Ensuring its equipment is used both properly and safely is a challenge of great significance for many small and mid-sized equipment manufacturers today, and establishing a comprehensive safety program to address the issue is a task not easily accomplished.

Creating a lasting and effective safety program requires both time and effort, both of which can be scarce resources for many companies. However, successfully establishing one can help small and mid-sized equipment manufacturers experience a number of benefits, including fewer accidents and product recalls, increased safety and quality of products for consumers, as well as greater market access worldwide.

“There are two options for equipment manufacturers today,” said Tom Hoffman of Kuhn North America, an AEM member. Hoffman recently shared his insights with attendees at this year's Product Safety & Compliance Seminar, which annually offers safety professionals in the equipment manufacturing industry the latest in standards, regulations and industry best practices.

“One is taking a proactive approach to product safety and deciding to put a process in place for when something happens or to preempt things from happening,” said Hoffman. “The other is to wait until you have an incident, and then wonder why you don’t have a process in place. Now it’s a reaction, and no one wants to be in that situation.”

According to Hoffman, small or mid-sized equipment manufacturers should consider taking the following steps to establish both the organizational structure and governance necessary for a product safety and compliance program:

1.  Enlist the help of an outside consultant. – While there are costs associated with hiring a consultant, doing so can help ensure an organization gets its product safety program off the ground while avoiding missteps and added complexity along the way.

2. Assemble a safety team. – The key to putting the right safety team together is to include employees from a variety of backgrounds and who possess different skillsets. Product testing, maintenance and service, as well as standards and regulations, are among the specific organizational areas that need to be represented on every ag equipment manufacturer’s safety team.

3. Create a schedule. – There’s no overstating the importance of ensuring product safety issues are addressed in a timely manner. While trying to keep key stakeholders within an organization on the same page can be a tall order, the sooner everyone can be brought up to date on a safety review process, the easier it can be to make progress and move forward.

4. Conduct a physical hazard analysis during a product’s prototype phase. Inspect the product to make both an early and definitive determination as to whether or not it fits what’s acceptable from a safety standpoint.

5. Evaluate your progress during the production phase. – Every manufacturer knows issues with consistency can plague – or even derail – a product offering’s production. At times a company will need to revisit a machine during production because a hazard analysis is deemed necessary. However, it’s extremely important to remember any changes made must not adversely affect a product’s safety in the long run.

6. Determine how to handle end-of-life issues. – Because it’s impossible to predict how customers will use a piece of equipment, dealing with its lifespan can be quite difficult. That being said, a manufacturer must know exactly how to assess the safety of a machine throughout its lifecycle.

7. Communicate safety information effectively. – If a product safety issue arises, make sure machine tracking capabilities are in place and product support can help go out, locate equipment and address the issue in an efficient manner, and document the fact that appropriate steps were taken.

8. Be consistent with technical documentation. – This step can be easily overlooked, but the information being put out must be both accurate and consistent.

9. Attend safety seminars and learn from others in the industry. – There’s always new information to be learned, and it’s available from a variety of different sources. Investigate worthwhile opportunities and take advantage when it’s appropriate to do so.

10. Promote a culture of organizational safety. – If employees feel an issue related to safety needs to be discussed, it’s important they know where to go and who to talk to in order for it to be addressed quickly and decisively.

More Information

The 2019 Product Safety & Compliance Seminar and Product Liability Seminar will be held April 29-May 2 in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information on the Product Safety & Compliance and Product Liability seminars, contact Nathan Burton, AEM technical and safety services manager (nburton@aem.org, tel: 414-298-4126). 

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