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The safety onus

The topic of safety has been bandied around a lot lately due to the economic crisis. Some companies are investing in safety systems to avoid the overhead of expensive occupational health and safety (OHS) law suits, while others aren’t factoring it into their lowering budgets, preferring to see it as an expensive ‘extra’.

Workers in the process control industry perform some awfully dangerous jobs — think of the conditions in a zinc smelting or mining plant, to name a couple. Sure, some of these jobs have been taken over by robots which can take the onus off plant managers to invest in better protection for their workers, but companies still need to fork out the cash to protect their workers properly, just like the rest of Australian industry.

You don’t see forklift operators in the construction industry working without a hard-hat, so why would you expect process technicians to work in a controlled plant without a safety shutdown system? Yes, a safety shutdown system is multitudes more expensive than a hard-hat, but this analogy is still apt. The point is, we should protect our workers.

And most safety systems today aren’t designed only to protect employees, but they also protect valuable processes — they work to avoid downtime and wasted materials in a business where production is the key, meaning we can protect our workers AND improve efficiency. There are various safety solutions on the market, and not all of them will cost you an arm and a leg. Some companies are offering customers the choice of either bolt-on or integrated safety systems, while others offer larger, back-end power protection units to protect against power surges and spikes that could damage the process.

With all these offerings available, plus the government’s 30 to 50 per cent take rebate for businesses — in some cases up until December 2009 — companies that haven’t yet invested in some sort of plant safety system need to look hard at their workers and their bottom line. Because we all know the bottom line is important, but why not invest now for better returns in the future, and help to protect our irreplaceable workers at the same time?

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