No matter what type of manufacturing business you run, you should always be looking for ways to make your operations safer. To start out the new year safely, take a look at a couple of the major causes of incidents in 2014 and see how these accidents could have been prevented.
While the deadly accident at a Phoenix metal fabrication plant occurred in January 2015, it was not the first time entanglement caused an accident at the facility. This particular work involved threading large steel rods with the equipment spinning at a high rate. In this situation, the worker’s clothing became caught in the mechanism and the employee was pulled into the equipment.
In the first case reported, the worker’s shirt ripped away, leaving the employee with scarring. In the recent fatal accident, the worker was not able to get free. Preventing this type of problem requires two steps. The first is to ensure full employee training on the use of all equipment. The second is enforcing dress codes that limit loose clothing or jewelry items that can become caught in moving equipment.
Accidents do not just happen to machine operators; maintenance personnel face just as many dangers. Equipment should always be shut down and de-energized before any maintenance or repair work is performed. Many serious accidents occur because workers take shortcuts and do not shut down the equipment correctly. However, it takes more than just throwing a switch to ensure safety.
While the death that occurred in a sugar factory in January 2014 was not in the U.S., the safety concern is universal. Just because a breaker is turned off does not mean the power is off. Trained personnel must know that circuits should be checked to ensure that the system is not live.
Mislabeled breakers are just part of the problem — as a manufacturing facility expands, rewiring can create changes that are not recorded correctly. Lockout tag out systems must also be used to prevent an accidental start up of equipment undergoing repairs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) has not yet released any full data for 2014, but information is fully updated for injuries in 2013. Musculoskeletal disorders made up 33 percent of injuries for that calendar year. Labors and stock workers were included in the highest number of the cases reported. Employees must be trained in the proper lifting techniques. While these injuries are classified as non-fatal, the cost of the injuries to employers is substantial.
OSHA citations and statistics
The top ten list of OSHA citations for the fiscal year 2014, which ended September 30, 2014, provides insight into many areas where safety failures are continuing to occur. Number two on the list is failures in hazard communications. This failure occurs across the board for all general industries. Improper forklift operation in general industry is the fifth-highest area for citations.
Number nine is machinery and machine guarding. Manufacturing facilities that have hazardous equipment, or use and store hazardous materials, must ensure that all employees are trained and aware of the potential dangers.
Forklift operators must be trained and certified in forklift use. Powered equipment must also be maintained properly. Machinery should never be operated with equipment guard in place and guards should be inspected to ensure they are operational. Amputations are just one of the injuries that can be tied to improper use of machinery guards.
According to BLS data, in 2013 there were 304 fatal injuries reported in the manufacturing industry. Of this total, 110 fatalities were attributed to contact with equipment of objects. Trips and falls accounted for 41 deaths. Transportation incidents caused another 84 fatalities.
By industry, there were 46 deaths in food manufacturing and 28 in wood-product manufacturing. The chemical-manufacturing industry reported 18 deaths. Fabricated-metal manufacturing accidents accounted for 47 fatalities. These numbers indicate quite a bit of room for improvement in manufacturing safety.
Training and enforcement
The majority of all accidents in manufacturing do share a common denominator, a lack of training and enforcement. Workers have not been fully trained in the safety requirements for the jobs they are performing. Safety procedures may be addressed, but never really enforced.
Safety must be a core component of any manufacturing operation, not just the word of the day. Without continual monitoring, many workers will backslide into familiar habits or take shortcuts that place them at greater risks. Take the time to adopt new safety procedures now and make 2015 your safest year ever.
Christina Chatfield is the Marketing Communications Manager of HARTING USA in Elgin, IL. HARTING Technology Group develops, manufactures and sells products for your specialized manufacturing needs, including connectors and electronic components.