1. Ensure safety is a cultural pillar
From their first shift to the day they retire, every employee should know that safety is central to workplace culture. Then, they must live it.
Mantras like “be aware of your surroundings” and “don’t leave a mess for the next person” exist for a reason — and repeating them often can help make them second-nature.
2. Don’t wait to report unsafe conditions
This tip is for managers and employees alike — and it’s a reminder that any community, including the workplace, is stronger and safer when people work together.
There’s no shortage of hazards in a manufacturing environment, from spills on the floor to loose guardrails, compromised shelving or malfunctioning machinery. The phrase “see something, say something” comes to mind. The hazard might not pose an immediate danger to you, but the next person along might not be so lucky.
3. Take vehicle safety checklists seriously
From pallet trucks to forklifts and order pickers, manufacturing facilities are home to a variety of powered vehicles. OSHA requires that forklifts and similar vehicles must undergo preoperation safety inspections at least once per day before work begins.
Employees must not take this step lightly. Make sure visual inspections include wheels, hoses, batteries and all moving parts. Managers can create accountability with printed checklists for each vehicle that operators must complete and sign before they climb aboard.
4. Make proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
Employees operating manufacturing or material handling equipment must wear appropriate, company-provided PPE at all times. This might include glasses, gloves and safety harnesses. Workers must make a habit of wearing this gear during their shift, and managers must hold them accountable.
5. Use the right tool for the job
Some of the most serious injuries in manufacturing facilities are also the most avoidable. It’s up to the employer to train every employee on identifying and using the correct tool for the task at hand. After that, it’s up to the workers to keep their inner MacGyver in check. Don’t use handheld tools or mechanical equipment for any nonstandard purposes.
6. Check in regularly
Communication is everybody’s responsibility. The beginning of a new shift is the ideal time for every department to talk about what’s going right and what isn’t.
Are there any outstanding hazards that require attention or persistent unsafe practices? Employers must provide a sympathetic ear, and employees must be willing to take advantage of it.
7. Take regular breaks
Some employees will work through designated break times or give up part of their lunch to see something through. This is ill-advised.
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine recognizes fatigue as a leading cause of industrial accidents. Manufacturing companies must provide breaks at regular intervals and even be willing to enforce them.
8. Clean as you go
It’s tempting to let your workspace fall into disarray throughout a shift, but this can easily compromise safety. As workers let tools or castoff materials accumulate, their risk of tripping and other personal injuries rises exponentially. Plus, it leaves them scrambling at the end of the shift to tidy everything up. For the safest and most efficient workflow, clean as you go.
9. Be mindful of travel surfaces
Warehouses and manufacturing plants are famous for their smooth concrete floors and various height differentials. In the hustle to stay productive, it’s easy to ignore slip-and-trip hazards like these. It’s important to work deliberately — not at a breakneck pace that compromises your awareness of your surroundings.
10. Keep fire exits accessible
Fire safety is everybody’s responsibility. It’s up to the employer to ensure their facility has the correct number and placement of fire exists. Employees must remain cognizant of these areas and never stage materials or leave vehicles in the way. Assume the exit could prove necessary at a moment’s notice.
11. Be careful not to over stack
Employees must take care not to stack objects too high or in an unsafe location. Managers must also stay vigilant about finding and correcting boxes or other heavy objects that exceed stacking height recommendations.
12. Install gas leak detectors
Depending on the nature of the work, a manufacturing facility may play host to several hidden gas-related threats — including carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide and others.
The first step in combating this threat is to install gas leak detectors. The second step is to set up a recurring calibration schedule. Some sensors require recalibration four times each year, while others are only annually.
13. Respect restricted-access areas
Employees should know not to enter hazardous, restricted-access areas. Moving vehicles, dangerous mechanical equipment and chemical hazards all pose a risk to those who aren’t prepared for them. Respect restricted areas and don’t take shortcuts.
14. Use proper lifting techniques
It’s too easy to use improper posture and technique while lifting heavy objects and ignore weight restrictions for team lifts and mechanical lifts. Proper position requires a wide stance and bending at the knees rather than the waist. Always ask for help when you need it.
15. Respect the right-of-way
Manufacturing facilities with a mixture of foot and vehicle traffic are especially at risk of safety incidents. Operators and pedestrians alike should know to wait at intersections and make eye contact with one another. Vehicles must always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and provide an ample cushion between them and the nearest person.
16. Create ongoing process improvements
It’s important to remember that safety isn’t a one-and-done affair. It requires constant attention and ongoing process improvements. Employees should recruit experts regularly to perform safety walks together.
These provide opportunities to correct traffic flow, make intuitive changes to workflows and storage areas, and identify places that require additional signage or safety rails. Manufacturing is always changing, and layouts and techniques must change with it.
With these safety tips in mind, manufacturing employers and workers alike have the tools they need to work safely. All the business success in the world is meaningless if employees can’t count on safe surroundings.