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Safety and Automation: Essential Partners for Success

Nov. 4, 2010
Functional Safety and Its Role in Effective Machine and Process Automation

What's my company's safety culture and what can I do about it? What's the effect of globalization on safety? How can technology help?

Those were the questions that set the overall theme of Rockwell Automation's Safety Automation Forum held this week in Orlando, in conjunction with the company's Automation Fair event.

Greg Anderson, author of Safety24/7 and CEO of Results in Learning, offered his thoughts about the foundation of a safety culture and said, based on the numerous sessions and surveys his company has conducted, there are three primary reasons that explain a worker's unwanted, but often-natural tolerance of risk,. "First, they might be unaware of the risk," he said. "Second, perhaps they've become complacent about danger, having done the same job over a long time and nothing's happened. And another reason is they react to thrill-seeking and approval."

"You have to realize that he has to go." Safety consultant Greg Anderson argued the need to get rid of even high-performing employees if they do not value safety.

Anderson explained that last point as the often-too-typical case in which the supervisor explains to an employee that a critical job must get done without fail. He returns at shift's end, finds the job complete and praises the worker for a job well-done. "The supervisor walks away not knowing that worker didn't use the correct PPE [personal protective equipment], didn't follow a number of policies and procedures, maybe didn't consider safety at all," Anderson argued. "The supervisor has, in effect, rewarded the employee for behavior his company didn't want."

Paw Rosenvard of Swedish wind turbine builder Vestas said his company installs a wind turbine every three hours these days. Despite that growing level of activity, he provided an interesting comparison with more typical industrial safety needs and older turbine systems. "There's not much safety," said Rosenvard. "Usually, there's nobody up there. But even if one wind turbine only needs maintenance once or twice a year, there's somebody doing service on a turbine every day." Another difference, said Rosenvard, is that they usually have to do maintenance while the turbine is running. So moving forward, Vestas has to respond to its customers and make sure the focus is on safety.

We tend to think of safety, in particular network safety, as a private industry concern. Frank Staples, National Security Agency, Systems and Networks Analysis Center, spoke to the need for more collaboration between an agency like his and those responsible for industrial control systems. "Safety systems that largely protect people, and security systems, which protect assets and systems, are intertwined," said Staples. "You can't have one without the other." A compromised system is unpredictable, he added, reminding us that most of the infrastructure is old, vulnerable and so intertwined that a cybersecurity event in one system could affect national security.

He exhorted the audience to raise the level of debate about cybersecurity in industrial control systems and prudently enhance it in a practical manner. "Evaluate how somebody could cause you pain," he said simply.

Safety Automation Forum presenters also stressed the importance of seeing safety as essential to operational performance. Anderson cautioned that it's critical to realize that high-performing employees with no interest in safety values are less valuable than the lower-performing employee who has a high regard for safety values. "You have to realize that he has to go," he stated. "With coaching and training, the low performers can become high performers with high values." That's an important part of making a safety culture work.

The exhibit hall at Automation Fair this week featured Rockwell Automation's focus on functional safety and the components and systems that help to enable it. To help improve productivity in motion or drive applications without reducing safety, manufacturers and machine builders should investigate Rockwell Automation safe-speed monitoring technology. The advanced safety functionality is designed for ease of integration, flexibility and performance. "The core technology suite of functions is common to the Guardmaster Minotaur MSR57P dedicated safe-speed monitoring relay, PowerFlex 750 AC drives and Kinetix  6200 and 6500 servo drives," said Mike Miller, Rockwell Automation functional safety expert. "That way, you don't have to worry about whether the operator does the right thing. The machine will always respond in the correct way."

Miller said that whether a legacy machine retrofit or new machine, safe-speed monitoring technology provides easier configuration across multiple platforms, helps reduce overall system cost, improves flexibility and increases productivity by allowing operators to perform maintenance and other tasks while a machine is in motion, yet operating safely.

Miller also pointed to the Rockwell Automation focus on process safety. "We're a leader in process safety," he said. "We can integrate what we would typically call machine safety solutions into a scalable process safety system on a platform based on GuardLogix, and much of which is based off our acquisition of ICS Triplex and the AADvance distributed, scaleable architecture. Our hardware controller and software environment allow users to specify the level of reliability and availability they need throughout their plant." Miller added that AADvance offers high flexibility, from small-quantity I/O to large systems, non-safety to SIL 3, and fail-safe to multiple fault-tolerant.

At the component level, Miller pointed to Rockwell Automation's expanded line of light curtain barriers, based on the acquisition of CEDES and its optoelectronic safety sensors, which include light curtains, one of the largest product segments of the machine safety market. "This is a good example of how we continually strive to make our products easier to use and minimize setup and mean time to repair because of issues such as misalignment. That's true of new installations as well as retrofit applications to upgrade machine safety capability."

Visit www.ab.com/safety for a complete look at the components and solutions that enable Rockwell Automation's integrated approach to machine and process safety.

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