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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Work-around in action

Work-around in action
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As if to illustrate Hummerdal's thesis, the next speaker gave a textbook example of work-as-imagined coming up against work-as-done, and how the workers themselves were well aware of the cause of their increased risk exposure.

Simon Albery, a PhD candidate with RMIT, said he had studied frontline staff at a carpet manufacturing plant. In one operation, the standard procedure called for carpet to be inserted into a plastic welding station for welding and later removal. However he noticed the operators were hand-trimming carpet using a Stanley knife before inserting it into the welding machine - an activity nowhere to be found in the standard operating procedure.

The use of the knife, he said, posed an acute risk of cuts and a chronic manual handling risk which could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as slowing down the operation of the plant. But why was this happening?

Talking to the operators revealed the factory had recently changed to use a new, recycled material. This was of highly variable size and would curl up and not fit properly into the welding machine. So the workers used the Stanley knife to cut the material to fit the machine.

"The workers had modified the procedure in the face of a change in their system," said Albery. "If they didn't trim, the weld would fail and quality and productivity would fall."

Variability had been introduced from another part of the system and the workers were dealing with it as best they could. Albery noted that this was a highly controlled manufacturing environment in which there should in theory be no gaps between work-as-imagined and work-as-done, but in every part of the operation he observed there was.

The best question to ask staff he found was this: "Is there anything that you have to put up with that could be better?"


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Simon Albery
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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