What Does Prevention Through Design Really Mean? | Automation.com

What Does Prevention Through Design Really Mean?

What Does Prevention Through Design Really Mean?

By Rachel Bugaris, Business Development Manager, Panduit 

Safety is a shared responsibility. Designing to eliminate or avoid hazards altogether, before any exposure happens in the workplace, is the top priority in the hierarchy of controls, a key tool used by safety professionals. Prevention through Design (PtD) includes all efforts to identify hazards that workers are exposed to in facilities, processes and procedures, as well as tools, equipment, and products that come in contact with people in the workplace. The significance of PtD in manufacturing-oriented environments today can’t be understated, and furthermore the case for PtD in implementing solutions that design electrical safety into the process can easily be made.

Nearly every manufacturing process has its inherent risks, so it’s important to identify and minimize potential hazards from the very beginning.  This is particularly critical when evaluating electrical workplace safety. A mindset focused on PtD will help bring awareness to the importance of reducing exposure to hazards whenever possible.  As advances in technology occur and new products are released, new ways to mitigate old hazards will become viable.

Although it’s best to design for complete elimination of the hazard, sometimes that is not possible or practical.  It’s also becoming important to factor in human behavior when considering design options.  For example, if a process requires human input, the possibility for error, whether intentional or unintentional, exists. Designing for safety with human performance in mind is essential in the modern workplace.  This requires design engineers to work closely with and understand the needs of safety managers as well as the qualified electrical workers and maintenance personnel who use the products and equipment on a daily basis.

The ultimate goal is to make electrical equipment and infrastructure safe throughout the entire lifecycle of the facility, which necessitates designing for safety during normal plant operations as well as routine maintenance,  abnormal service and repair situations. It’s necessary for plant engineers and electrical systems integrators need to think about where the responsibility for safety is most acute and then specify and integrate the appropriate product technologies accordingly.

Within the arena of electrical safety in the workplace, product development by way of PtD is achieving safer workplaces while simultaneously increasing productivity. Examples of PtD being put into practice include permanently-mounted voltage indicators, voltage portals, data access ports, infrared (IR) windows for thermal inspection and new technology such as Absence of Voltage Testers (AVTs). Each of these products are examples of ways safety can be enhanced by designing in products that limit worker exposure to electrical hazards during routine maintenance and work activity.

What role can facility management play today?As new hazards are identified and as management helps advance the safety culture to make sure it continually improves, PtD should be top of mind for facility owners, maintenance staff, safety managers as well as equipment designers and engineers.

Every facility’s top priority should be to provide a safe workplace free from serious health hazards, ensuring that the workplace is fully in compliance with all applicable standards, rules and regulations in order to maintain safety in the manufacturing facility. By embracing and prioritizing safety, building a culture that encourages all employees to value safety, and ensuring that near misses are reported and mitigated, safety becomes an ongoing process that can be continuously advanced with new technology, techniques and practices.

When safety is addressed early in the design phase, it is more effective and can prove to be a more economical safety play in the long run for the facility. However, it’s never too late.  Designing for safety is the right thing to do and can improve the bottom line in the long run. When PtD is built into a company’s safety culture, maintenance activities become more efficient with less downtime, and everyone wins.

About the Author

 

Rachel Bugaris is a Business Development Manager at Panduit Corp, where her work focuses on electrical safety solutions for the workplace. She has a background in Research and Development, designing products ranging from absence of voltage testers to arc resistant equipment.  Rachel participates and has held leadership positions in several IEEE committees, including the Electrical Safety Committee, Petroleum and Chemical Industry Committee, Pulp & Paper Industry Committee, and standards working groups (IEEE C37.20.7, IEEE 1683, IEEE 1584, UL 1436). Rachel has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame. She is a member of IEEE and SWE. She has multiple patents and has written several technical papers on electrical safety topics.

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