Optimation has been acquired by Re:Build Manufacturing, a company whose mission is to re-shore manufacturing back to the United States through technology and expertise. Their number one principle is caring for their team members and putting their safety before anything else. We concur with this statement, and it got us thinking about how American manufacturing has paved the way in occupational safety and health of their workers. It is critical to send every worker home the way they came to work.
Several months ago, articles were circulating about the construction work ongoing in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. There were reports that during construction, over 6,500 migrant workers had died from various work-related causes during the ten-year project. FIFA and the Qatari government have disputed this claim and after immense international pressure have since created a committee to investigate and standardize safety. Any death at work is unacceptable. In the U.S., this value was made into a law through the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. Yet, even before the Act, injury rates were improving in America. It is argued that as countries become wealthier, their values and standards improve. One can look back at the construction work on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In the 1930’s, it was expected that one fatality would occur for every $1 million dollars in cost. By that measure, the Golden Gate Bridge construction had an impressive safety performance of only 11 deaths for $35 million dollars in cost. In 2021, its odd to say, “only 11 workers died”, but during that time, this was a dramatic improvement. The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was the first project to use modern Fall Protection in the form of nets. It was also the first major surface construction project to require hard hats (miners had been doing this in prior years). Fast forward to the year 2005 when the Arthur Ravenal Jr Bridge opened to the public for the first time in Charleston, SC. One worker died during its 4-year construction period and the project injury rate was extremely low for the labor hours worked. New technologies in form work, fall prevention, and fall protection allowed workers to safely access work hundreds of feet in the air.
This shift towards improved occupational safety and health in the U.S. is important for many reasons. Today we find ourselves in a world that is growing smaller, but at the same time drifting further apart in some respects. Occupational safety and health are not important values shared by some countries. U.S. manufacturing that moved overseas in the last 50 years, has done so in places that continue to have terrible safety and health standards in 2021. While America and other like-minded countries have made progress in workplace safety, other countries have ignored or whitewashed their own hazardous conditions and have taken advantage of our progress in order to gain competitive advantage and exploit low cost labor.
The problem for these other countries is that:
- Advancement in safety technology has caught up to the competitive advantage of unsafe labor.
- Consumers are now acutely aware of business practices which endanger lives, harm the environment, or ignore commonly shared values and norms in the international community.
- And finally, the COVID-19 Pandemic highlighted vulnerabilities in shipping, transportation, and manufacturing of products overseas for medical, defense, and many other critical sectors.
We have manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. that have very low injury rates vs labor hours. This was accomplished through years of investment in safety and health programing and technologies which have paid off by lowering total operating and production costs overtime. New technologies such as artificial intelligence, collaborative robots, and drones have improved workplace safety and health, while creating new work opportunities in spaces such as production, maintenance, skilled trades, and engineering. These new technologies can identify and prevent hazards such as struck-by, caught in/between, and falls. They have also lowered exposure to ergonomic hazards which cause injuries cumulated over a career such as muscular/skeletal traumas. Manufacturing products overseas runs the risk of having a product manufactured in an unsafe facility. It also runs the risk of being held hostage during an event like the COVID-19 pandemic. Disruptions to the global supply chain can have devasting impacts of products sold in the U.S.
Our Corporate Safety Engineer, Jonathan A. Shaffer CSP, has helped several clients identify and work through challenging safety issues in the nuclear, manufacturing, shipyard, construction, and aerospace/defense industries. Jonathan also provides safety support and environmental health studies for military construction projects while serving part time as a commissioned Environmental Science and Industrial Hygiene Officer in the United States Army Reserve. Having a Safety Professional on staff who will support your project through work experience and technical knowledge improves the opportunity to get it done right, the first time, and without incident.
In addition to our Corporate Safety Engineer, we have a team of well trained and technically proficient Engineers and Skilled Trades personnel who proactively think and plan for safety. Our team provides feedback and details of how safety can be built into the services we provide. We start every project with a comprehensive health, safety and environment plan following the most current regulatory and consensus safety standards. Since we can provide safety services from concept to completion, there is no need to work with multiple entities for audits, assessments, and mitigations. We are one, cohesive team.
The first step in building safety into a project and thereby mitigating risk is the health, safety and environment (HSE) plan. Our HSE plan covers all aspects of regulatory requirements including human factors and ergonomics. Ideally the HSE plan is to be developed during the project’s concept. The HSE plan is a living document, which means it will be reviewed, managed, implemented and updated throughout the project lifecycle.
News of reshoring efforts for products such as pharmaceuticals, computer chips, and other critical items are circulating the media. We believe the U.S. will meet this new challenge and will be able to compete on the global scale with superior products, crafted and produced locally, in a safe and environmentally conscious way. The future is bright and safe for U.S. manufacturing.
Want to chat with us about how we can help you manufacture in the U.S. safely?