Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Visual Safety at Borg-Warner Automotive

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Visual Safety at Borg-Warner Automotive

Article excerpt

This plant has learned how the Japanese concept of the Visual Workplace improves machine safety and overall worker protection.

Think of the concept "visual safety," and you probably envision a pair of protective eyeglasses. But at Borg-Warner Automotive Air/Fluid Systems Corp., in Dixon, Ill., a new safety system based on the "Visual Workplace" concept is helping to protect workers from all kinds of injury.

The idea of Visual Safety is simple: Use clear-cut, easy-to-follow visuals to remind workers to follow all safety procedures every time they use a machine. The results have been remarkable: Since Borg-Warner Automotive began its Visual Safety Program to ensure proper use of safety guards, there has not been a single injury caused by a missing protective shield.

"This process takes manufacturing concepts that we know and use, such as the visual workplace, and integrates them with safety," says plant manager Dan Paterra. "It's made a safe plant safer."

Eye-Opening Experience

Borg-Warner's Visual Safety program began about a year ago, after a worker's fingers were caught and injured in the moving mechanism of a semi-automated machine. In investigating the accident, the team found that a clear Plexiglas guard on the machine had been removed for maintenance and had not been replaced. The worker did not realize the safety guard was missing until the accident occurred.

To prevent similar accidents in the future, Paterra decided to apply the principles of the visual workplace, a concept derived from Japanese industrial management, to the Dixon plant's safety program. The visual workplace is based on strict standards of organization and orderliness, with a place for everything and everything in its place. Those standards are made visual through color-coded guides that clearly show where everything belongs. When the workplace is clean and well-organized, the result is a safer, more efficient plant.

In Borg-Warner Automotive's Dixon plant, some visual workplace principles were already in use. Yellow outlines on the floor and in storage areas indicate materials related to production, and blue designates material handling supplies. Trash is thrown in green containers, and rejects and suspect materials are coded red.

A Bigger Solution

The challenge was to expand the concept to create a Visual Safety program to simplify safe use of the semi-automated machines, which manufacture automotive valves. …

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