihood of occurrence and the severity of the potential results. A probable risk of an event that poses imminent danger would be a higher priority for mitigation planning than one that poses an extremely remote risk with minor potential impact.
- Determine the appropriate control measures for each identified risk.
- Develop company policies and detailed procedures for safe work practices, hazard reporting and preventive maintenance to provide process uniformity among individual operators and work shifts (Suggested forms and lists of items to consider are provided.)
- Assign organizational responsibilities and implement the control measures.
- Conduct training and communication programs such as printed guidelines and posters tailored to each department. The manual offers numerous proposed “Do’s and Don’ts” for safe glass handling, glass rack configuration and handling, housekeeping and walkway safety, visitor protection, emergency exits, first aid provisions, robotics management and moving vehicles such as forklifts, as well as receiving and product movement within plant. It also addresses PPE for glass handling, tempering, cutting, seaming, washing, IG assembly and packing and shipping operations, as well as safety consideration for the steps typical of window manufacturing including staging, profile cutting, frame welding, glass cutting and assembly.
- Monitor effectiveness through periodic audits and provide feedback.
- Implement process improvements based on audit results and incident records.
It should not be assumed that the new guideline encompasses all acceptable procedures or that additional measures may not be required under certain circumstances. The manual suggests each manufacturer evaluate its own operation and determine safety control checks to provide a safe work environment.
While protecting the health and safety of workers in your plant is extremely important, it is just as important to protect visitors to your plant or your workers when they are outside of your facility through steps such as clearly identifying visitors, designating walkways, and providing and requiring proper safety equipment.
Such measures are one reason why in-plant glass manufacturing and window fabrication experience a relatively low injury and fatality rate compared to other industries (notably construction), according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statics and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This latest effort is intended to continually improve on that record, because even a single injury or fatality is one too many.