As companies and workers grow their awareness regarding industrial safety standards, new regulations are implemented to protect industry collaborators. As an example, OHSAS 18001, a standard for occupational health and safety, will now be substituted by the new ISO 45001, which Juan Vargas, Director General of Guantes Vargas, says is bound to change safety policies across several industrial sectors, including automotive. “This is the first truly global standard for occupational health and safety management systems. It will play a major role in protecting the life and well-being of workers,” says Vargas.
The cost of treating work-related injuries and diseases has led governments to raise the bar regarding occupational safety standards to prevent these issues. One of the main differences between OHSAS 18001 and its successor is that a company will be responsible for managing the safety of workers, similar to the newly created NOM-045 related to psychological well-being in the workplace. This change will empower workers to sue their employers if the company’s negligence results in a work-related injury, disease or death, which pushes companies to raise safety standards and equip workers with high-quality safety equipment. “If companies do not provide the proper equipment to workers and they are injured or suffer a chronic disease as a consequence, the company is liable,” says Vargas.
ISO 45001 will force companies to provide Mexican workers with the same safety equipment used in countries with stricter industrial safety regulations, just as quality management systems like ISO and IATF ensure automotive companies have the same product quality at all their plants. However, each company will have specific needs in terms of industrial safety equipment that will depend on the manufacturing processes that they carry out.
In the automotive industry, in particular, there is the latent threat of fires, which can have catastrophic consequences for a company that might be less obvious than operational downtime and damage to company property, according to Luis González, Director General of Fire Service Plus México (FSPM). “An uncontrolled fire does not only destroy products and harm cash flow. It also skyrockets a company’s insurance premium and leads to environmental fines and collateral damages.”
FSPM is a supplier of firefighting equipment to OEMs, such as Mazda, BMW, Volkswagen and Irizar, as well as for Tier 1 suppliers like Rassini. “FSPM is in charge of the whole firefighting system at Volkswagen’s plant and we also supplied firefighting equipment to protect the paint booths at BMW’s new plant in San Luis Potosi,” says González. In Mexico, the company specializes in marketing the FireAde 2000 agent, which creates a firefighting foam that can extinguish everything from simple wood or paper fires to more complex reactions, including fuels, combustible metals, fats and electrical fires. The company has even designed firefighting robots to attack the fire exactly where it starts so sprinkler installations do not soak the entire facility and cause unnecessary damage. “Our robots are capable of detecting the flame from a pocket lighter and shooting firefighting agents at it from a distance of 50m,” González says. This level of precision ensures that only the area that is catching fire is sprayed with firefighting materials, thus reducing the risk of equipment damage.
ROOM FOR GROWTH
Despite the sophistication that the automotive industry demands, micro and SMEs also participate in the supply chain, provided they comply with standards. According to Laura Rodríguez, Founder and Director General of LR Soluciones Industriales, participation is a matter of tenacity, willingness and formality. “Many small companies do not want to take the risk and invest to comply with all that the industry demands. But doing so is the best strategy to become a competitive player,” she says.
By focusing on automotive companies, safety equipment supplier LR Soluciones Industriales has assured sustained growth and continuous improvement in its capabilities. “We cover other industries, but automotive is one of the most competitive and the most dynamic to learn from. After seven years of experience, we are consolidating as an automotive supplier,” Rodriguez says.
One of the key elements for small companies to grow in the industry is to focus on timely deliveries. “When choosing a supplier, you need someone who is as committed to you as you are to your customers,” Rodríguez adds. Ramping up operations while maintaining the same quality and customer service can also be a difficult challenge to overcome. “Growth in the Bajio has been very rapid. Our role as suppliers of protection and safety equipment has led to major growth for LR Soluciones Industriales as well. We need to provide our solutions as fast as possible,” she says.
According to INEGI, Guanajuato alone has seen a 26.9 percent increase in the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector between 2013 and 2019. In September 2013, over 193,000 people worked in manufacturing. By September 2019, that number had climbed to 245,000. LR Soluciones Industriales found that focusing on people has helped the company to maintain its standards. “If the industry grows, it gives us the opportunity to create more jobs, since we will require more people to maintain our fast-delivery policy,” she adds.