Remember Froggers? Play Factory Frenzy... and meet "An Sen Man"!

OK, maybe American kiddies aren't snatching An Sen Man action figures off the shelves of Wal-Mart. But I'm fond of this superhero with the robotic mega-jaw, a steel hull of a chest and trailing a long, scarlett cape as he whirls into action much like the Tazmania Devil. (An Sen means "safety" in Japanese.)

And remember the video game, Froggers? That's the basic principle behind "Factory Frenzy," also created by Japan-based Omron which recently became America biggest maker of safety control systems for machinery installed in factories everywhere.

(Omron's CE-Safety.info is one of my favorite business-to-business websites in a long while; I just love the design, navigation, user interactivity and its overall playful nature - who says safety has to be boring??)

And while you're there, give your trigger finger a break from hustling An Sen Man through the Factory Frenzy (dodging conveyor belts, AGVs, etc.) and check out useful safety info such as North American and international safety standards, risk assessment and work equipment safety directives.

Omron bought the US-based Scientific Technologies Inc. (STI) last year. The acquisition brought with it such a sizable customer base of safety system users that Omron/STI is now America's largest maker of integrated safety systems for equipment of all kinds.

Safety, Technology and Innovation

And Omron has just announced that it's now selling its safety product line under the name STI, only now that acronoym stands for Safety, Technology and Innovation. They say it reflects a new, worldwide approach to safety in general, and specifically to the machines that put workers at risk.

I like this recent shift - not just by Omron but by equipment makers worldwide -  away from the presumption of "worker error" around safety issues, instead to a new focus on making the machines inherently safe, from the first draft of their design to the moment they're uncrated and installed on the factory floor.

One manufacturing blog recently wrote: "... recognising that human error and machine failure are unavoidable risks, organisations such as the ISO (International organisation of Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) have established international standards for risk management stipulating design measures to ensure that workers are kept safe from machinery... Compliance with these standards is now an pressing issue for manufacturers worldwide."

Hallelujah, the onus for safety is firmly on the shoulders of the makers of the equipment that can crush fingers and toes, damage eyes and other violations of workers' lives!!

Safety First at Hannover Fair

Omron's acquisition of Scientific Technologies Inc. happened a bit too close to the dates of the world's biggest industrial show, Hannover Fair 2007 (mid-April in Germany) for Omron and STI to show up there with one, merged booth. However, both were present (everyone who is anyone in the field of machine safety exhibits and/or attends Hannover!). I chatted with Peter Goebbels, Omron's product manager for safety systems, on the show floor. That's when I happened to notice he was wearing a tiny lapel pin depicting An Sen Man, and Goebbels introduced me to the caped safety crusader.

Which brings me back to the Caped Safety Crusader - long may he fly over us, keeping the workplace safe! Who knows - maybe the cartoon figure will catch on, and households across America will be rushing to get their very own An Sen Man the way they did with Furbys and Tickle-Me-Elmos!

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