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Most Common Facility Issues Related to Risk Management

The next time you walk into your manufacturing plant, consider looking at it through a different lens

Not many plant execs or managers carve out sufficient time from their workday to focus on plant safety. They’re usually too busy dealing with production challenges, quality issues and hundreds of other time-consuming details. Their vision becomes myopic, which can lead to the forest for the trees syndrome, or the inability to spot small safety-related problems on the plant floor that they walk by every day. Yet, nothing is done, even though these issues can slow the plant down, shut it down or put it out of business.

Here are five areas that demand serious, ongoing attention by plant managers. Those who handle them correctly are more inclined to operate an efficient plant, offer a safe work environment, and reduce worker exposure to a variety of injuries.

  • Housekeeping

How are materials staged? How are pallets stacked? What happens when machine oil or grease drips on to the floor?

There is no excuse for poor housekeeping or even a cluttered plant floor. It typically creates chaos and can impact production issues and overall business operations. Not to mention worker injury due to trip hazards.


To make sure your housekeeping is in order, consider applying 5S Lean, a Japanese-structured system that promotes a clean and well-organized workplace.


  1. Sort: Identify what equipment, tools or supplies are needed to perform daily tasks. Keep only the essential items in each workspace or station. The goal is to remove everything that’s not frequently used.
  2. Set: Every product or part needs a designated home or space.  Consider using signage or even writing words on the plant floor, such as pallet jacks or trash, that identify areas for each item.
  3. Shine: Every employee needs to be responsible for returning items to their proper area and maintaining a clean and neat workspace.
  4. Standardize: To enforce accountability, create standards or company policies that promote the 5S Lean concept and describe employee responsibilities.
  5. Sustain: Management and supervisors must observe the same policies, demonstrating self-discipline, so these practices are continued over the long haul.
  • Flammable Liquids

How many open containers storing flammable liquids are placed on your plant floor? Are they all needed?

Some common chemicals with low flash points, such as toluene or methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), are stored in containers without lids or in intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) that are composed of plastic and encased by a metal skeleton. Understand how such containers can be breached. It doesn’t take much to burn plastic, which can then lead to an out-of-control fire.

Try limiting the IBCs to two per workstation. If you can’t use nonflammable liquids to perform the same job, create policies and specific handling and storage procedures for employees. Ensure the containers are also properly grounded. Likewise, bonding, the process that dissipates the charge, is also critical. All it takes is the right mixture of air – especially dry air during the winter months – vapor from the chemicals and an ignition source like sparks from a cutting torch to cause an explosion or fire.

  • Sprinkler System

Is your system adequately designed for the type of work you perform? Can it extinguish fires caused by the various chemicals you use?

Many manufacturers don’t test or even inspect their system. Worse yet, water valves can be accidentally shut off for months without anyone realizing it. Develop a written inspection and maintenance program. Test the system monthly.

  • High Rack Storage

How much material needs to be stored in your warehouse?

If your warehouse stores pallets stacked over 12 feet high, you’re increasing the fire load or fire capacity at your facility. The idea is to minimize your storage area by housing only what’s needed to perform business operations. Explore ways to reduce the fire load. For example, avoid storing any products or as many products for customers in your warehouse. By doing so, you can possibly save floor space, which is often considered valuable real estate.

  • Workflow

How are your products made? Is the overall process streamlined on your plant floor?


Consider employees who mill parts in one section of the shop, then move the parts from place to place for drilling, sanding and painting. The process is far from efficient.  It also increases worker exposure to accidents since employees are moving, pushing or pulling products from one end of your plant to another.


By implementing these five practices, manufacturers will be able to boost employee productivity and product quality. They will also reduce employee injuries and exposure for fires and other catastrophes that can shut your plant down - permanently.

Manufacturers can develop skills in Lean and 5S implementation quite inexpensively through programs offered by industry organizations like the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. FMA programs – both live conference programs and online webinars – provide a wealth of knowledge.  FMA also provides onsite training using industry experts who come to your shop to work on your specific challenges. By savings steps, you will also save time, labor costs and your business operations will become more efficient. Consider hiring an ergonomist to study your workflow or how employees accomplish tasks.

Brian Roberts is director of workers’ compensation and ergonomics at CNA. CNA is the 7th largest U.S. commercial insurer and specializes in business insurance programs for the metal fabrication industry, offering a wide range of services focusing on management accountability, cost drivers, and business solutions to improve your bottom-line. The program is endorsed by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl® (FMA), underwritten by CNA, and supported by Norman-Spencer Agency, Inc.

To learn how your company can benefit from an FMA-endorsed program call FMA at 800-394-4362, CNA at 800-262-6241 or Byron Spencer at 800-543-3248.

To learn more about safety considerations in facility management, contact Roberts at

The information, examples and suggestions presented in this material have been developed from sources believed to be reliable, but they should not be construed as legal or other professional advice. CNA accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this material and recommends the consultation with competent legal counsel and/or other professional advisors before applying this material in any particular factual situations. This material is for illustrative purposes and is not intended to constitute a contract. Please remember that only the relevant insurance policy can provide the actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions and exclusions for an insured. All products and services may not be available in all states and may be subject to change without notice. CNA is a registered trademark of CNA Financial Corporation. Copyright © 2013 CNA. All rights reserved.

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