• 30 April 2014

How the right equipment can protect your workforce

It’s no secret that industrial worksites can be hazardous. In fact, the HSE reported that in 2012-2013 an estimated 646,000 workers were injured on the job. The top four causes were: handling, lifting/carrying, slips/trips, falls from height, and being struck by a moving object — all accidents that are largely preventable if you have the right equipment onsite.

In addition to basic protective clothing, here is a list of safety equipment all manufacturers should have at the ready to prevent injuries and respond to emergencies.

Protection from electrocution: Electrocution is one of the biggest risks to your personnel. Your facility should be equipped with voltage regulators, proper power testing equipment, and cable and wire protectors. Employees who must work with electrical wiring should have access to electrical gloves, boots, protective earmuffs, protective eyewear and, often, a face shield.

Head protection: Head trauma is another leading cause of workplace fatalities, which is why your employees should have safety helmets suited to their specific job. If heat or chemicals pose a threat to employee safety, be sure helmets are equipped with face protection and are properly insulated. Likewise, safety goggles or glasses are crucial for head safety.

Fall protection: While helmets and harnesses are excellent for protecting a worker in the event of a fall, it’s even more important to prevent falls in the first place. And that includes more than falls from high places; your workers can fall while seemingly safe on the ground, potentially while carrying a heavy object. Make sure your facility is equipped with anti-slip tape and entrance mats to prevent falls of all types.

Traffic control: When you have large vehicles moving tonnes of materials at a steady rate, the potential for workplace accidents is high. As your operators can only do so much on their own to avoid injuring themselves or others, it is important to have traffic control equipment throughout your facility. This includes movable speed bumps, mirrors that help machine operators and employees see around corners, and signs that identify high-traffic areas and direction of travel. In some cases, use larger barricades and railings to keep pedestrian and vehicle traffic completely separate.

Air safety: Manufacturing sites are hotbeds for hazardous dusts. With chemicals, abrasives and other contaminants, it is important to have the right filter bag in place. Be mindful of the variety (high temperature, chemical-resistant, etc.) so that you make a selection that is best for your facility. Workers should also have access to respiratory protection such as facemasks or hazmat suits. These can help in situations with dangerous gases or when your workers are in low-oxygen environments.

Spill cleanup: Your workers should have the ability to promptly clean up spills and prevent injury. An industrial facility should be equipped with wipes and other absorbent spill kits. In the event of a spill involving a hazardous material, a movable spill dike can be placed to prevent liquid from spreading. A patch and repair kit can be useful in stopping a leak from getting worse.

Detectors: Your five senses will only get you so far. In an industrial setting, you should have in place smoke detectors as well as a gas detection system. Be sure that your system covers all of the common noxious gases, including carbon monoxide, hydrogen, nitrogen dioxide and natural gas. Many harmful gases are odorless and put your workers at risk of poisoning, suffocation or explosion.

Confined spaces: It’s one of the deadliest risks for your workers because it is not always easy to define. Confined spaces can include areas in which a worker can become trapped or any space in which oxygen can become depleted without warning. Your confined space safety equipment should include exhaust blowers and ventilation fans, wrenches, other access tools, and hoists and harnesses.

Tags, labels and signs: Every bit of hazardous material in your facility should be labeled as such. It should be visible and easy to understand. In addition to indicating hazardous materials, labels should denote high voltage areas and equipment that shouldn’t be touched. Tags and labels should be waterproof and well secured. Larger signs should indicate fire hazards and other workplace risks in the immediate vicinity, as well as instructions for responding to an emergency. If necessary, use signs and labels that are written in multiple languages.

First aid kits: An industrial first aid kit should include a variety of equipment — bandages, scissors, blankets, resuscitation equipment, etc. — to respond to a range of injuries. The HSE provides guidelines for what a first aid box should include. The kit itself should be sturdy, compact and easy to move in the event of an emergency. It should be clearly labeled and easy to access.

A well-equipped facility significantly decreases the chances of a workplace accident. Be sure your workplace is fully stocked with the equipment above and that your workers are trained to use it.