Safety in Manufacturing
Workplaces don’t have to be dangerous places, but they certainly can be. As an employer, one of your primary responsibilities is to ensure the health and safety of your employees and any visitors to your business under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) that was modified in 2008.
As one of the UK’s largest industry sectors, manufacturing presents many safety concerns that need to be addressed. Here you will find some statistics and a dozen or so areas that you should be aware of to keep everyone as safe as possible in the workplace.
Injuries and fatalities in the manufacturing sector
According to the Health and Safety Executive, over the last five years there was an average of over 3,100 reports of major injuries in the sector and a further 4,100 or so reports of injuries where employees were kept away from work for seven days, and often more.
In those five years, there was an average of 22 workers who died each year in workplace accidents. Additionally, many workers in the manufacturing sector suffer from ill health due to exposures from the workplace with an average of 33,000 each year suffering from illness that was caused or aggravated by a recent or current job.
There is a lot of responsibility on manufacturing workers to move a range of materials from raw, in-process and those ready to market. If workers handle materials inappropriately, they open themselves up to risks that include overexertion. This could lead to exhaustion as well as the risk of equipment failure as a result of complacency when procedures are not followed correctly. Lifting objects the right way to prevent the risk of strains and sprains is an essential part of employee training and care should be taken when using heavy equipment.
When equipment is being maintained it’s important to implement a lockout/tagout system to ensure power to any equipment is completely disconnected and is unable to be turned back on while an employee is working on it. This will help ensure the safety of any worker in a maintenance situation and protect them from any potential hazard or injury.
Tiredness can often be a contributory factor to workplace accidents, especially for employees working long shifts. They may be accustomed to these types of shift, but if they are fatigued they are more likely to make mistakes. You should ensure that they take regular breaks and that processes and procedures are in place to reduce the risk of fatigue.
As the phrase has it, “familiarity breeds contempt”. With regards to safety in the manufacturing industry, it may not be contempt as much as complacency. Operating heavy machinery such as forklifts and moving vehicles requires operating personnel to be attentive and motivated at all times. Complacency can lead to carelessness, mistakes and the potential for injuries or even fatalities. Risks can be alleviated by having clear safety measures in place and the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
On the factory floor, it’s crucial that all equipment is properly maintained — no cutting corners should be permitted. If equipment is poorly maintained there can be extreme dangers in the working environment, especially when machines malfunction. Employees should be vigilant and know what to look for in a malfunctioning machine. The relevant training should make them especially aware of warning signs such as leaks, vibrations, alarms, smoke or exposed wires.
Emergency response/first aid
Procedures need to be in place for emergency responses to accidents and injuries. All employees should be aware of what to do in emergency situations and dedicated and trained first aiders should always take the lead in terms of response to an incident. Procedures should be codified so everyone is clear about what to do. First aid kits are an essential part of any workplace’s safety measures, and the larger and more potentially hazardous the workplace is the more items will be needed.
Slips, trips and falls
Some dangers in the workplace don’t always seem obvious, but slips, trips and falls are an ever-present problem. Advice should always be given to employees about the potential for injury, and using posters to give that advice on prevention is a useful way to get information across. Common causes of falls include spillages, cables that can trip up employees, obstructions, flooring that can also be the cause of slipping and tripping, poor lighting and inappropriate footwear.
Fire hazards are always potentially dangerous to your workplace, so ensure you comply with fire safety codes. This includes removing anything that blocks doorways and walkways. If your business uses combustible materials, you should only use what you need for the job being done. All flammable material should be kept in a safe storage space when not being used and any combustible waste needs to be stored in metal containers and disposed of on a daily basis.
Protection against falling objects, which can cause serious injuries or even death, can be achieved by using nets, toe rails and toe boards so that items don’t fall. Heavy objects should always be put on lower shelves and boxes stacked straight up and down, away from work areas and aisles. When using a forklift for picking up objects, ensure there is no one near a place where an item could fall. You should also make sure any item being lifted is centred on the fork and be aware that the higher you raise the fork the more unstable it will become, leading to the possibility of it falling over.
Safety equipment and PPE
Employees should always wear the appropriate safety equipment necessary for the work they are doing and the workplace environment in which they are doing it. This type of equipment includes goggles, gloves and hard hats. PPE is particularly important when dealing with hazardous materials, such as chemicals, and for that a mask and hazmat suit are essential.
Good safety signage should be used in all areas of the workplace where there are potential hazards or simply as good practice. There are many signage options available to help keep your workforce healthy and safe.