Podcast: The state of industrial safety – How does your plant stack up?

Podcast: The state of industrial safety – How does your plant stack up?

June 14, 2024
In this episode of Great Question: A Manufacturing Podcast, Dave Blanchard and Traci Purdum talk about how to keep workers, your facility, and the surrounding community safe.

Dave Blanchard is editor in chief of EHS Today. During his tenure at Endeavor Business Media, Dave has led the editorial management of many of the company’s best-known brands. Additionally, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. Traci Purdum is editor in chief of Chemical Processing. Traci is an award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering manufacturing and management issues. Dave and Traci recently spoke with IndustryWeek editor in chief Robert Schoenberger about how worker safety is impacting the manufacturing industry.

Below is an excerpt from the podcast:

IW: Traci, we have some questions for you about the chemical industry specifically, but just in that sense of where companies are putting their priorities these days. Do you feel or have you heard from people in the chemical world about employees feeling unheard or feeling that their companies are being a little performative when they talk about safety being their lead priority?

TP: I think the chemical industry is a little bit different in terms of there's just a lot more hazards when you walk into a chemical facility. So it has to be top of mind. And for the most part, it comes from management down. So they do walk the walk, but obviously there's hazardous, you know, catastrophes that happen all the time. Obviously, we're not learning from those lessons from past incidents, so it's an ongoing battle to make sure that safety is top of mind to help the bottom line. And I think that people realize being safe and offering a safe workplace for their employees will benefit all around. But getting the message across, sometimes it's difficult, you know.

Operator training sometimes just falls back on the job training, and you've got operators that are training their new workers, and they don't know how to teach. They know how to be safe on their own, but they don't know how to express that to somebody else. So things that are natural to them that they understand, like “Oh, don't do that, because this will happen,” they don't express that to some of the new folks coming in. And so that's where you have your hazards. You know, things that can happen.

So I think that it's just a whole realm of making sure, as Dave mentioned, the psychological safety, being able to say something if you see something and not feel like you're going to be, you know, your career is not going to be impacted by you saying something. You need to have that psychological safety. You need to be able to feel comfortable where you're at and understand things. So I think there's a whole bunch of things happening all at once and we need to make sure that the perfect storm doesn't happen.

IW: That’s great. But moving on to the chemical world specifically, there's been a lot of talk recently, even some discussion of regulations and new legislation around chemical safety concerning worker safety and chemical facilities, vinyl chloride specifically after that train derailment last year in East Palestine, Ohio, there was discussion of possibly tightening regulations on that. Can you give us an overview on what you're seeing?

About the Author

Robert Schoenberger

Robert Schoenberger has been writing about manufacturing technology in one form or another since the late 1990s. He began his career in newspapers in South Texas and has worked for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland where he spent more than six years as the automotive reporter. In 2013, he launched Today's Motor Vehicles, a magazine focusing on design and manufacturing topics within the automotive and commercial truck worlds. He joined IndustryWeek in late 2021.

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