Could you run your company without your employees? Working conditions in manufacturing environments can be dangerous, placing workers at a higher risk of severe injury compared to other industries. If you fail to take the right precautions to protect your workers, then your company productivity will suffer quickly. A worker doesn’t even have to become injured to cause a problem. Workers who feel safe are more productive because they focus on their job while trusting their employer and coworkers to have their back. Here’s what you can do to ensure your employees’ safety in manufacturing.
Keep Employees Alert
Worker fatigue is one of the leading causes of accidents in the workplace. According to OSHA, injury rates are 30% greater during night shifts compared to day shifts. Also, working 12 hours per day increases injury risk by 37%. If someone is too tired to drive home, then they’re definitely too tired to be operating heavy machinery. Limiting overtime and monitoring workers for fatigue can make a big difference. If an employee does need to work overtime, have them check in with their supervisor before starting and during the overtime portion of their shift.
While being tired increases the risk of an accident, employees don’t have to be tired in order to lose their alertness. Everyone falls into their own work habits, and sometimes these can make workers neglect dangerous situations. However, there are a number of ways to help employees prioritize safety.
Mark any dangerous areas of your workplace with colorful signs pointing out low ceilings where people could bump their heads or ground obstacles that could be tripping hazards. If there’s low air quality in part of your factory due to exhaust or other fumes, a sign should remind employees to wear face masks in that location. The same goes for areas with loud engine noise where ear plugs may be helpful.
Reminders like these can extend to other areas, such as break rooms, bathrooms, cafeterias, and lockers. Any place where an employee is transitioning from their personal time into work time is a prime spot for reminding them to put on protective equipment and get in the right state of mind. These are also great places to remind employees about any incentives you’ve put in place regarding safety. Many manufacturing companies will celebrate the number of days they’ve gone without an accident and give away prizes like catered lunches or gift card drawings for hitting certain benchmarks. These can be great motivational tools to motivate everyone to improve safety.
Protect Against Contagious Viruses
Whether or not there’s a pandemic like COVID-19 spreading across the country, it’s a best practice to always take simple precautions that slow the spread of illness between employees. Manufacturing environments typically place workers in close contact for extended periods. People are often sharing equipment and may not be stopping to wash or sanitize their hands before eating a quick snack. Maintain stockpiles of supplies like bottles of hand sanitizer and boxes of face masks so that they’re readily available. Importantly, get in the practice of sending home employees who exhibit signs of illness. Not only could that employee spread an infection if they stay at work, but they’ll be less productive and at higher risk for causing an accident if they’re feeling out of it. Small precautionary efforts like these make a big difference in the long run.
Form a Response Plan
No matter how well you prepare your workforce, accidents can still happen. If one of your employees slips and falls at work, what happens next? The minutes immediately following an accident can determine whether the repercussions of that accident are diminished or amplified. Do employees know what to do when someone is injured? Do they call 911 or their supervisor? Will they try to help their coworker to get up and shake it off, or will they encourage that person to stay still?
A response plan allows everyone in the company to be on the same page during critical moments. The best plans are based on a proactive risk assessment that predicts what accidents could happen, determines their probability and severity, and sets forth appropriate actions to take. Many manufacturers adopt the FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) method to help their planning.
Hold Regular Safety Training
Most manufacturing facilities do a great job of training new employees on safety measures, but a surprising number fail to revisit the topic often enough. People forget. After several months or years on an assembly line, it’s easy for a worker to get comfortable with the job and let their guard down. Unfortunately, that might mean circumventing a safety precaution, like when someone leaves their face shield or gloves off because they think they only need to weld a small spot and it won’t be a big deal.
Those are the exact moments when accidents happen and why even the most seasoned employees need safety reminders. Regular safety training can take different forms according to what’s best for your workforce. Some manufacturing companies may decide to have quick safety performance check-ins at the end of every single week. Others may hold an all-day formal training session once or twice per year, walking through the factory and pointing out dangerous situations. Safety training is also the perfect time to encourage suggestions from your workers. They’re the ones interacting with your machinery and may notice opportunities for improvement that your assessments missed.
Follow Laws and Regulations
Since manufacturing environments are more dangerous than other workplaces, they’re heavily regulated. It isn’t always easy to follow the rules when many different ones could apply to your workforce. Applicable laws could be at the federal level through OSHA or FMLA, or they could be specific to the products you’re producing (like abiding by FDA rules if you’re making something meant to be consumed). Furthermore, the regulations you must follow could be specific to your workforce if they’re covered by a local union that negotiated certain working conditions. Throughout all the actions you take to ensure employee safety, make sure you’re on the right side of the law.
Employee Safety in Manufacturing
Finally, remember that the best safety measures are the ones that evolve. Improvements in protective equipment like uniforms, gloves, and non-slip shoes are worth considering from time to time. Likewise, replacing machinery with new models or otherwise modifying the factory necessitates revisiting your safety practices and determining if they still apply in your changing environment. While no manufacturing company can permanently guarantee 100% safety, taking the above measures stops dangerous activity and significantly limits accidents.
Looking to hire manufacturing employees who prioritize safety? ATR can help.