Workplace safety is a top concern among manufacturers. Without taking COVID-19 into account, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that occupations within the manufacturing sector account for 5% of U.S. workers, yet they represent 8% of all workplace fatalities.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has added to the safety concerns that manufacturers face. At the start of the pandemic, manufacturers scrambled to implement safety measures to minimize viral spread and comply with social distancing restrictions imposed by state and local governments. As new variants continue to emerge, manufacturers must continually review their safety protocols.
Going forward, manufacturers may need to invest in new or improved safety measures to protect workers in the new normal. Here are seven protective measures that can help improve workplace safety.
Always Use Equipment Properly
The most frequent cause of workplace injuries is misuse of tools and machinery. So, it's important to utilize equipment only for its intended purpose. Regularly cleaning and inspecting equipment reduces the possibility of a fire, explosion or injury. Employees should be trained on proper and safe equipment use.
Minimize the Risks of Slips and Falls
Take a walk through your factory and warehouse. Aisles should be clear and clutter-free. When spills happen, workers should clean them immediately. Anti-slip flooring, drip pans and/or guards should be installed wherever spills can't easily be cleaned, especially for firms using liquids.
Even though your budget might be tighter than usual due to COVID-related cost-cutting measures, don't skimp on maintenance. Remember to check your workplace floor for loose boards, holes and protruding nails.
Eliminate Fire Hazards
Are you in compliance with local fire codes? Be on the lookout for items blocking doorways and walkways — and remove them as soon as possible.
In addition, if you're using combustible materials, keep only the amount needed for the job and store the flammable material in a safe site off-premises. Likewise, combustible waste should be stored in metal receptacles and thrown away daily.
Prevent Falling Objects
Nets, toe boards and toe rails should be used to safeguard workers against items falling from above. In your warehouse, heavy objects should be placed on lower shelves, and boxes should be stacked straight up and down.
Train Workers on Safe Lifting Protocols
Workers should be taught to lift objects properly to avoid injuries. When moving heavy objects, workers should use their legs to lift (rather than lifting the object straight up) and keep their backs straight (rather than stooping or twisting). Consider investing in dollies, forklifts and other machines to help workers hoist heavy objects.
Require PPE when Operating Machinery or Cleaning Up
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is especially important when dealing with hazardous materials. Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, PPE such as gloves, safety hoods and shoes, earplugs, hard hats, respirators, and full body suits are mandatory in certain situations. (See "When Do You Need PPE?" below.) Workers should always wear protective gear on the factory floor to reduce the potential for injury.
Analyze Your Risks
A comprehensive safety risk assessment can help spotlight ways to avoid accidents. If you don't have the necessary inside resources, hire a professional to develop a risk assessment plan identifying the hazards associated with your particular operation. This will also determine risk levels, review safety and working condition of equipment, and recommend the necessary controls.
Safety should be a high priority for employees and employers alike. From the employer's perspective, creating a safe work environment is a matter of good corporate citizenship, and it can improve productivity by bolstering morale and minimizing downtime. Sidestepping key safety measures can be a costly mistake.
Costs incurred today to make your facilities safer will create goodwill and add value over the long run. Your financial advisor can help evaluate investment alternatives, conduct a comprehensive safe risk assessment and explore tax breaks for implementing safety measures at your facilities.