Manufacturing Safety Topics You Can’t Skip

Within manufacturing organizations, employees come in contact with a range of potential hazards during an average workday. Safety is a round-the-clock priority and an utter necessity for any manufacturer hoping to avoid significant amounts of unplanned downtime and expenses. 

The number of workplace deaths and injuries has dropped significantly since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established in 1971. In 1972 businesses experienced 10.9 incidents per 100 employees. A half-century later, that figure is down to 2.7 per 100 and daily workplace deaths are down more than 60% nationwide. Even still, safety training remains an imperative for manufacturers and all types of businesses. 

Why is safety training essential in manufacturing? 

Keeping employees safe isn’t just the responsible thing to do. A safe work environment ensures that organizations always remain efficient and productive. The National Safety Council estimates that the cost of workplace injuries totaled $167 billion in 2022. This figure includes medical expenses, administrative costs, as well as lost wages and productivity. Simply put, it pays to enforce safety standards and maintain an accident-free workplace. 

Safety training should make up a significant portion of the onboarding process for all new hires, but the training process shouldn’t end once employees are comfortably situated on your team. Consider your safety programs a perpetual work in progress and engage your team on an ongoing basis both to confirm their understanding and to drive process improvements. 

Manufacturing safety topics to discuss with your team

A thorough safety training program protects your employees, keeps your facilities running smoothly, and prepares your team to address unexpected incidents. Here are a few of the manufacturing safety topics you should make sure to cover through training sessions and readily accessible documents. 

Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedures

LOTO procedures help to ensure potentially dangerous energy stored within machinery is safely discharged. Successfully locking out and tagging out equipment ensures it will not inadvertently start during maintenance activities and injure technicians. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) regulations

Protective gear like hard hats, gloves, and facemasks shield your staff from workplace hazards. Your organization’s PPE requirements will depend on the nature of your facilities, the equipment you use, and the presence of risk factors like hazardous fumes. You might impose facility-wide PPE guidelines or include details on the required PPE in your work orders for specific assets and systems. 

Depending on the facility or task in question, personal protective equipment might include: 

  • Protective gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Hardhats
  • Facemasks
  • Specialized footwear like non-slip shoes

Unfortunately, PPE violations are among the most common safety hazards cited by OSHA. Choosing comfortable equipment and clearly communicating the importance of safety standards can help discourage employees from bending the rules and putting themselves at risk. 

Fire safety and prevention

Industrial fires can devastate businesses, contributing to significant losses or leaving them out of commission altogether. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that industrial and manufacturing facilities experience more than 35,000 fires each year. These disasters result in an average of 1 to 2 fatalities per year and cost businesses around half a billion dollars. 

Blazes could originate from sources like combustible dust or flammable liquids and gasses used throughout production processes. Your prevention and response plans should include details on all potential sources of fire and detailed guides on extinguishing small fires, evacuating your facilities, and, when necessary, getting in contact with the appropriate emergency responders. 

Slip, trip, and fall protection 

Here’s how OSHA breaks down the difference between these types of incidents: 

  • A slip occurs when someone loses their balance due to a lack of traction. Environmental factors like spills or snow and ice can increase the likelihood of slipping-related accidents and injuries. 
  • A trip occurs when someone’s foot makes contact with an object and their momentum causes them to lose their balance. Keeping facilities clean and organized cuts down on tripping risks and accidents.
  • The most common cause of workplace fatalities, falls occur when an individual loses their center of balance. Insufficient safety protocols and PPE requirements can increase the risk of falls and the severity of fall-related injuries.  

Training on slip, trip, and fall prevention should cover all potential risk factors and introduce methods for addressing them. You may, for example, introduce routine inspections to discourage the accumulation of grease around specific assets. During high-risk seasons your maintenance team may carry out additional preventive maintenance measures like shoveling and salting the areas around your facilities. 

Machine safeguards

Many of your assets may include components that could pose injury risks. Safeguards for these assets will keep your employees out of harm’s way throughout daily operations and maintenance activities. Make sure you’ve considered all possible risk factors for each of your assets and that work orders and SOPs include details on staying safe. 

Chemical safety guidelines

Your organization may need to adhere to especially strict, industry-specific safety standards if you use, manufacture, or distribute potentially hazardous chemicals. Chemical safety training sessions or programs should include details on the following:

  • Safely handling and disposing of hazardous chemicals
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment for handling different types of chemicals
  • Addressing and cataloging emergencies related to chemical hazards 

OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) standards offer guidance for classifying potentially dangerous chemicals and sharing details about them. 

Reporting procedures

It’s not enough to train your team on recognizing and preventing safety hazards. What happens when they can’t stop an incident from occurring and need to execute a response procedure? Make sure to train your team on processes for addressing hazards and workplace accidents. Putting clear processes in place ahead of time can make the difference between overcoming a small incident and experiencing a catastrophic emergency. 

Best practices for safety training programs

Make your training programs part of a culture of safety with these tips.

  • Consult your team: Don’t treat safety training like a one-person project. Building your program with insights from stakeholders throughout the organization will promote compliance because employees will feel a sense of ownership over safety standards and procedures.
  • Practice audits: If your organization is subject to audits by third-party inspectors, make sure to conduct preliminary audits of your own. Scrutinizing your operations the way a third party would could help uncover risk factors that have gone unnoticed and ensure maintenance team members always adhere to safety standards. 
  • Revisit and revise: Your safety training programs should grow and evolve alongside your business. Review performance data and consult your team on an ongoing basis to ensure your approach to training remains suited to business needs and challenges. 

Maintenance departments and manufacturing safety

Your maintenance personnel play a crucial role in keeping your facilities safe and productive. Preventive maintenance work preemptively eliminates risk factors to reduce the likelihood and severity of incidents. Here are just a few of the ways your maintenance team supports manufacturing safety: 

  • Regularly inspecting assets ensures they’re always working properly and offers an opportunity to proactively spot risk factors like 
  • Risk assessments uncover potential safety concerns and injury risks resulting from hazards like outdated equipment, expired fire extinguishers, or insufficient machine guards. 
  • Routine facility inspections and maintenance activities keep workspaces clean and free from potential tripping and slipping hazards. 

Maintenance software and manufacturing safety 

Maintenance management software enables manufacturers to optimize their safety programs and promote a culture characterized by both safety and innovation. Here’s just some of what implementing a CMMS platform will enable your team to accomplish: 

  • Centralize documents like safety manuals and training materials for easy access and distribution. 
  • Enable reporting and analysis of safety data to identify areas for improvement and build a safety culture characterized by continuous improvement. 
  • Enforce compliance thanks to increased visibility into daily operations.

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Manufacturing safety resources

These documents from OSHA cover a range of manufacturing safety topics and offer useful details for reviewing the efficacy and compliance of your safety procedures. 

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