A Case of Accident Prevention

Current Work place Situation:

This factory processes metal parts for automobiles. It employs eighty workers.

TJ, a veteran with twenty years experience, is the foreman for the final processing operations. TJ has been concerned about something for the past two or three years.

His work concerns finishing operation of the parts. It includes repairs and the final inspection. Operations depend on the hard work of the employees. Consequently, a large variety of tools are used. The nature of the work requires that tools are picked up, used, exchanged, etc., in a short period of time. A gas burner, drill, sand paper, impact wrench and pliers are all piled up on a small work table, with no differentiation made with respect to frequency of use. TJ’s concern is the high frequency of injuries which result from the use of these tools.

In a situation like this, a great deal of time is spent in looking for the tools which workers need and the work rhythm is uninterrupted. Workers have to rely on their instincts and memory as to where a tool is, and when they can’t find it, they get irritated. Such emotions make the work more dangerous and unsafe.

Finally, one day, the injury TJ had been worrying about happened.

The Accident Occurrence:

E is a 12 year veteran and one of TJ’s most important workers. It was almost leaving (closing) time, and E as usual was looking for a file by reaching behind him and feeling round for it on the table. It wasn’t in its usual place (he wasn’t looking, just feeling around with his hand) and he became irritated and started fiddling things around looking for the file. While doing this, the grinder fell off from its stand and on to the foot of RG who happened to be standing there. Somehow, the grinder started operating (the air hose was still attached) and RG was badly injured. It was because of this accident that the decision was taken to make reorganization improvements on the tool boxes and work table.

Third year employee L was chosen to head reorganization improvements. Why?

TJ thought long and hard over whom he should appoint head of the reorganization improvement operations. He finally decided on L a young worker in his third year of employment.

The longer one works at finishing operations, the more one relies on intuition, and workers have little interest in systematizing operating steps or reorganizing tools. On the contrary, they are proud of being able to do a good job by relying on their own instincts. L was still considered a beginner. While the more experienced workers relied on their intuition, L still had to choose tools consciously and rely on operation steps.

TJ felt that since L was still not used to work, it would be advantageous to carry out reorganization improvements through L. He was also favorably impressed with L’s efforts to improve and his devotion to his work.

When L learnt that he had been appointed, he felt burdened by his lack of experience and had little confidence in himself to do the job. He, too however, had been concerned by the fact that his co-workers depended on their own instincts and were not interested in reorganizing tools or standardizing finishing procedures. He took on the job, assured of TJ’s total support and cooperation.

To begin improvements, the most important point is to understand the real problem, then conceive improvements, and submit a summary of the causes of the loss. In order to do this, L had to ask for the opinions and experiences of his co-workers in the finishing process and those of other workers in other processes. L organized his findings as follows:

*The position of tools changes during work, after use, and when they are placed in their tool boxes.

*Tools are placed in a different place every time they are used, so the necessary tool is never there when needed. There is always a search.

*Cutting tools are mixed in with everything else, and they are dangerous when touched, so injuries occur constantly.

*Tools come into contact with each other and they too are damaged.

*Broken tools are frequently not repaired, just returned to the pile, and accidents occur when they are used again.

*There is increased danger of accidents occurring with grinders, and other tools which have moving parts.

*Fewer workers have an inherent habit of organizing tools after using them, performing maintenance procedures before work, or doing preparation.

After identification of the problem L with the approval of TJ has designed a suitable plan allocating places for different tools. Before implementation SI has discussed to other senior workers and sought their consensus. Thus the plan has helped to reduce the accident occurrence by 9% and increase productivity by 14%.

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