Many manufacturing environments contain potential hazards that can be dangerous to employees’ safety and well-being. Employees who feel like they’re working in an unsafe environment are less likely to perform their jobs as efficiently as they otherwise might be able to, causing productivity to suffer.

As such, manufacturers have instituted various forms of workplace safety systems and protocols to safeguard their employees from harmful substances, dangerous machines, and other unwanted safety scenarios on the factory floor. Additionally, these safety systems enable manufacturers to adhere to safety standards outlined by regulatory bodies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

One of the safety tools employed in manufacturing environments is the safety cross. It’s a simple-to-implement and effective method involving all employees in the workplace safety and health program.

Let’s take a closer look at the safety cross and its role in encouraging, implementing, and maintaining workplace health practices.

What is a safety cross?

The safety cross is a version of a safety calendar that provides a daily update on the safety situation within a manufacturing facility. In most instances, the calendars display the number of days since the last safety incident occurred. This reminds workers to adhere to protocols to improve safety and lengthen the incident-free period.

The calendar takes on the form of a cross divided into several boxes. Each of these blocks represents the date and day of the current month. Employees use these boxes to catalog and track safety events when conducting their safety audits for a given day.

Manufacturing plants that effectively use the safety cross allow employees to consider near-miss safety events as well as critical incidents on the factory floor. This allows everyone to have a more comprehensive picture of the workplace health and safety situation.

As a visual safety management tool, the safety cross utilizes color codes to represent the situation on the floor on any given day. In many instances, manufacturers use red to denote days with near misses or hazardous events. On the other hand, the green boxes represent days without incident.

Safety crosses can be used differently by different manufacturers depending on their specific needs. In some manufacturing operations, safety cross calendars go beyond identifying accidents and near-misses. Instead, a date box is shaded green if workers find an issue and fix it or recommend it for further correction. Red boxes denote days in which employees noticed no incident.

Using a safety cross in this way enables a business to drive continuous safety management improvements.

How to use a safety cross in manufacturing

A safety cross ensures that manufacturers maintain a safe environment for their workers. Here’s how to implement one in your facility:

  1. Bring staff into the loop: Management and supervisors need to inform workers on the factory floor before hanging up the safety cross. They need to know what precisely the cross is and its benefits to their daily activities in the manufacturing environment.

  2. Identify and define safety standards: Safety managers should work with employees to determine and define safety standards. This helps to reduce the risk of safety incidents from happening in the first place.

  3. Create and prominently display the safety cross: Managers or supervisors can then create a safety cross and display it prominently on the factory floor. Typically safety crosses are kept close to the relevant area of operations so that it remains top of mind for workers. With the color coding and the unique shape, the safety cross catches everyone’s attention when they venture out onto the shop floor and makes it easy for supervisors to track progress with a quick glance.

  4. Hold daily stand-up meetings: Daily standup meetings allow managers, supervisors, and frontline employees to discuss the safety incidents, near-misses, and potential areas of concern. This provides more context to the colors populating the board, making it easier to determine the appropriate proactive preventive measures or corrective actions.

  5. Feed findings into safety program improvement: Managers should take recommendations from the stand-up meetings and induct them into the company’s safety management system. This prevents the reoccurrence of identified safety events and near-misses, promoting a culture of continuous improvement.

Benefits of using a safety cross on your shop floor

The safety cross provides several advantages as a workplace health and safety tool. These benefits include:

Raised employee awareness regarding safety events: The safety cross's prominent and visually striking nature catches workers’ attention when on the factory floor. As such, employees are always aware of the safety situation in their respective areas of work activity.

It supplements the overall workplace health and safety program: Manufacturers usually have an overarching workplace health and safety program to ensure that employees can comfortably operate in a safe environment.

A safety cross feeds into this program, highlighting hazardous incidents that occurred on the factory floor as well as the near-misses.

Continuous workplace safety improvement: When properly implemented, a safety cross further raises awareness of potential safety events apart from near-misses and accidents.

A proactive safety program draws from the potential safety events and reported near-misses to ensure that they don’t devolve into more serious workplace accidents.

Improved employee morale and loyalty: Employees are directly involved in the make-up of the safety cross. In other words, their observations and workplace experiences inform the inputs on the calendar.

When management draws from the safety cross to implement changes, employees notice that their input is valued in decision-making. As a result, there’s increased morale and loyalty within the ranks on the factory floor.

A note on digitizing safety crosses

Given the basic, straightforward nature of a safety cross, they tend to be quite easy to digitize and display on a digital dashboard. The benefit of digitizing a safety cross is that it enables manufacturers to aggregate data over a period of several months as opposed to just visualizing incidents for a single month. This makes it easy for supervisors to track progress over a much greater period of time and identify specific areas for continuous improvement.

If you’re interested in learning how Tulip can help you digitize your safety management practices, reach out to a member of our team today!

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