Manufacturing environments need to be safe environments. Your employees are also people with families, so keeping them safe is a responsibility. From a purely economic perspective, safe employees are also productive employees. In the short term, accidents lead to work stoppages, which lead to delayed production runs and loss of revenue. In the longer term, accidents can pave the way to lawsuits. In other words, there are a host of reasons to make sure that manufacturing is as safe as possible.
Manufacturing workers experience the third highest rate of injuries requiring leave from work across all industries. In 2016 alone, over 100 million production days were lost due to injuries on the job.
When it comes to preventing workplace injuries, manufacturing procurement professionals are on the front lines. They’re responsible for purchasing the safety equipment that workers need in order to prevent injuries, and what’s more, they’re part of promoting the safety culture that ensures workers use the equipment they’re given. Here are four ways for manufacturing procurement professionals to help make the shop floor safer.
1. Hearing Protection
Elevated noise levels aren’t just bad for your hearing – long-term exposure can literally shorten your life. Manufacturing facilities are among the loudest places on the planet. Almost half of all manufacturing employees are exposed to hazardous noise, and a quarter of those exposed report that they don’t wear hearing protection.
Not only is it important for manufacturing procurement professionals to purchase high-quality hearing protection products, it’s also important for them to encourage employees to use them. All employees need to be able to hear warnings, directions, or incoming hazards; otherwise, they can represent a danger to themselves and others.
Here’s the golden rule of using heavy machinery: you should never be surprised when it turns on. Unexpected equipment activation can injure employees either mechanically or via electricity, so it’s important to have a safety program that minimizes these incidents. Lockout/Tagout systems do this in two ways. The lock itself is meant to isolate a piece of equipment from its source of energy during maintenance, while the tag warns other employees that the equipment is being maintained and should not be reconnected. OSHA maintains a detailed lockout/tagout standard which should be used in manufacturing environments – management should communicate this through the entire workplace.
3. Slips, Trips, and Falls (STF)
Tripping over a loose cable, slipping in a pool of liquid, or falling off a ladder – slip, trip, and fall (STF) injuries are among the most dangerous for your employees. In 2013, there were almost 300,000 STF injuries that resulted in days off of work, with insurance claims averaging $10,000 a piece.
There is a host of fall-protection products you can purchase for your employees – for example, a spill pad reading “Caution, Wet Floor” makes an excellent investment, as do non-slip shoes. The most important thing you can do, however, is promote a safety culture that involves ladder safety, floor protection, and good housekeeping – rapidly cleaning up spills, removing trip hazards, and other preventive measures.
4. Fire Protection
Any manufacturing facility may contain a number of fire hazards. Oil, chemical, and electrical fires are all risks, and each requires not only specialized protective equipment, but also a detailed protection plan. You should already know the risks – for instance, if a fire does break out inside your building, where is it most likely to originate from, and where is it most likely to spread? You should make a plan to concentrate protective equipment near these areas, and then focus on other specifics, such as evacuation routes.
Creating safety in a manufacturing environment is a multidimensional process. Preventing short-term and long-term injuries is part of it. Preventing damage to your facility is part of it. Protecting yourself from legal liability is another part. All of these interlocking parts require both tools and training – and as a manufacturing procurement officer, you may find yourself responsible for both.