One of the most poignant issues of the manufacturing industry is the health and safety of employees. Minimizing risks and reducing the damages in the event of a crisis are of main concern to both companies and industry regulators. Technological developments in the manufacturing industry have made it easier for plants to handle safety concerns and provide their employees with a work environment in which they feel safe and that protects their health. Also, it has helped the industry better regulate itself in terms of health and safety, as precautionary options are more diverse now than they were decades ago.
The U.S. manufacturing industry is the world’s second largest manufacturer after China, and also a key component of the economy. In 2018, approximately 14.86 million were employed in the private sector manufacturing industry of the United States. Being a reliable sector, known for building the middle class after World War II, manufacturing needs to be in a constant state of improving itself and creating new and better pro-labor and safety policies. Hazards in the manufacturing industry are diverse – from injuries related to machinery and equipment to noise-related hazards – and can affect all workers, regardless of department.
The Importance of Health and Safety in Manufacturing
No one wants to get hurt at work. Accidents, hazards, injuries, or fatalities are events that no company wants happening to their employees, yet the truth is that accidents do happen, and the more prepared you are, the higher your chances of minimizing risks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues annual guides regarding the hazards employers can be exposed to, from hazardous materials to malfunctioning machinery or lack of proper equipment. Yet assuring the health and safety of manufacturing employees is doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of state authorities and legislators. In fact, the main operator when it comes to employee protection is the company they are working for.
Knowing how to keep workers safe and protected from hazard, but also how to minimize damage in case of an event should be of main concern to all manufacturing businesses. Having an emergency response plan means having greater control on a situation that – if not dealt with properly – can jeopardize your employees, and also affect your business continuity. Further, we are going to discuss the top 5 safety concerns for the manufacturing industry and how your business can take precautionary in order to successfully manage all hazardous situations.
Safety Concerns for the Manufacturing Industry
Although information about workers’ health and safety is available through a wide range of networks and channels – private and state-owned – companies need to develop their own programs, trainings, courses, and strategies. General information can only assist you in a general way. The drafting of an emergency plan for your manufacturing business needs to be done based on personalized metrics regarding your activity and employees. Therefore, knowing the top safety concerns for the manufacturing industry and how they translate in the activity of your plant is of utmost importance.
1. Outdated Safety Procedures and Trainings
Before taking any health and safety decisions and drafting any strategies, you need to make sure that your current procedures and trainings are up-to-date with both industry regulators but also with new developments in your plant’s activity. Everything from evacuation plans to courses on health and safety needs to be amended regularly as to keep up with new technologies and legislation. Whether you have a team in charge of safety and emergency situations or you have just assigned various responsibilities to your employees, all personnel need to have knowledge of all procedures. Don’t forget to gather feedback from them on how your procedures and trainings are being implemented.
2. Malfunctioning Machinery and Improperly used Equipment
Manufacturing safety concerns often involve the machinery and equipment used in the production process, especially when they have not been replaced or updated in a long time. For example, in the metal manufacturing sector, 4.5 million injuries are reported each year in the United States, most of which are related to unguarded machinery or handling various materials without proper equipment, such as gloves. Make sure that your employees know all procedures when it comes to handling machinery and materials used in the production process. Also, perform regular maintenance checks on every machine and equipment in your plant.
3. Repetitive Strain Injuries
When it comes to safety concerns and injuries in the manufacturing industry, most people think of immediate injuries or accidents that result in direct damages, but a lot of injuries occur over time. Repetitive strain injuries such as tendinitis, rotator cuff syndrome or carpal tunnel syndrome develop over longer periods of time, but they can have a severe impact of the life of your employees. These types of injuries can be prevented by training your employees on how to maintain a good posture, take breaks when needed, and other advice that you can get from a medical professional – tailored to the conditions of your factory.
4. The Lack of a Proper Emergency Communication Channel
Drafting an emergency response plan and safety strategies means also making provisions for how you will communicate in the event of a crisis. If your manufacturing plant does not use a comprehensive emergency alert software for broadcasting messages to its employees, the chances of a crisis impacting you harshly are very high. Make sure that the mass notification system you are using will allow you to monitor your messages in real-time, create templates, and request feedback from employees.
5. Blocked Emergency Exits
A manufacturing plant requires perfect design when it comes to floor arrangements and making sure that there isn’t anything blocking emergency exits. In the event of an emergency, all employees need to be able to safely evacuate the building or take shelter in designated places, without having to move various things from their way. Always instruct your workers to keep essential spaces unoccupied at all times. A crisis might occur at any time therefore temporary storing of items that blocks access ways or emergency exits might have catastrophic outcomes.
As a large component of the U.S. economy, the manufacturing industry creates a lot of stable jobs and assures that the country has a top position in the global economy. Therefore, taking all measure in order to keep things going in the right direction is of utmost importance, on behalf of both manufacturing businesses and industry regulators. Knowing these top 5 safety concerns for the manufacturing industry will help you draft and implement health and safety strategies that are custom-tailored to the needs of your workers and those of your production process. Therefore, you will be able to minimize the damages in the event of an emergency, maintain business continuity, and assure the overall successful activity of your manufacturing plant.