Thinking back over my last twenty years in manufacturing, I can recall several lessons and “wake up” calls that helped me mature in my personal attitude towards safety.

Yes, if you mentioned safety to me when I was twenty years old, I probably made a joke about getting injured on a keyboard or falling out of my chair.

Image by: Brandon Cooper

It was some time before I had to drive a coworker to the hospital to have fingers sewn back on his hand or another incident that I saw a coworker have his hand crushed between wood panels.

Coupled with some mistakes of my own, I realized that at any time on any given day, one second of lack of attention to our surroundings or details can change our own life or worse yet, injure someone else.

Lack of Preparation

Like most programmers, I have made thousands of code changes to control systems from simple to complex. Many of them have been during production when I am altering the operation of a machine.

None of these changes should ever be taken lightly. With the privilege to perform tasks that require a high level of skillset, there also comes great responsibility, including:

  • What are the effects of this code change on the machine?
  • What are any secondary effects this could have on the machine?
  • Are persons in the area that could be affected?
  • If the machine shuts down, what kind of upset condition(s) will this create?

It is imperative that we ask ourselves these kinds of questions before making changes to operating systems. It is not only up to us to evaluate these questions, but to also discuss these considerations with other team members as well as the operations personnel requesting the changes.

Complacency with the details or lack of preparation can set any of us up for a safety incident.

Lack of Security

Complacency can also be looked at from another angle. While this article is not about OT security, there is a grand liability around having control systems left with unrestricted access, including:

  • Having programming terminals that are online with control systems left open to anyone walking by is a dangerous habit. Anyone in the area can make a couple of wrong clicks and shut down equipment or worse, cause a dangerous upset condition to others.
  • Don’t just stop with not leaving systems logged in. If all your programming terminals have Password1 or something simple as the password, and everyone at your facility knows it or it is written all over the desk around the programming terminal, it is just a matter of time before unwanted things happen to your systems.
  • Wifi is a great tool to use to be able to locate yourself out at a machine to make programming changes. It is a liability if it is not password restricted and it should not be left connected to an OT network if you are not actively using it. Disconnect the wifi router any time it is not in use.

Conclusion

Every one of us need to evaluate ourselves from time to time when it comes to our attitude, our procedures and our practices towards safety.

Doing the right things every day – day in and day out ensures that we go home safely as well as those we work with.

And not just an evaluation time to time, but a lifestyle, that never reacts before a thorough evaluation of the next task at hand. My best to you in evaluating your safety mindset.

Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer

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