The Importance of Safety in the Manufacturing Industry
16 February 2023 - Evotix
Manufacturing isn’t always cited among the most dangerous industries. In fact, you’re more likely to find working in construction, fishing or hunting on the list of jobs with the highest number of serious incidents.
However, manufacturing accounts for a high number of incidents disproportionate to the percentage of the workforce it employs. Why? Because manufacturing employees regularly interact with potentially dangerous machinery, materials and substances. These are essential parts of a manufacturing worker’s job, and they can cause serious injuries, illnesses and deaths.
For example, workers who interact with solvents, lubricants or other chemicals may be at risk of burns, rashes and respiratory issues. Additionally, workers who interact with heavy machinery may be at risk of injuries ranging from bruises to puncture wounds to loss of limbs.
On the bright side, incidents like these can be prevented. With an increased investment of time, energy and money in health and safety for the workplace, organizations in this industry can significantly reduce the number of injuries, illnesses and deaths that occur.
Why is health and safety important in manufacturing?
It’s a no-brainer that health and safety practices must be at the heart of any manufacturer’s daily operations. But the reasons for maintaining a strong health and safety policy go beyond protecting employees in the workplace and complying with regulations.
Often, companies consider health and safety programs, exercises and practices to be a drain on resources. Many prioritize business objectives like productivity, quality and cost-effectiveness before health and safety.
This mindset can do damage to those business priorities as well as to the health and safety of employees. Manufacturers shouldn’t think of health and safety as competing with other business needs. In fact, studies have proven that prioritizing safety in the workplace can drive productivity, ensure quality and minimize costs. OSHA’s Business Case for Safety and Health offers research, statistics and several case studies on the substantial return on investment that accompanies a focus on health and safety.
Here are just a few of the benefits of a dedicated health and safety program in a manufacturing workplace:
Reduces incidents such as illness, injury and death
Ensures compliance with regulations
Boosts employee morale
Minimizes indirect costs related to incidents, such as regulatory fines, workers’ compensation claims, operational costs and legal fees
The costs of neglecting safety in manufacturing
Failing to implement a comprehensive health and safety program isn’t the only way companies can neglect health and safety in the workplace. When businesses fail to procure safe machinery, provide adequate PPE, provide employees with proper training or instill a culture that promotes health and safety, incidents are more likely to occur.
When an incident occurs as a result of poor health and safety practices, a variety of costs can be inflicted on a manufacturing company. Many of these costs may be direct and immediate, but more may be indirect and spread over time.
Imagine an employee uses an unguarded machine, catches his sleeve and injures his arm. The injured worker’s employer may then be liable to cover the costs of worker’s compensation, regulatory fines, wages for a replacement worker, repair to damaged equipment, remedial work to cover the loss of production, legal expenses, fines and court costs and an increase in the employer’s liability insurance premiums. And these are only direct costs. Indirect costs of an incident may include a negative effect on the employer’s reputation, lost time as a result of an investigation or clearing of the site of the incident and decreased productivity and morale among employees.
With these costs in mind, the answer is clear. Bearing the up-front costs of implementing and following a comprehensive health and safety program, keeping up to date with regulations and providing employees with proper training and PPE is far more likely to save money than waiting for an incident to happen.
4 key steps to improving health and safety in the manufacturing industry
It may sound like a complex task but improving health and safety in a manufacturing company can be broken down into four key steps. These include creating a culture that promotes health and safety, providing employees with adequate safety tools and training and implementing a comprehensive safety program. When these steps are executed well, they can reduce incidents, increase productivity and save money.
1) Create a culture that promotes health and safety.
Creating a business culture that promotes health and safety is a crucial step toward better safety practices. This can be done by keeping employees regularly engaged with health and safety, simplifying practices and procedures, rewarding positive behaviours, maintaining open communication and keeping management involved.
2) Make proper use of safety tools.
‘Safety tools’ don’t just refer to PPE. Yes, ensuring that employees are provided with adequate PPE like clothing, footwear and helmets is essential, but ‘safety tools’ extends to your company’s health and safety systems, policies, practices and software. Make proper use of these tools for improved health and safety throughout your organization.
3) Provide health and safety training.
With such a high degree of risk involved in manufacturing employees’ work, managers need to ensure that employees receive adequate safety training in order to carry out their jobs safely. There must also be a system in place that allows the employer to track which training courses/modules have been completed and provide employees with easy access to training resources. One way to ensure that these steps are taken is by using a health and safety training app.
4) Integrate a detailed health and safety program.
To ensure that employers are able to take a holistic view of the safety practices and measures across their workplace, there must be a detailed, comprehensive safety program in place. Manufacturing EHS software can provide a streamlined approach to ensure that every aspect of safety in the workplace is monitored and measured accordingly.
Maintaining a strong health and safety system is a necessity in the manufacturing industry. Employees interacting regularly with dangerous machinery, substances and materials need protection, and employers need to ensure that their operations follow regulations. Additionally, keeping focused on health and safety can increase productivity, ensure quality, boost employee morale and minimize indirect costs related to incidents.
To learn more about creating a safety training program, visit this checklist: Why You Need to Create a Health and Safety Program.
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