When B12 rhymes with safety and productivity – the case of Les Emballages Winpak Heat Seal Inc. plant.
Did you know that, on average, 822 work-related accidents in Quebec are linked to the absence of energy control, representing for each case an average of nearly 121 days with income replacement indemnity (CNESST, 2023)?
These statistics can be reduced with effective equipment lockout. This enables crews to carry out maintenance and repairs in complete safety, by preventing energies from being activated during operations. In addition to saving lives and avoiding accidents of all kinds, effective lockout also enables a machine to be brought back into production quickly, thus avoiding loss of productivity.
This is exactly what Winpak sought to explore during a pilot project in the production sector.
In compliance with Canadian and Quebec standards, all employees called upon to lockout equipment received a half-day classroom training, including both theoretical and practical aspects. This was then followed by a 6-week reinforcement program with the help of B12, which raised the level of knowledge from 70% to 90%.
Who is Winpak?
The milk you poured into your coffee this morning? Chances are, the lid to its bucket was produced by Winpak, a group of packaging companies operating more than a dozen plants in North America. Located in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec, Winpak is an integrated manufacturer of heat-sealable films and pre-cut lids, used primarily for the protection of perishables and beverages, and for applications in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors.
Winpak therefore called on Apprentx and its B12 application to set up a training and reinforcement program. The aim was to support the development of lockout skills to ensure that they complied with standards and were carried out efficiently.
Context and challenges
What is lockout?
Lockout of equipment is a complex procedure, governed by Canadian and Quebec standards, the multiple steps of which were developed over time following a number of accidents that highlighted various shortcomings in its application.
The underlying principle is that it must be impossible to operate equipment while it is being repaired, and that its operation represents a danger to the worker(s) repairing it. Every employer is therefore required to provide clear procedures for the appropriate lockout of every piece of equipment in the workplace, and to provide all the necessary tools and training for lockout.
For Winpak, the implementation of a training program designed for a wider audience of workers was an occasion to review the company's training strategy. The challenges are numerous:
- Workers need to understand the importance of procedure to ensure exemplary compliance with standards.
- The amount of information to be remembered is considerable.
- Opportunities to practice lockout in everyday tasks vary greatly from one worker to another.
As a result, there is a significant chance of forgetting the basics following classroom training, which could lead to errors, hesitation and slowing down of the lockout process. Ultimately, this would have a significant impact on plant productivity, as equipment would remain down for a longer period of time due to less efficient lockout.
Solutions for greater safety and productivity
The first step was to develop a half-day training course to teach the theoretical and practical concepts needed for effective lockout. A combination of theory, practice and validating comprehension using B12 was implemented using a blended approach. The training included a simulation using a test frame to fully understand the movement of different types of energies to be locked out. In addition, in-plant practice on actual equipment was incorporated to ensure the training was as close to reality as possible.
Following this basic training, a reinforcement program was offered to employees through the use of B12. The program contained nine reinforcement sessions, each consisting of five questions related to specific training topics. In addition, a practical activity is planned every three weeks to put the acquired knowledge into practice. In total, this program covers 40 questions across four areas of knowledge critical to lockout.
The program's efficiency is based on B12's methodology, which incorporates knowledge-building strategies such as the spacing effect, interleaving and the test effect. These strategies are designed to ensure optimal review of information, while taking into account the level of difficulty of the questions. Less accomplished questions are reiterated at specific intervals to adapt to the individual success rate of each participant, thus promoting better knowledge retention.
Finally, to assess participants' performance during practical activities, an observation grid consisting of seven key performance factors has been established. This makes it possible to objectively measure the skills acquired and provide constructive feedback to further improve employees' skills.
The reinforcement program helped improve participants' level of knowledge and confidence over the course of the various offered activities. For the first three activities, which were quizzes completed during class, we found that the level of knowledge at the beginning of the training was around 70%, rising to 90% by the end of the 6 weeks. Confidence levels also increased significantly over the course of the program.
The hands-on activities also allowed employees to rate their performance on the first in-plant lockouts they took part in, giving supervisors the opportunity to discuss areas for improvement with employees.
The detailed data per theme made it possible to identify subjects that were less well grasped, so that feedback could be given on these concepts during team meetings in the following weeks. Indeed, while topics such as material, energy, and procedure were all fairly well understood, work instructions were not yet fully mastered by the participants.
In addition, the lowest level of confidence was found with regard to the topic of energies, including identifying the types of energies present and their dangers for various pieces of equipment. Although very well passed, it is apparent that this subject raises more hesitation and lengthier answers, which can have a direct impact on the efficiency of lockout. Here, team meetings were also used to reinforce these notions.
The results speak for themselves: an increase in knowledge from 70% to 90% in six weeks, accompanied by a significant rise in employee confidence.
Furthermore, practical activities reinforced on-site skills and encouraged dialogue between supervisors and employees. The program has also identified areas, such as work instructions and energy identification, that require closer attention.
We are proud to say that the training and reinforcement program at Winpak Heat Seal Packaging was an outstanding success. We warmly thank our customer for its confidence in B12, which has improved the safety and productivity of its employees.
Safety and productivity go hand in hand, and together we can maintain high standards of workplace safety while providing a rewarding learning experience for employees.