According to the Pew Research Center, there are nearly 13 million manufacturing workers in the United States, accounting for 8.5 percent of the workforce. Keeping those employees safe is critical and should be a top priority for manufacturing business owners.
There are several common manufacturing injuries to keep a special eye out for.
- Being struck by objects or equipment
- Being caught in equipment
- Repetitive motion injuries
Fortunately, by taking steps to prevent injuries on the job, employers can safeguard their employees—and their businesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs provides general guidance for implementing a health and safety program. These programs help businesses:
- Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
- Improve compliance with laws and regulations
- Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums
- Engage workers
- Enhance their social responsibility goals
- Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations
How workplace injuries can impact manufacturers
For every dollar spent on a workers’ comp claim, $5 is typically spent in indirect costs—like lost productivity, hiring and retraining staff, and replacing or repairing damaged equipment.
Manufacturing employees may be printers, publishers, textile manufacturers, furniture makers, food manufacturers, candle makers, leather workers, furniture makers, drapery and pillow manufacturers, toymakers, papermakers, and more. By developing a safety plan and following best practices, small business owners can help ensure that their employees have a safe work environment.
How manufacturing-company owners can help prevent workplace injuries
By implementing proper safety techniques, manufacturing-company owners may be able to reduce the number of workers’ comp claims by employees. They should ensure that all employees, even part-time help and trainees, are well trained in safety procedures.
Here are top tips for keeping manufacturing workers safe.
- Employers are required to have safety equipment to protect employees from the hazards that they’re exposed to on the job. This equipment includes respirators, goggles, and noise reduction devices.
- If a team works with lead, review OSHA’s Lead Safety Standards.
- If your team works with concrete, review OSHA’s Concrete Safety Standards.
- Tools in the plant must be in good condition and employees should be trained on how to use each tool—and be familiar with associated dangers. Larger, standardized tools should be inspected and serviced on a regular basis.
- Power tools should be unplugged while cleaning.
- Tools and parts that are not being used should be stored.
- The plant floor must be kept uncluttered and all spills should be cleaned up immediately.
- All floors should be free of grease and debris to prevent falls.
- Steps must be taken to decrease the risk of flammability, such as meeting applicable electrical wiring codes, providing a fire plan, and having a flameproof enclosure for work like spray finishing and using flammable materials.
- There should always be the required numbers of fire extinguishers available with current inspection tags.
- Employers should provide an eye-washing station with running water and a stocked first-aid kit on the wall.
- All employees must wear safety glasses when performing tasks like grinding.
- The workplace should be designated as a non-smoking area.
- Items or tools that create sparks should not be used while gas fumes are present.
- Customers should be prevented from coming into the plant workplace unless absolutely necessary.
- Safety meetings should be conducted as necessary to keep all employees up-to-speed on current safety strategies.
- Workers should be trained on the health and safety issues applicable in their workplaces.
- A written hazard communication program should include lists of all the hazardous materials at the worksite and an explanation of how the business will comply with OSHA’s standards for each.
- Workers should be trained and provided literature in a language that they will understand
- If required, only workers who are qualified and/or certified to complete certain tasks should do so.
- Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) related to each of the chemicals used by the company should be kept onsite.
- Workers should be given enough time to work safely.
- Employees’ tasks should be rotated, especially those that require using the same motion over and over.
- Mechanical equipment should be used, if possible, to complete repetitive tasks.
- The workplace should be ergonomically designed to reduce the risk for musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, muscle strains, and low back injuries.
- Instruction manuals should be readily available for all equipment. Manuals should include detailed illustrations.
- Slip-resistant footwear should be available to employees since it can reduce as much as 75 percent of work-related slips and falls.
- Ladders of the right height should be provided at the job site
- Training in safe lifting methods should be provided.
- Management should keep records of all workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Medical exams, when required by OSHA regulations, should be kept on record.
- Perhaps most importantly, all employee injuries—no matter how small—should be reported to management immediately.
How to plan for unexpected workplace accidents and injuries
Business owners can’t plan for every type of emergency, but every workplace should at least have a plan for handling injuries if and when they arise. The plan should spell out exactly how workers should report injuries—and how to get help promptly.
- Safety plans should include how employees should contact medical personnel if needed.
- Safety plans should describe the location of first aid kits, gloves, and other protective equipment available for staff. Lacerations and puncture wounds should be immediately treated and disinfected to prevent infection.
- Safety plans should ensure workers know how to report and handle an incident when there is exposure to blood.
How to incentivize employees to practice workplace safety
Accidents can happen anywhere. Management should remind employees why safety training is important—and provide continual reminders and retraining.
To help encourage employees to make safety a priority at work, business owners and managers should consider offering prizes or awards for those who follow the safety program and hit time milestones while remaining injury-free. Prizes like lottery scratch-offs, coffee gift cards, or 30 minutes of extra PTO may help motivate teams. Remember, fewer workplace injuries and workers’ comp claims can save businesses money and resources. Most importantly, fewer workplace injuries help ensure that your valuable employees are able to continue working in a healthy and beneficial environment.
Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.