High-risk environments are a daily encounter for many manufacturers. In producing everything from electric components to plastics, manufacturers come face-to-face with a range of potential dangers that can impact their hearing, vision and overall physical well-being.
As a result, addressing health safety issues in the manufacturing workplace is absolutely essential. With so many potential hazards, often varying depending on the type of manufacturing being done, this can seem like a daunting task. When focusing on the most important aspects in a personalized way, it’s very feasible.
Five of the most important areas where safety issues can arise, in addition to tips on how to prevent them, include:
Occupational respiratory disease can result in severe upper respiratory infections or permanent lung damage. Many people in occupations such as mining have long been prone to this, though in the manufacturing industry, recent technological advances and increased foresight has made it entirely possible to avoid.
In addition to encouraging employees to quit smoking, which can exacerbate any lingering issues, it's advised to provide employees with a respirator. This cleans air before it enters the body. It requires proper fitting and training, though for industries where harmful exposure in the air is frequent, it is worthwhile. Also, ensure there is adequate ventilation in the workspace. A great ventilation system can remove toxins and pollutants.
Manufacturing employees who deal regularly with dangerous chemicals should be highly aware of their potential dangers. Battery workers, for example, can face lead exposure via fumes or dust. The appearance of the danger can be invisible yet still prove lethal. Exposure to chemicals like lead can severely impact your nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. Chemical and lead exposure has been associated with coma, death, seizures and miscarriages.
With such high severity, one of the first precautions to take is mandatory protective gear. This includes eye goggles, dust masks and gloves. It's also a good idea to wear longer clothing, like pants that completely cover the legs and long-sleeved shirts. The less skin exposure, the better. Another essential tip is to make the location of first-aid equipment very prominent, to the point where it's common knowledge among every single employee.
The industrial industry is no stranger to loud noise. Many manufacturers are reliant on very loud machines to create their products. Both long-term exposure to loud noise and the chance of a machine malfunction producing louder noise than expected can result in hearing damage. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration made it a law that employers are forced to provide hearing protection if noise levels exceed a certain threshold. Volume and duration both play a role in determining this time.
Ensure you are abiding by the laws set forth by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. For example, it's illegal for employees to be exposed to 115 decibels or more of sound for over 15 minutes without hearing protection. Another tip is to have employees become familiar with sound and new noises in general. An employee becoming startled by an unexpected sound can result in an accident. Even though some loud noises are unavoidable, investing in quieter machines can go a long way towards improving employee health.
According to the Vision Council, 61 percent of eye-related injuries occur in the construction, manufacturing and trade industries. The reason for this is the tendency of machines to release materials and particles that can hurt the eye. Whether it's metal, concrete and dust particles or splashes from chemical fumes, irritation of the eyes or loss of eyesight entirely is something that can be avoided.
Any employee in the vicinity of a machine with the potential to throw off material, or chemical material in general, should be wearing eye goggles or safety goggles at all times. Make sure they have side eye shields as well, in case something splashes from the side. So many manufacturing tasks, including drilling, sanding, spraying, hammering and welding, can have things chip off and ram into an eye. Avoiding this through safety equipment and proper technique should be strongly emphasized in the workplace.
Any manufacturing danger poses a risk to your physical well-being. Machines alone can cause broken bones and severe bruising with just a single mistake. They can produce heat and flame that can result in severe burns. Also possible are gears, pulleys, sprockets and shafts that can entangle users. This is in addition to sharp edges present on many machines.
Essentially, avoiding physical injury can be best prevented through guards that limit access to more dangerous areas. In addition, making sure to turn off machines when not in use or when under inspection is strongly suggested. Never attempt to cut corners or work on a machine with potentially faulty operations — it could result in a life being taken.
These five areas are the most essential when considering health safety issues in manufacturing. However, you can make the workplace a significantly safer place by following the suggestions above, which increase overall awareness among employees and make first-aid readily available if an accident does occur.
Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer.