Tag Archives: Work Safety


With all 50 states now in some phase of reopening, people all around the country are realizing what financial and health officials warned early on, back when the shutdown began in mid-March: Restarting the economy wouldn’t be as simple as flicking on a light switch. While business owners by and large understood that this would be the case, they’re nonetheless doubling their efforts to get operations as close to normal as quickly and as safely as possible in a bid to make up for lost time.

This is particularly the case among manufacturers, many of whom were sidelined by COVID-19 due to labor shortages caused by layoffs and a number of workers falling ill from the virus. As early as February, roughly 60% of manufacturing firms in the U.S. said they’d experienced disruptions as a result of the coronavirus, according to a poll done by Thomas Insights.

“Manufacturers were able to adjust certain processes to better cope with coronavirus-related disruptions.”

Understanding that even the best laid plans can turn sour due to forces beyond their control, manufacturers were able to adjust certain processes to better cope with coronavirus-related disruptions. For example, in instances where manufacturers couldn’t receive supplies from their main suppliers – due frequently to disruptions of their own – nearly 30% of manufacturers worked with alternative suppliers domestically, the Thomas survey revealed. Roughly the same share sought out overseas providers.

Employers taking precautions 

Yet as eager as manufacturers are to resume operations at 100% of their typical capacity, health officials have cautioned companies not to go too fast for fear of a second wave. Organizations by and large appear to be taking this advice to heart. Indeed, nearly 70% of employees polled by Gallup in a recent survey said their employer was adopting new or more frequent cleaning practices throughout the facility by wiping down high-touch surfaces and handles more frequently, making liberal use of disinfectants and urging workers to wash their hands. Close to 60% noted their employers were providing personal protective equipment (PPE), like face masks, face shields and disposable gloves. Around 55% said social distancing measures were being enforced, requiring workers to stay at least six feet away from one another at all times.

The National Association of Manufacturers has chimed in on what is needed to get America back to work with their American Renewal Action Plan, which makes recommendations on what the government can do to make the transition more seamless.

“Bringing our $22 trillion economy out of our ‘induced coma’ is a Herculean task for the ages,” NAM said in a press release. “This challenge will require our policymakers to innovate and act boldly. This crisis will need the whole of the nation to unite in common pursuit. And, as with other consequential moments in our history, it will be manufacturers who make the difference to lead us forward—to secure the future health, safety and prosperity of all Americans.”

How manufacturers can restart operations safely and effectively

NAM made a number of suggestions for the federal government to consider to help manufacturers ramp up production. They included:

Principles for successful reopening

Whether the government will implement these recommendations is for lawmakers to decide. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions from SafetyCulture for how manufacturers can reopen or ramp up production in a swift, yet cautious, manner:

Prioritize your people

If there are any takeaways from COVID-19, it’s the fact that individuals had very distinct opinions on the overall threat of the disease and the wisdom of the response. It’s important to pay heed to their feelings and to treat each individual on a case-by-case basis. If there are any deep-seated concerns that they have – perhaps about returning to work for fear of contracting the virus – get to the bottom of them and do so in an empathetic manner. In short, people should always come over process.

Understanding the Importance of Strategic Sourcing eBook

Consider a phased reopening

COVID-19 proved to truly be a one-of-a-kind pathogen; many aspects of it remain confusing and inconsistent. Similarly, there is no cookie-cutter solution to returning to work. Manufacturers may want to design a phased return-to-work schedule so if anything unexpected comes up, the staggered nature of the resumption of processes can account for unforeseen scenarios.

Adjust work spaces and stations

From health clubs to beauty salons to restaurants and more, just about every business has had to make some strategic adjustments to how equipment, chairs and tables need to be positioned to account for social distancing. Try to make some of the same shifts to assembly lines, conveyor belts and the like. Doing so not helps to increase productivity but can offer reassurance to employees who are concerned about transmission.

Rethink your pre-COVID supply chain management strategy

Due to the suddenness of the impact of the virus, many supply chain leaders have had to react to issues with sourcing, staffing, and production. Industry Today recommends five industry-agnostic principles for getting the supply chain back on track, including prioritizing safety throughout the supply chain, conducting fluid risk assessments, increasing supply chain visibility, diversifying geography (including production and sourcing), and staying focused on the future.

Maintain a sustainable, scalable spending structure

As the old saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, but for many organizations, the suddenness of the shutdown led to cash flow problems that may have been avoided with better planning and saving. Manufacturers must prioritize a resilient cost management system that can be sustained in times of uncertainty so expenses are addressed when faced with economic headwinds.

Some of the biggest adversities in life can wind up being turning points. There are a lot of lessons to be drawn from COVID-19, and at USC Consulting Group, we can help you apply them to your business and become better than ever. Our specialty is operational improvements and we can help your company realize greater efficiency by recognizing where the gaps exist and filling them in with the proper solutions.

Please contact us today to learn more how USC can assist either remotely or on-site.


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Being aware of safety principles does not materially improve one’s safety, but being in the right state of mind does. In other words, talking about safety, thinking about safety, having cards that remind us of safety are not effective unless they change our state of mind. Safe Start International has identified four common States of Mind that cause, or contribute to critical errors, namely: Rushing, Frustration, Fatigue, and Complacency. Creating a safety culture is a continuous battle with frequent states of mind common to human nature.  In today’s Covid19 concerned climate, two of these seem particularly relevant – rushing and frustration.


In the 1970’s, the Princeton Seminary conducted a study on the effects of time pressure and helpful behavior. In the experiment, seminary students were assigned to give a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan in an auditorium across campus.

In order to study the effects of being in a hurry on service, some students were told to hurry – that their audience was already waiting (a high hurry situation). Some students were told that they had enough time if they left right away (an intermediate hurry situation). Some students were told they had more than enough time before their presentation would start (low hurry).

As the students journeyed across campus, they each encountered an actor who was placed in an alleyway who appeared destitute, severely hurt, and clearly in need of assistance. The study revealed that only 10% of the students in the high hurry condition stopped to help the victim. The intermediate hurry students fared better at 45%, while the students in the low hurry condition helped the stranger 63% of the time.

The researchers concluded, “A person not in a hurry may stop and offer help to a person in distress. A person in a hurry is likely to keep going. Ironically, he is likely to keep going even if he is hurrying to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan, thus inadvertently confirming the point of the parable. . . Thus thinking about the Good Samaritan did not increase helping behavior, but being in a hurry decreased it.”

The Princeton Seminary study proved that rushing causes us to experience a phenomenon known as “narrowing the cognitive map.”  When we rush, we miss important details in our environment that cause us to make critical errors in judgement resulting in us not choosing the highest and best choices for ourselves or others. These errors in judgement make us more susceptible to injury and less aware of other people’s needs.

Einstein proved that time is relative, however time feels pretty constant for most of us.  What is not constant is how we each approach our use of time, how we react to time pressures, and the degree to which we allow time pressures to change the cognitive map of our surroundings.


Frustration is often the result of external stresses and anxieties and can result in distraction. It is frustrating watching our 401k values drop like a rock. Anxiety is felt in every bare shelved supermarket aisle. Worrying about job stability is stressful. As external stresses rise beware of frustration which also has the ability to narrow our cognitive map, making us less aware of our surroundings and more prone to injury and injuring others.

A few years ago I decided to do some home repairs during a time I was experiencing high frustration and significant levels of stress. While working with a ladder, I stepped backwards without looking and fell into a window well. My head hit cement and I crashed up against a glass window. Fortunately, I climbed out with only minor bruises and cuts, but I was shaken and knew I could not safely continue to do home repairs in my frustrated state of mind. My cognitive map was compromised, so I set down my tools for the day.

For some people, frustration can lead to anger, and in the business place, anger is almost never a good state of mind to lead from. Anger is a two edged sword that hurts the one who wields it as much or more than the one who is wounded by it. Anger damages culture one outburst at a time. Decisions made in anger are often viewed in hindsight as poor, uninformed, and hasty.

Safety Mindset

Being in the right state of mind is the foundation of safety and for service. And isn’t working safely just another form of service to ourselves, our loved ones, and those we work with?  When you find yourself rushing, frustrated, fatigued or complacent, please put your tools down.

For help building strong safety cultures and improving operational performance, turn to the management consulting experts at USC Consulting Group. Stay safe and keep serving.

This article was written by USC Management Consultant and Subject Matter Expert David Newman.


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Businesses navigating the global aerospace and defense sector reached new heights in 2018, generating record revenues and laying the foundation for sustained organizational success through fast and furious merger and acquisition activity, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers. That success is expected to continue over the next decade, as the industry expands apace to surpass the $8 trillion mark by 2028, per analysts for Boeing. However, aerospace and defense firms — particularly those within the manufacturing niche — face a number of serious challenges that require immediate attention and could derail industry-wide progress if left unaddressed.

Protectionist trade policies

President Donald Trump and his administration maintain aggressively protectionist trade policies and use tariffs to bolster U.S. companies across various verticals, including the metals and paper industries. This global economic strategy has produced mixed results, The New York Times reported. While retaliatory duties aimed at China and other high-volume international traders have helped businesses within some struggling domestic verticals — American steelmakers added thousands of jobs and reopened some production facilities after Trump tacked on a 25% tariff to foreign alloy, carbon, stainless, and tool imports, for instance — they have also indirectly damaged organizations in other sectors, including those in the aerospace and defense arena.

Back in March 2018, weeks before the Trump administration unveiled its aluminum and steel duties, aerospace analysts told Reuters that major aircraft manufacturers like Boeing would experience only slight increases in the cost of production — around 1% per plane, which translates to around $200,000 for a 737 passenger jet sold for $117 million. That said, these experts also warned that retaliatory duties from other countries could hurt Boeing’s sales, as the company was known for shipping around 70% of its finished planes overseas, including 20% to China. These outcomes ultimately materialized, ushering in a new, more insecure aerospace and defense sales landscape.

Multiple tariff-related controversies have shaken the industry in 2019, including a trade dispute between the U.S. and the European Union stemming from Boeing’s and Airbus’ more-than-decade-long dispute over domestic subsidies, according to Bloomberg. The competing aerospace giants have long accused each other of benefiting from illegal government subsidies and have now enlisted their respective nations in the fight, which many believe will result in rounds of retaliatory duties that could hurt aircraft manufacturers here and abroad, per Reuters. Spats of this kind are likely to continue so long as the U.S. and other nations engage in protectionist trade practices. Manufacturers must therefore prepare to adjust their workflows to meet challenging marketplace conditions and offset additional costs associated with near-constant trade conflict.

Consumer safety concerns

Lion Air Flight 610 departed from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta en route to Pangkal Pinang, the capital of an Indonesian island chain, around 6 a.m. Oct. 29, 2018. The plane, a Boeing 737 Max, plunged into the Java Sea minutes later, killing all 189 people aboard. A startlingly similar accident unfolded four months later, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, another 737 Max, crashed into a field a mere six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. All 157 crew members and passengers died. Aerospace investigators eventually traced the incidents to the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) software installed in the 737 Max, which was programmed to be overly aggressive and had a single point of failure.

This revelation sent shockwaves across the globe. Boeing withdrew the 737 Max from service but the damage was done. A good number of customers abandoned the brand, catalyzing to a 37% first-quarter sales dip, The Economist reported. And the aerospace firm lost more than $2.9 billion during the second quarter, per CNBC, suffering its largest single-quarter downslide in company history. That said, Boeing is not the only organization in the industry dealing with serious fallout linked to the 737 Max controversy. The aircraft once ranked among the most common commercial jets in use, meaning many airlines are still struggling to recompose their fleets following its marketplace exit. Additionally, multiple studies show that flyers’ hackles have been raised when it comes to plane safety, the Los Angeles Times reported. This puts pressure on aircraft manufacturers, many of which had embraced cost-cutting and shop floor streamlining in an effort to reduce time-to-market metrics, according to Bloomberg. Now, both consumers and customers demand that aerospace and defense firms navigating the commercial flight space refocus their efforts on ensuring aircrafts come off the line without major defects or mission-critical systems that are prone to failure.

A potential recession

In the years since the American economy rose from the ashes of the Great Recession, businesspeople, economists, policymakers, and others have speculated as to when another downturn might unfold. This talk has increased significantly as of late due to a number of worrying marketplace developments, beginning with the appearance of the “yield curve inversion.” This phenomenon, during which long-term interest rates generate fewer marketplace returns than short-term interest rates, has preceded every recession in U.S. history, NPR reported. Its sudden arrival has economists spooked — and so do falling retail sales and manufacturing production rates. These occurrences led Morgan Stanley to recently declare a “credible bear case” for a recession in the very near future, per CNBC. And a recession would, of course, have an immense impact on aerospace and defense manufacturers, according to research from S&P. Mass order cancelation and deferral and reduced financing availability are just a couple of the issues that could arise should the U.S. economy falter.

Together, these issues pose a huge problem for aerospace and defense manufacturing firms. These businesses must therefore search for operational improvements that could help them survive and even find success in the event that trade conflicts intensify, consumer safety concerns grow, or the economy takes an unfortunate turn. However, pinpointing and implementing such shop floor changes can be difficult to do in isolation. This is why many businesses embarking on production improvement initiatives partner with outside resources that can provide perspective and optimization expertise.

Here at USC Consulting Group, we have been helping companies across a variety of industries navigate internal and external upheaval for decades, leveraging proven techniques and tools that simplify change management and lay the foundation for sustainable organizational growth via operational improvement.


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The Trump administration recently published its 2019 budget proposal, which includes deep spending cuts totaling hundreds of billions of dollars. The budget request also calls for the elimination of several federal oversight bodies, including the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, according to Bloomberg. Created in 1990 as part of the Clean Air Act, the independent watchdog leverages $11 million in annual funding to investigate industrial incidents stemming from the mismanagement of caustic chemicals. While the elimination of the CSB seems, on the surface, an ideal development for industrial organizations, some industry leaders and workplace safety experts have expressed skepticism.

Modern manufacturers are deeply invested in protecting their employees, and support the work of bodies such as the CSB as they establish new workplace safety paradigms centered on innovative strategies and technology. Current CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland has received praise from industry leaders for streamlining the agency’s investigation workflows and collaborating more effectively with businesses. Despite these positive developments, however, the agency has been put on the chopping block as part of a wider push for government deregulation.

How would the abolition of the CSB impact firms developing new safety and reliability programs?


Addressing chemicals in the workplace
Chemical compounds are among the most serious safety hazards found within industrial work environments, according to the National Safety Council. Manufacturers and other businesses leverage hundreds of different substances in everyday workflows and produce significant amounts of equally dangerous chemical residue. Workers who encounter these materials can suffer serious or sometimes fatal injuries. In fact, approximately 268 American employees died in 2016 because of such exposure events, according to research from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Firms in the industrial space are well aware of the dangers that their workers face, which drives them to develop safety and reliability programs that prevent injuries.

Oversight bodies like OSHA and the CSB are heavily involved in these efforts, working with industry stakeholders to create enforceable policies that keep employees safe, even as they encounter risk while performing everyday duties. In 2016, the CSB conducted seven major investigations, including an inquiry into the 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Company plant in West, Texas, that killed 15 workers and injured more than 260 others. Through these investigations, the CSB developed best practice recommendations so industrial businesses do not repeat the errors of their less fortunate peers. OSHA adds another dimension by approaching the subject of chemical management from the position of the worker and formulating safety standards that keep employees safe. While businesses in the industrial space have traditionally butted heads with OSHA, they have had a productive relationship with the CSB, which many leaders credit for revolutionizing chemical handling practices here and abroad. Its investigations have resulted in the creation of new guidelines that not only keep workers safe but also reduce costs associated with employee injury.


Considering operations after CSB
If Congress embraces the Trump administration’s budget and authorizes the elimination of the CSB, then industrial organizations would have to seek out new external partners and refocus their efforts in order to ensure vigilance in an environment with little federal oversight. The critical insight the agency once provided would be gone, increasing the likelihood of catastrophic events caused by small operational lapses. The West fertilizer plant resulted in more than $230 million in damages to the local community. Without the CSB, another similar situation may develop.

USC Consulting Group can help chemical manufacturers with operating efficiency by developing effective safety and reliability programs for addressing chemical usage in the workplace. Furthermore, our consultants can establish asset performance management programs to ensure facilities are properly maintained with scheduled maintenance and well-planned outages, resulting in their employees staying safe from avoidable mishaps.

Is your organization considering how it might operate in a world without the U.S. Chemical Safety Board? Connect with USC Consulting Group today to learn more on how to improve safety in the workplace.