Dynamic Thinking: How to Strategically Improve Safety in Your Shop

In business, like all things, the only constant is change. How you adapt with that change can distinguish your business, helping to find success in the face of adversity and mitigate failure in times of crisis. COVID-19 caused a huge impact on manufacturing and inspired the creation of our Mastercam Dynamic Thinking series. During the pandemic, like any time of challenge, being creative, flexible, and strategic is critical to success. From the board room to the shop floor, dynamic thinking can stop you from falling into bad habits and losing your competitive edge. Shop safety is one area where you can apply dynamic thinking strategies to improve your outcomes during COVID-19 and beyond.

Before any production even begins, many manufacturers are using testing and symptom assessment to screen employees. Where COVID-19 testing is available, it can be a powerful tool in protecting employee health. If testing is not available, symptom assessment is a useful alternative. Employees are asked to check themselves every day before work for virus symptoms, including fever, coughing or shortness of breath, and persistent pain or pressure in the chest. Those who are asymptomatic are invited back to work, while those possibly infected or immunocompromised are asked to remain home. Testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies is still under discussion as it is not yet clear exactly how much protection that affords.

For the companies that are now beginning to welcome back the entirety of their staff or plan to soon, we recommend holding meetings to outline new safety protocols. These meetings should cover what the company plans to do to minimize possible exposure and spread of the virus, why these practices work, and even what will happen to employees found not complying. It’s easy to establish “the new normal” when no one has fallen into old habits yet. When new regulations and practices are explained fully as soon as employees return to work, the odds of noncompliance are reduced. Holding this kind of meeting will still be beneficial for the companies that have already returned to normal operations.

Machine shops will look different for a while as we continue to flatten the curve. All workspaces should be reorganized to allow for social distancing. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends people stay at least six feet away from each other to reduce the risk of spread. Many shops are using temporary additional shifts to further separate employees. By splitting work up among more shifts with fewer people, there is less risk to people and ongoing jobs if one member of a shift tests positive and coworkers need to take appropriate steps.

In the shop, this means mandate that some workstations will have to be shut down, fewer workers will be allowed on the floor, or barriers like plexiglass partitions will need to be installed. Common spaces like kitchens may have to be closed altogether. Now more than ever, it is important to have adequate sanitation supplies at multiple locations to disinfect tools, door handles, computer screens, and anything else people may be touching.

Employees should also be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Face masks, even homemade cloth masks, and disposable gloves reduce the spread of the virus when used correctly. Employers should take the time to explain how exactly to wear face masks and when to dispose gloves to prevent cross-contamination.

Although it is the responsibility of the employer to establish a safe workspace, it is the duty of everyone to be on the watch for noncompliance. John Noseworthy, CEO of the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said in a discussion with the Harvard Business Review, “If everyone in our system will speak up to forgetful colleagues, no matter their level or position, we can avoid most incidents of preventable harm.” When everyone works together and follows these new regulations, we can protect ourselves, our families, and beyond.

Dynamic Thinking

Steps to implement safety in your shop can be a part of your long-term strategies for manufacturing success. If you are a Mastercam user, run a machine shop, or are simply looking for more ideas to keep a shop running at peak safety and productivity, check out additional content in our Dynamic Thinking series. This series includes training opportunities, webinars, and more to help you find ways to adapt to changing conditions and expectations in manufacturing markets.