Manufacture a Safe Environment

Due to the nature of work, manufacturing industry employees have a high exposure to workplace hazards. In 2009, nearly five out of every 100 employees in the manufacturing sector were injured on the job, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the North American Industry Classification System, the manufacturing industry involves the mechanical, physical or chemical transformation of materials, substances or components into new products. The manipulation of such materials creates the high risk of workplace accidents. The environment is often demanding and fast paced—two factors that can contribute to workplace accidents.

Creating a safe work environment is a key component to keeping industrial employees protected from these hazards; and an essential part of effective safety management is identifying workplace hazards.

The first line of defense is to remove the hazards of the workplace. When this isn’t feasible, creating barriers between
the employees and the hazards can keep them safe. The next tool
available to protect employees is to routinely educate them about the hazards present and how to avoid injuries. Education should be a core part of the training environment in the workplace—no matter what the industry is. It can also be helpful to provide warning signs identifying where hazards exist.

Lifting

Materials handling is a critical function in the manufacturing process. Educate employees on proper lifting techniques and procedures, as heavy lifting can cause serious back injuries. Provide carts and dollies to help with transportation of heavy items across the site. Store heavy inventory on bottom shelves, and make sure shelving is secure. Break inventory into smaller sizes to make it more manageable. Be sure employees know their limit. People’s capabilities differ, and they should be encouraged to ask for help with heavy items.

Slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls are some of the most common injuries in most industrial settings, but by removing the hazards, employers can reduce the risks for fall injuries. If there are any spills, ensure they are cleaned up promptly and “Caution: Wet Floor” signs are displayed. Electrical and telephone cords should be routed around doorways and walkways to keep walking paths clear. Worn, torn or loose floor coverings should be repaired or replaced immediately. Floors should be swept or vacuumed daily. Proper footwear, shoes and boots with nonslip soles can reduce the risk of employee slip and fall accidents.

Hearing

High noise levels are common in the manufacturing world. Hearing conservation is an important part of employee training and workplace safety standards. The initiation of proper hearing conservation begins with a clear understanding of the noise present in the workplace by completing a noise and exposure evaluation. There is a simple test to determine if there may be a noise problem. If you have to raise your voice to be heard by others in your immediate area, there may be a noise problem. The only way to be sure noise is not a problem is to conduct noise surveys. For workers who are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels, each employee should have a hearing test when hired and at least one additional test every year to track potential hearing loss. In a workplace where excessive noise is a hazard, hearing protection equipment should be included in the list of required safety equipment. Areas of high noise should be clearly marked, and employees should be trained to apply their hearing protective equipment when entering those areas.

Chemical hazards

Chemicals used for cleaning, as solvents and in the manufacturing processes can expose employees to special hazards. The key to avoiding a chemical accident is to know how to properly use and dispose of these chemicals. Material safety data sheets (MSDS) are important components of workplace safety. MSDS are intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with chemical substances in a safe manner. They also include information about the materials, such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment and spill-handling procedures. Every employee should know what chemicals are present in the workplace and how to use MSDS.

Machine hazards

Heavy machinery can be intimidating. To most workers in the industry, however, these machines and tools are nonthreatening parts of their daily routines. Still, no one should ever take the power of heavy machinery for granted. All machinery should be equipped with safety guards, and proper onsite attire should be enforced. Gloves, work boots, safety goggles and hard hats should be worn at all times when working with machinery. Make sure workers do not wear loose clothing that could become tangled in moving parts. Routinely check and maintain machinery to ensure it is in proper working order and all safety devices are operational.

Negate hazards before they cause injury or illness to create a safer environment for employees.

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