Why Manufacturers Should Prioritize Workplace Safety and Security
Manufacturers have several strategies at their disposal to protect their plants and their workers from physical and digital threats.
- By Eric Whitley
- Sep 11, 2023
Manufacturing remains the backbone of global economies. A facility's safety and security are not just about protection; they directly influence optimal productivity. Every disruption or threat, whether physical or digital, affects processes, personnel and equipment.
Physical intrusions can disrupt production lines and result in theft or damage. Cyberattacks compromise data and proprietary information, leading to potential losses and reputational damage. Unauthorized access, even if unintentional, can leak confidential designs or processes.
For manufacturers, the starting line in their defense strategy is understanding these threats and being proactive about mitigation. A proactive approach to plant safety and security helps prevent potential breaches, saving organizations money on damage control in the long run.
Here are several ways to protect manufacturing plants and their workers from physical and digital threats.
Conduct a Comprehensive Safety and Security Audit
Regular safety and security audits help manufacturers stay ahead of potential vulnerabilities, ensuring they don't become glaring loopholes. These audits, ideally conducted by external experts, provide a clear picture of the facility's current safety status and insights into potential vulnerabilities. Assets and personnel that are most vulnerable or valuable can be identified during such audits, guiding resource allocation for their protection.
In-house teams may sometimes overlook vulnerabilities due to familiarity with the system. Ideally, they should engage third-party security experts for unbiased evaluations. Their fresh eyes often catch vulnerabilities that internal teams might overlook.
When hiring external agencies, ensure they have a solid track record in the manufacturing sector, as domain expertise ensures a thorough evaluation. These audits, while an initial investment, can save substantial costs associated with potential breaches.
Integrate Security Systems for Enhanced Safety
A comprehensive security strategy includes digital and physical defense mechanisms. Access control systems, for instance, not only restrict entry but also maintain a log for potential investigations.
According to Statista, in 2022, the manufacturing sector experienced the highest proportion of cyberattacks among leading industries globally with 24.8 percent of all total cyberattacks.
Modern surveillance and alarm systems, especially those offering real-time feedback, act as continuous sentinels. Layered defense mechanisms—combining barriers like security personnel, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and biometric access—deter potential intruders. Connected worker technology is also rapidly proving its worth, offering real-time alerts and monitoring, which ensures rapid reaction to anomalies, further safeguarding the facility.
Like any other tech product, security devices are susceptible to vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals often exploit outdated software. Ensure that every device, whether it's a surveillance camera or access control system, is updated with the latest firmware.
Establish a regular schedule, perhaps quarterly, to check and update these devices. Assign a dedicated team or individual for this task to ensure that updates don't fall through the cracks.
Empower Employees Through Safety and Security Training
Even the most sophisticated security system can falter without adequately trained personnel. Regular workshops on safety protocols, mock drills and cybersecurity awareness sessions are essential.
With increasing connectivity, networked equipment becomes a potential entry point for cyberattacks. Regular cybersecurity training familiarizes staff with threats like phishing and ransomware. Technology training ensures that all employees can effectively utilize and respond to the system, maximizing its benefits.
The idea of having designated “champions” isn't new but is highly effective. These individuals are more thoroughly trained and act as the first point of contact for any safety or security concerns within their respective teams. They can help conduct internal reviews, disseminate information and ensure that protocols are being followed.
These champions can also provide feedback to management on ground realities, ensuring a two-way communication channel. Regularly rotate these roles so that more employees get an in-depth understanding of safety and security protocols.
Draft a Resilient Contingency Plan
Having a Plan B—and a viable one—is beyond crucial. Contingency plans should be detailed, address every potential threat and be easy to activate. These plans, combined with connected devices, can help predict and mitigate disruptions.
An effective reporting system is vital. In the wake of an incident, clear documentation aids in investigations and future prevention strategies. With the advent of connected worker technology, such documentation becomes more streamlined and accurate.
But a contingency plan is still only as good as its execution. Regular drills, at least bi-annually, ensure that all employees are familiar with their roles during emergencies. This rehearsal helps in identifying potential spatial bottlenecks or areas of confusion.
After each drill, conduct a feedback session to learn what went well and where improvements are needed. This iterative process ensures that when a real emergency strikes, the team can respond swiftly and efficiently.
In a world where threats—both digital and physical—are continually evolving, manufacturers must be agile, proactive and informed. By expanding upon and implementing the tips and advice laid out, they can fortify their defenses, ensuring the safety and security of their assets and personnel and maintaining optimal productivity.