What are the top warehouse and manufacturing injuries and how can you prevent them?
Keeping your warehouse or manufacturing facility safe is just as important as keeping it profitable. Many times the two actually go hand in hand. Your current safety measures may place a great deal of emphasis on chemical safety and preventing fires or explosions. While these are important areas, it is the little everyday mistakes that can account for the most injuries and accidents, so it is vital to take a look at the most common areas for injuries and see what you can do to prevent these issues.
During 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a total of 1,166,710 non-fatal injuries in manufacturing. Slips, trips and falls accounted for 289,470 injuries. Contact injuries accounted for 265,230. Over-exertion injuries totaled 410,960, and fires and explosions totalled 2,340 injuries. Health and Safety Executive maintains figures for injuries in the UK during 2013-2014, 10% of the workforce was involved in manufacturing. Manufacturing also accounted for 18% of all non-fatal injuries. The types of injuries are the same as reported in the US.
Slip or fall injuries and prevention
The majority of slip, trip or fall injuries can be easily prevented with proper housekeeping and the use of safety equipment. While the construction industry has a high rate of fall-from-height injuries, the manufacturing industry has its own unique problem areas.
When spills occur, an employee should immediately mark the area and notify the appropriate party, or clean up the spill themselves. Any wet floor areas should be marked. If your facility uses floor mats, the mats must not roll or fold over. Tripping over loose mats is a common problem and employees should be wearing the appropriate footwear, with soles that reduce slipping.
Housekeeping includes keeping excess materials out of walkways and preferably off the floor in general. Wires, cables and extension cords do not belong in walkways or equipment pathways. In addition to providing a trip hazard, equipment running over cables can cause damage that is not always visible and could cause electrical shock if the insulation becomes damaged.
Caught between injuries and prevention
Improper forklift operations are a major source of accidents and operators must be fully trained in safe use of this equipment. Improper loading can cause the lift to tip over, trapping the operator and any bystanders. Taking corners too quickly can have the same results. When loading and unloading trucks, operators should have a spotter to guide them. This will prevent the lift from running off a dock or dropping the load.
If your facility has a large amount of vehicular traffic, have separate pathways marked for pedestrians and equipment. All employees must be trained to stay out of the way of equipment operators, who may not see them in the course of transporting materials.
Equipment must be turned off before any repair or maintenance work is performed. A lock-out tag-out system should be used to prevent accidentally energising the equipment. Failure to shut off the power can result in entrapment and numerous other injuries.
Over-exertion injuries and prevention
Employees must be trained in the proper lifting techniques and use of equipment provided for lifting. When items are too heavy, assistance should be requested. Attempting to move heavy items without assistance can also lead to caught-between injuries when items are dropped on the hands or feet while moving. Repetitive motion injuries can be avoided by rotating work duties between groups of employees and encouraging proper breaks.
General safety and prevention
Falls in manufacturing and warehouse facilities often come from improper ladder use, or the lack of a ladder. Workers should never use shelving or other objects to reach items and forklifts should never be used for lifting or carrying people. Worn out wires and cables must be replaced to prevent the possibility of electric shock. Even minor damage to a cable can expose interior wires. There are numerous seemingly small details like this that can ensure a much safer work environment.
Remember that one of the largest factors in preventing accidents is thorough employee training. If your workers do not know the safety procedures, or how to use equipment intended to protect them, they are being set up for possible injury. The other piece of this is enforcing safe working habits. Worker safety must be a core component of your manufacturing facility, not just an afterthought.