It can sometimes be complicated to work with operators, they have their own way to do things and it can be hard to change that. In this article, we have gathered five reasons why we think operators do not use the assistance tools provided to them and some awesome recommendations to help you change that !
Many plant operators have been in their positions for many years. They feel a certain amount of comfort and security when their daily routines are predictable and consistent. When a change is made, some operators resist doing a task a new way.
Workers will always resist the use of a new tool or a new technology if they are unsure of how to use it. This can be overcome through thorough training. Training must include set up, use, disassembly, and storage of the assistance tools. Training should be provided for all shifts and should be conducted by a person who is knowledgeable about the tool.
There is a misconception that assistance tools take too long to acquire, move to the site, set up, and operate. Some operators may believe that by the time they find the tool, take it to the job site, and set it up, they could have already completed the task manually and be finished. Assistance tools make the task more efficient and safer. No task should be undertaken to save time if it increases the risk of injury. Further, many of the time lost in initial set up, is gained back and then some as the assistance tool completes the task quicker and more efficiently.
Some operators will resist the use of assistance tools if it is suddenly mandated by management without the workers prior knowledge. This can be overcome by having the workers be part of the trial and demonstration of the assistance equipment on the front end before purchase. As the workers are the ones that will ultimately handle and operate the assistance tool, it is important that they are included in the evaluation of the tools and get the opportunity to handle them, operate them, and provide essential feedback. When the operators are included in the decision-making process, they are much more likely to utilize the assistance tools.
Assistance tools must be made readily available to workers. If the worker views the procedure for getting the tool as cumbersome, time consuming, confusing, etc., they are more likely to go back to the old procedure and perform the task manually, without use of the assistance tool. Factors that can contribute to this include proximity to where tool is stored, are their enough tools for all workers and all tasks that may need to be performed at the same time, can the worker access the tool easily. All workers should also be trained to leave the tool in the condition that they found it.
- There are many things that management/supervisory personnel can do to increase the likelihood of your operators using assistance tools. Make sure that your operators are involved in the beginning by establishing selection criteria.
You have to ask yourself: What feature sets are needed when choosing an assistance tool? How many different tasks/pieces of equipment can the assistance tool be applied to? What type of power supply would be best to power the assistance tool? Is there room to utilize an assistance tool for the chosen task/piece of equipment? Have ergonomics been considered?
Involving the operators from the outset substantially improves the probability of adoption of the assistance tool.
- Make sure to involve the operators when assistance tool suppliers come in to demonstrate the equipment. Encourage participation and questions. Trial the assistance tool on multiple pieces of equipment/multiple tasks, to make sure it will be able to be used broadly across the facility. Any new assistance tool should be evaluated for safety, efficiency, ease of use, and return on investment.
You have to ask yourself: What types of warranties are offered for the tool? What is the procedure for having the tool serviced? Does the tool require regular maintenance? If so, can this be done in house or does the tool need to be sent out? Are loaner tools available while a tool is being serviced? Is there a local distributor who can offer support and assistance?
-Assistance tools are quite often procured with safety in mind. Always evaluate a tool’s performance with safety in mind. Operations, Maintenance, and Safety departments should all be involved in the evaluation of assistance tools. All departments should also stay involved, continuing to monitor the use of the tools and modify procedures if necessary. Feedback from the operators should be encouraged.
You have to ask yourself:Does the tool help to mitigate risk of injury? Does the use of the tool create any additional risks of injury? Does the management team need to modify or create new, written procedures for the use of the assistance tool?
- Always consider frequency of use, number and types of tasks/pieces of equipment prior to procuring and using assistance tools. This evaluation will allow for management to determine how many tools are needed, where to store/keep the tools, and procedures for obtaining tools for use.
You have to ask yourself: How much do the tools weigh? How will they be transported from where they are stored to the job site? What is the procedure for a worker to obtain an assistance tool? Is there a sign out procedure? What happens when all the tools are signed out, but a worker needs an assistance tool? Can tools be borrowed/loaned out from department to department?
- Maintain contact with your tool supplier, even after the tools are purchased. Your supplier should be viewed as a resource. Workers will have questions about the tools after they are in use. It is good practice to have the supplier visit the site 3-4 times/year and be available to the teams for questions, comments, clarifications, etc. Assistance tools are regularly being re-designed, new types of tools become available all the time.
Assistance tools help plants work safely and efficiently. Make sure to be thorough with evaluation, selection, implementation, and continuous monitoring of your assistance tool programs.
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