Between December 9 and December 21, we'll be counting down the 13 biggest stories on throughout 2013. From pig problems (see below), to Tesla's on fire, and being held captive in China, we'll be looking into just why these stories resonated with readers here and elsewhere. For the full list, updated daily at 1:00pm EST until the 21st, visit the Top 13 In 2013 page.

Any good plant manager will tell you that safety is their No. 1 concern when it comes to day-to-day operations. Everyone deserves to make it home at the end of the day without being put unnecessarily at risk. And while most every company does everything in its power to ensure that safe, comfortable place to work, accidents do happen. Even though they’re tragic, and perhaps could have been prevented, they teach critical lessons in the never-ending chase to make manufacturing — an inherently dangerous business — safer than ever.

One of the biggest stories on this year — safety-related or not — was the announcement that seven workers had perished at a brewery in Mexico. According to authorities, the workers were doing maintenance work inside the tank when they were overwhelmed by toxic fumes. The Grupo Modelo-owned plant continued to operate that very same day. Grupo Modelo issued the following statement: “Modelo is deeply sorry for this incident and will support the affected families permanently.”

In late April, Nissan Motor Co. announced that an employee of a supplier died in its vehicle assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn. The company said the man, who worked for Complete Automation, was killed when a large electrical panel fell onto him.

Just a few days later, a company in Oregon announced that a cleaning worker fell into a running blender at its meat-processing plant. Interstate Meat Distributors had hired a cleaning firm called DCS Sanitation Management, for which the man worked. OSHA was on the case right away, considering the plant had been previously reported for not properly locking out equipment during the tear-down process for cleaning. There was no evidence of connection there, but it was certainly part of the overall investigation.

Far more recently, OSHA announced the top 10 safety violations that it found during the fiscal year 2013. While these are broadly categorized, they offer insight into the areas that companies might want to put more thought — or investment — into so that they don’t lose an employee. Here’s what OSHA found:

1.  1926.501 – Fall Protection                                     8,241

2.  1910.1200 – Hazard Communication                    6,156

3.  1926.451 – Scaffolding                                         5,423

4.  1910.134 – Respiratory Protection                        3,879

5.  1910.305 – Electrical, Wiring Methods                 3,452

6.  1910.178 – Powered Industrial Trucks                  3,340

7.  1926.1053 – Ladders                                             3,311

8.  1910.147 – Lockout/Tagout                                  3,254

9.  1910.303 – Electrical, General Requirements        2,745

10. 1910.212 – Machine Guarding                             2,701

(Data Source: OIS Standards Cited Report Dated 9/13/13)

The popularity of all these unfortunate news items — and the OSHA announcement itself — proves that when it comes to safety, there’s a long ways to go. And while it’s important to recognize that accidents do happen, it’s even more critical to work as hard as possible to mitigate their damage.