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Supply Chain Safety

Supply Chain Safety

OSHA Safety Signs Best Practices Guides

The meaning of the phrase "supply chain safety" depends on the industry and product being discussed. In some cases "supply chain safety" means protecting the product from contamination as it moves through the supply chain.

In other cases it means protecting the supply chain from the introduction of counterfeit products. In a growing number of instances "supply chain safety" refers to a social obligation to ensure the safety of workers, and the communities surrounding production facilities, throughout the supply chain.

We'll take a look at a number of these supply chain safety issues so that you can become familiar with them and understand how they might apply to your business.

Protecting The Product

An excellent example of the need to protect a product as it is produced, and moves through the supply chain, is that of food. This has become critically important as the food supply has become more international. 

For example, the USFDA reports that 15% of the U.S. food supply, including 60% of the fruits and vegetables and 80% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported. How can a product as important as food, with a such a long supply chain, be kept safe?

In this case the primary need is to protect food from contamination. The basic supply chain safety principles include knowing who you are dealing with, and establishing accountable relationships with clear expectations, and on-going monitoring.

In the case of food, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 gives the FDA authority to place requirements on food importers and suppliers that will assure food supply chain safety. 

To accomplish this the FDA has set a goal for supply-chain transparency and they require food importers to "take sufficient steps to make sure that farmers are complying with U.S. standards, even if local governments don't require that level of compliance."

When they talk about "transparency, the FDA is talking about having relationships with suppliers that result in access to accurate information that flows both ways. 

This allows buyers to ensure that growers and food suppliers know the requirements they must meet, and distributors and retail stores can verify the safety of the food they sell. As we'll see in each type of supply chain safety, the key to success is relationships that result in two-way transparency.

Protecting The Brand and the Consumer

Supply chain safety also involves preventing counterfeit, diverted, or stolen products from entering the supply chain. For example:

In July 2013 a Missouri company had to forfeit $1.8 million in lamps imported from China because the lamps had counterfeit safety certification labels. In addition, they forfeited $43,786 in cost bonds on the shipment. 

The company had a wholly-own subsidiary in Hong Kong that was supplying the lamps which were made in China. But, the company had not inspected the lamps nor verified the authenticity of the certification labels. 

They had had not established a supply chain safety program that had two-way transparency, and as a result their supply chain put consumers at risk of injury, their brand has been damaged, and they suffered a major financial loss.

Protecting The Supply Chain

Chemical manufacturers make chemicals that are critical to the manufacture of other products. However, some of these chemicals are hazardous and they must be transported over long distances and delivered to possibly tens of thousands of customers. The ability to transport and handle hazardous materials safely is critical.

In this case a chemical manufacturer must not only assure their incoming supply chain safety, but they must also pay attention to the supply chain to their customers. For example, OSHA requires chemical manufacturers and importers to apply GHS labeling to containers, and supply Safety Data Sheets to their customers. 

But, more than that, chemical manufacturers must pay attention to logistics and transportation of their products. What are the hazards during transportation? What is the potential for leaks and how can leaks be prevented? What happens if a leak is detected?

In this case a close, transparent working relationship with the companies providing the transportation is important for supply chain safety.

Another aspect of protecting the supply chain is that of security. In some industries, such as computer chips, the product is physically small, but very valuable. Trailer loads of computer chip have frequently been hijacked. This is a different aspect of supply chain safety, that of keeping the product physically safe.

Protecting Workers and Communities

A growing area of supply chain safety involves ensuring the safety and health of workers throughout a supply chain. For example, this means that a company in the U.S. takes responsibility for ensuring their products, and the components used in their products, are made in factories that meet certain minimum standards. 

These include:

  • Not using child labor 
  • Having safe work practices and a safe work environment 
  • Not exposing surrounding communities to hazards 
  • Not damaging the environment having “fair” pay and work hours

This can be summarized as protecting human life and the environment, and ensuring the health and well-being of workers, customers, and the communities impacted by the production of a product wherever that might be in the world.

Insight into OSHA Sign Making

In many ways supply chain safety is an issue of risk management. ISO 31000 is being used by some organizations to help them manage all aspects of their supply chain safety. This is a family of international standards that provide principles and guidelines for risk management.

The Importance of Labels, Tags and Signs in Supply Chain Safety

Supply chain safety always requires clear and effective communication. In many cases this involves the use of labels, tags, and signs to communicate needed information at the point of need, in the appropriate language. 

A custom label printer is an important component of a supply chain safety program and allows you to make the signs, tags, and labels you need.

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