Keeping Safe at Work: Everything Manufacturing Employers Need to Know 

Keeping Safe at Work: Everything Manufacturing Employers Need to Know 

Working in the manufacturing industry can come with some high-risk activities like soldering, welding, metal cutting, raw material assembling, and heavy lifting and rigging, which can lead to workplace accidents and even fatalities.

As a manufacturing employer, ensuring the safety of your employees should be a top priority. This is because a safe workplace not only protects workers from harm but also increases productivity and reduces legal liabilities. In this article, we’ll discuss fresh tips on how to keep your employees safe on the job.

 

7 Tips for a Safer Work Environment  

1. Create a customized safety program for employees

Every organization should have a written safety checklist that clearly outlines the procedures and practices that employees can follow to maintain a safe work environment. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an ideal safety program should cover topics such as emergency response, injury reporting, hazard identification, and training.²

You may need to review relevant manufacturing safety topics on OSHA’s sample program to determine which meets your organization’s safety needs.

Assess the work environment to identify any danger that your employees can be exposed to. Once the potential hazards have been identified, you can create a protocol on how to incorporate different manufacturing safety topics.

Create these safety checklists for employees, and encourage them to review them repeatedly. This way, the chances of accidents reduces significantly because employees already know how to go about their jobs with safety consciousness.

 

2. Incorporate the use of wearable technology for safety

As mandated by OSHA, metal workers must always have protective equipment (PPE) on hand, such as gloves, safety shoes, hard hats, respirators, and full-body suits. Similarly, they must be insulated from the electrode and ground with sturdy boots and gloves and protected from harmful radiation and fumes with goggles and hoods.

However, what if you can take this further by implementing wearable devices?

It’s not a new concept to equip employees with devices that warn them of inefficiencies and hazardous circumstances. Think of wearables as a fitness or activity tracker, which more than 21 percent of Americans already use.³

Wearables are small electronic devices worn on the body and typically include sensors, wireless connectivity, and software that allow for tracking and monitoring various metrics. These devices can monitor workers’ health and safety and alert them to hazards in their working environment.

For example, you could have employees wear smart helmets equipped with sensors to detect hazardous gases, noise levels, and impacts. Or smart glasses that can provide augmented reality (AR) overlays of potential hazards in the environment.

 

3. Implement ergonomic designs

Musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most common workplace-related injuries. These health issues are caused mainly by heavy-lifting or the performance of repetitive tasks. You can reduce the occurrence of these disorders by ensuring that the work environment is designed to optimize human performance and well-being.

In other words, encourage the design of workstations, tools, and equipment in a way that reduces physical strain and discomfort. Here are some ways you can achieve an ergonomic design:

• Conduct ergonomic assessments: consider hiring a certified ergonomist to identify potential hazards and risk factors contributing to workplace injuries or discomfort.

• Provide adjustable furniture and equipment: Workstations should accommodate different body sizes and postures.

• Promote good posture: Employees should be trained to maintain good posture while working. This includes ensuring they sit in a chair with their feet flat on the floor and their back straight.

• Reduce repetitive tasks: Repetitive tasks can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, so consider incorporating job sharing to address this situation.

• Improve lighting: Adequate lighting can reduce eye strain and improve work performance.

• Provide anti-fatigue mats: Anti-fatigue mats can help reduce foot and leg fatigue in employees standing for long periods.

 

4. Make the workspace spick and span

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, slips, trips, and falls are a leading cause of nonfatal occupational injuries, accounting for nearly 20 percent of all such incidents.⁴ To prevent injuries, it’s essential to maintain clear aisles and promptly clean up any spills.

Encourage your employees to be proactive about workplace safety and to bring attention to potential hazards. Designate specific bins for scrap, metal shavings, and flammable materials to minimize fire hazards and ensure proper disposal of hazardous waste.

 

5. Take advantage of AI-powered safety systems

The use of AI-powered systems has become a hot topic across various industries. Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing everything, including safety in the manufacturing environment. These systems can help identify potential hazards, predict and prevent accidents, and improve safety training and protocols.

Whether it’s automated material handling systems or virtual reality training, there are several ways you can take advantage of Al-powered systems for safety.

For example, automated material handling systems such as conveyors, lifts, robots, and other automated machines can be used to move materials safely and efficiently. Using robotics has been identified as a top beneficial tool that assists manufacturers in reducing unintended accidents while performing high-risk jobs.⁵

AI models can predict equipment failures by analyzing data on performance and maintenance history. These systems can alert workers or automatically shut down equipment to prevent accidents. The list is endless, and you can tap into the power of AI to take employees’ safety to the next level.

 

6. Provide Lockout/Tagout training for employees

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is a safety procedure that ensures equipment is shut off and unable to be restarted before maintenance or repair work is performed. According to OSHA, adherence to lockout/tagout has been estimated to prevent about 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries yearly.⁶

Employees must be provided with the technical know-how to comply with hazardous energy control procedures. It’s not enough to create a LOTO program—the training must follow OSHA standards. Ideally, it should cover aspects of the employer’s energy control program and the elements of the energy management procedure pertinent to the employee’s duties.

Even better, gamification can be introduced into the training program to simulate learning. This involves presenting employees with challenges that they must navigate to achieve specific learning outcomes. The challenges are designed to be interactive, visually appealing, and rewarding, often offering points, badges, or other forms of recognition to incentivize employee engagement and motivation.

 

7. Promote a culture of safety

Creating a safer workplace doesn’t stop at providing training programs. It requires constant communication and practice. Ideally, safety should be a shared responsibility among all employees. Achieving proper safety requires fostering a company culture where safety is a top priority, and every employee feels responsible and empowered to prioritize it.

Encourage open communication by fostering employees’ awareness of their rights to report safety hazards without fear of reprimand. When employers and their employees work together, costly penalties and legal suits could be avoided, such as the recent case in Ohio where a manufacturer faced 1.2 million USD in fines after a worker was seriously injured.⁷

 

STRENGTHEN YOUR WORKPLACE SAFETY PRACTICES WITH DAVIS COMPANIES.

Ensure a safe work environment with Davis companies. Our team of HR specialists offers extensive workplace safety solutions to help you fulfill your obligations. You can count on us for the knowledge, resources, and support you need to establish a secure work environment. Contact us today to learn how our expertise and resources can support your goals.

 

References

  1. Schlegel, Erich. “Work-Related Deaths Kill 150 Americans Per Day: Study.”  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/work-related-deaths_n_3231919. Published May 7, 2013. Accessed February 11, 2023.
  1. United States Department of Labor—OSHA. “Sample Program”. https://www.osha.gov/complianceassistance/sampleprograms. Accessed February 16, 2023.
  1. Statista. “Number of wearable device users in the U.S. 2014-2022”. https://www.statista.com/statistics/543070/number-of-wearable-users-in-the-us/. February 14, 2022. Accessed February 16, 2023.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/iif/home.htm. Accessed February 11, 2023.
  1. Dilmegani, Cem. “Top 13 Use Cases / Applications of AI in Manufacturing in 2023”. https://research.aimultiple.com/manufacturing-ai/. Published August 1, 2020. Updated December 27, 2022. Accessed February 16, 2023.
  1. OSHA Facts Sheet. “Lockout/Tagout”. https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/factsheet-lockout-tagout.pdf. Accessed February 16, 2023.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor. “Ohio manufacturer faces $1.2M in penalties after 7th worker in 5 years suffers severe injuries when caught in machine employer failed to lock out.” https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osha/osha20221027. Accessed February 11, 2023.

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