Manufacturing Safety: Identifying Hazards & Reducing Injuries

By Steve Donovan on Jul 13, 2023
7 min read 1 Comment

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While many people assume manufacturing jobs are unsafe and even deadly, manufacturing does not land a spot in the top three most dangerous industries to work in thanks to advancements in technology and safety regulations.

Workers in industries including construction; agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing; and transportation and warehousing are actually at the greatest risk for injuries. 

That said, despite the manufacturing workplace becoming a safer and more comfortable place to work, more than 114,000 manufacturing workers are injured each year.

Considering the unique skill sets some of these workers hold, combined with the current labor shortage, having just one worker out due to injury or illness can set back production.

So, for any business operating in the manufacturing sector, regardless of size or scale, safety should be a critical concern. The well-being of your employees must be prioritized to ensure operational efficiency, workforce satisfaction and long-term success.

In this post, we'll focus on the most common safety risks and how to conduct effective risk assessments and reduce injuries. We’ll also discuss how a safer workplace positively impacts recruitment and retention.

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Most Common Injuries in Manufacturing

Due to the nature of their work, manufacturing employees are at risk of becoming injured due to a variety of factors. Here are some of the most common manufacturing safety concerns:

  • Contact with objects & equipment 

This is one of the leading causes of injuries and fatalities in the manufacturing sector. It can occur when an employee is struck by equipment, crushed in collapsing structures, caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment or material.

  • Overexertion & repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) 

These injuries often occur from activities such as lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or throwing.

Repetitive tasks can also lead to musculoskeletal disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

  • Slips, trips & falls

These can occur on the same level due to wet floors, cluttered walkways, or uneven surfaces. Falls can also occur at heights from ladders, roofs, scaffolding, or other elevated workstations.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Keep Slips, Trips & Falls From Tripping Up Your Workplace >>

  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments 

Manufacturing workers can be exposed to various harmful substances including chemicals, dust, fumes, or extreme heat or cold.

This can result in acute or chronic health problems, including respiratory illnesses, burns or poisonings.

  • Machinery accidents 

This occurs when workers are operating or working near machinery and can result in cuts, amputations, or even death.

  • Fires & explosions 

These can be caused by flammable materials, combustible dust or unsafe practices.

Fires and explosions kill 200 and injure more than 5,000 workers across all industries each year, according to OSHA.

Fire drills ensure your employees respond properly and automatically when a fire alarm is activated, and that everyone exits the building safely. 

  • Vehicle-related accidents 

This includes accidents involving forklifts or other industrial trucks.

The first step to preventing these injuries is to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment at your manufacturing facility. 

Watch Axcet HR Solutions Safety & Health Consultant Sam Hihn speak about the importance of workplace fire drills.

Conducting Risk Assessments: The First Step to Manufacturing Safety

Comprehensive risk assessments are your first line of defense against potential hazards in the workplace.

Risk assessments entail identifying potential dangers, evaluating the level of severity and implementing strategies to mitigate them.

  • Identify the hazards

Start by walking around the workplace and looking for any hazards or potential hazards. Things to look out for include moving objects, falling objects, hazardous substances, electricity, working at heights, high noise levels, etc. 

You should also consider less obvious things like ergonomic hazards or even psychological hazards like stress or bullying. Ask your employees what they think, as they may have noticed things that are not immediately apparent to you.

  • Decide who might be harmed & how

For each hazard, think about who might be harmed. It could be employees, contractors, visitors, or even members of the public. Also, consider the way they might be harmed.

  • Evaluate the risks

After the initial analysis, evaluate the risks associated with each hazard. This involves assessing the likelihood of the hazard causing harm and the potential severity of the injury.

This is known as risk evaluation. Then decide on the actions you will take to eliminate or reduce the risks. These actions could be things like changes to the working environment, providing safety equipment, implementing safety procedures or providing training to employees.

Don't forget to consider non-routine operations, such as maintenance, cleaning or product changes.

  • Record your findings & implement them

Finally, record your findings, prepare an action plan to control the identified risks and revise your assessment periodically or whenever significant changes occur in your manufacturing processes.

Remember, the purpose of a risk assessment is not to create huge amounts of paperwork but rather to identify sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. It should be proportional to the level of risk and complexity of your business.

In addition, it's always a good idea to consult with safety professionals, like the risk management team at Axcet HR Solutions, or regulatory bodies to ensure that you're in compliance with all applicable safety regulations and standards. This will also provide a further layer of risk assessment and control.

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Reducing Injuries: Proactive Measures Lead to Safe Outcomes

Once you've conducted a thorough risk assessment, it's time to translate those insights into action. Reducing injuries isn’t solely about compliance with safety standards, it's also about fostering a culture of safety within your organization.

  • Introduce appropriate manufacturing safety measures based on your risk assessment results

    This could mean investing in better safety equipment, implementing regular equipment maintenance schedules or changing the layout of your manufacturing floor to reduce hazards.
  • Training is crucial

    Regularly educate your employees on how to correctly use equipment and how to handle emergency situations. Engage them in safety drills to ensure they are well-equipped to deal with any incident.
  • Communication is key

    Make sure everyone is informed about potential risks and the measures taken to control them. Encourage your team to report unsafe conditions or safety concerns immediately.

increasing women in manufacturing

Safer Workplaces: A Key to Robust Recruitment and Retention

A safer workplace is not only beneficial for minimizing injuries and ensuring smooth operations, but it also significantly impacts your ability to attract and retain employees.

A strong safety record showcases your commitment to employee well-being, making you an attractive prospect for potential recruits. It speaks volumes about your company's culture and values, which can help differentiate you from other employers.

Moreover, a safe work environment reduces the chances of employees leaving due to safety concerns or actual injuries. This can significantly cut down on turnover costs, as the cost of replacing an employee often exceeds their annual salary when considering factors like recruitment, training and lost productivity.

Encourage employee participation in safety initiatives, which not only helps identify potential safety risks but also gives employees a sense of ownership and involvement in the company's well-being.

Employee recognition programs that reward safety suggestions or good safety practices can also boost morale and improve retention.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Boost Employee Mental Health in Manufacturing >>

Manufacturing Safety as a Strategic Investment

Safety in the manufacturing sector should not be seen as a compliance obligation, but rather as a strategic investment. A thorough risk assessment process, proactive steps to reduce injuries, and the creation of a safe work environment can all contribute to not just safer operations but also improved recruitment and retention.

Remember, the safety of your business is not a one-time task but a continuous process requiring regular evaluation and adjustments. After all, a safe business is a successful business.

Not Sure Where to Start? Our Experts Are Here to Help

Not sure where to start? Some PEOs, like Axcet HR Solutions, have a full team of risk management and safety and health consultants. Our customized safety programs are designed to keep your business operating at peak levels while making sure your employees go home safely at the end of each workday. 

These programs include safety policies and procedures that we develop and help you implement, covering everything from evacuation plans, emergency preparedness, industry-specific safety guidelines, and first aid and CPR training.

Axcet’s risk specialists also help you take care of your workers by identifying and correcting ergonomic-related health risks in the workplace. Axcet is the top risk management company serving the Kansas City area since 1988. Reach out to us today >>

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Written by Steve Donovan

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