The manufacturing industry is making strides in workplace safety, but that doesn’t mean you can be complacent. There are still many unsafe practices that need to be addressed.
11 of the most common danger zones in manufacturing facilities and how to avoid them.
1) Incorrect Hand Blade Fixture
Small hand cutters—manually operated or electric—are all too common sights on factory floors. As one of the most frequent tools used on the job, it’s hard to imagine how these particular devices could have any real engineering oversight behind them. Obviously, there are no standards for the proper calibration of these devices. But at times, it can be easy to forget that the blades are, in fact, moving independently of each other. The result being that sudden jarring motions during operation may cause them to become misaligned or even migrate out of their stock location. If this should happen, extreme care must be exercised when re-inserting the blades into their slots. Likewise, if this happens too often, it may be time to replace your hand blade cutting machine with a higher-quality tool built with more safety features.
2) The Wrong Mat
In a milling operation, the use of a solid rubber mat is a must for protecting your workstation from machine oil and other debris and providing a surface to which the tooling can be accurately aligned. However, even with an industrial-grade vacuum cleaner system and other tools available at your workplace, it’s easy to forget that hard floors and other surfaces may also be posing a safety risk. If there’s one thing we’ve learned during our consulting work, it’s that it can take just one small mistake to cause irreparable damage.
3) Failure to Break For Lunch
It’s a fact that taking a lunch break for even a half-hour can enhance productivity and alertness and combat a high worker turnover rate. Of course, it can seem strange to take a break from doing work to do more work. But studies have shown it’s better for everyone in the long term. And if things really get hectic, you see those guys with their lawn chairs and paper plates outside? They’re probably making sure they’ve got places set aside for lunch breaks, too.
4) Proximity to Moving Parts
This one is pretty obvious: it’s never safe to be standing too close to moving mechanical parts. Depending on your task, this could be considered anywhere from a foot away to many yards.
5) Using Improper Coolants
Many industrial coolants are flammable and toxic—and not just to humans; they can be extremely harmful to the environment as well. As such, special care must be taken when handling them in the manufacturing environment. Never leave them in an open container or allow overfilling of containers. Always store in a fully closed area with proper ventilation, and never allow children or pets anywhere near the area where they are kept for storage.
6) Lack of Fall Protection Equipment
This is especially crucial for extreme heights but can be applied to all situations where an employee can fall. If handrails, guard rails, or other devices are not available, make sure that the area in question is clear of any tools or other debris that would obstruct a fall. Remember, even if it seems like you’ll only be up there for a moment, if you drop something, it could easily end up on someone else’s head!
7) Failure to Use Facilities Properly
There are many facilities around manufacturing plants that employees should never go near without proper training and supervision. One that comes to mind immediately is the high-voltage electrical distribution center. But other areas include the sewage treatment plant and other locations where hazardous chemicals are used. Again, never take shortcuts; all of these facilities could be dangerous to someone unfamiliar with them.
8) Failure to Use Proper Lifting Equipment
Whether you’re moving material or other items around your department, always make sure you have the proper lifting equipment available and use it correctly. This includes making sure that both sides of a forklift’s forks are being used. If possible, use a guide or some other means of holding the material in place while the forks lift.
9) Incorrectly Using Hand Tools
Tools, obviously, should always be handled with care and caution. But there are certain trends that we’ve seen over the years that need to be avoided. First, do not allow disposable tools to accumulate in your work area. Not only will these become a potential liability for you in the workplace, but also dangerous if left lying around where they may fall into other areas or get stepped on by others. Second, tools should be properly stored in an organized manner for accessibility at any time.
10) Using the Wrong Leveler
Levelers are often used in high-traffic areas to control the movement of materials on a conveyor system. However, they’re often misused. Gravity is always pulling downward and should be taken advantage of using a leveler, which induces downward force. This maintains a material position on the conveyor at all times and can save time and energy and reduce injuries to employees handling materials. Also, remember that improper use of a leveler may damage equipment or even injure employees transporting material between levels. Ensure there is proper support for the machine to maintain its operating integrity and not fall onto other equipment or people below it.
11) Cutting off Lights, Fans, or Air Mover Filters
This is pretty obvious once you consider the environment in which it occurs. These are often considered an “open area” where employees work, but minimal airflow through them. Allowing these areas to become filled with dust or other debris can cause serious health concerns for employees operating machinery nearby. Also, if the space has access to outside air, it might be too tempting for air mover filters to become filled with dust and other debris. This will lead to reduced airflow and decrease the machine’s performance, which requires proper airflow. Any time you see the ductwork to the air movers or other equipment has become dirty, it’s important to wash out all filters immediately.
Here are some safety tips for general workstation hazards:
1) Rough Surfaces
Not only can these be a tripping hazard, but also a long-term liability. A surface that’s not properly maintained could cause serious injury or damage to your tool or even your company’s product. For example, put a radio beside a box of rocks, and you’ve just created a hazardous work area. Be sure to dispose of any hazardous waste from your work area as soon as it appears, and always keep an eye on the condition of the flooring around you.
2) Changes in Temperature
This can be a big problem for individuals who work inside and who don’t use appropriate protection. Call someone else if you’re working on a machine and it suddenly gets too hot to handle. Just because something won’t be harmful right now doesn’t mean that the heat won’t continue to rise over time, possibly causing serious harm to your hands, arms, or even your lungs. Take special precautions as needed when working around pipes, steamrollers, or other equipment that will change temperatures. Also, remember that many materials can burn at high temperatures and be hazardous to you as well.
3) Intense Vibration
Whether it’s from a machine or something as simple as a bucket full of water, the vibration intensity should be kept to a minimum. Always keep your hands off of these surfaces until you’re completely ready to proceed. If at all possible, use sound-controlled surroundings. If you can hear the sound of your own hammer, it’s too loud!
4) Dusty Areas
As a general rule, areas, where dust is likely to accumulate should be kept dust-free at all times. This includes making sure there are never pieces of machinery lying around where they could fall and introduce more particles into the air. When dust does appear, hose it down with water (and don’t forget to change the filters on the hoses!) until the particles are removed. This is also true for crushed rock or metal shavings that may be generated at times during your work.
5) Working Alone
Don’t be afraid to work alone, but always keep safety in mind. The best rule is to ensure you have someone close by who can help you if needed but still do your work if no one is available. If you anticipate “alone time” at any point in your shift, try to set up a system ahead of time with other employees for them to check on you periodically. If you’re working outdoors, make sure that your work area is visible from a safe distance from others.
6) Wear the Right Safety Equipment
This one seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often people neglect to wear safety glasses or other items as needed. Even a fall from a short distance can cause serious injury if you happen to land on your face. Therefore, you need to be wearing everything required by OSHA and make sure it is in good condition at all times.
7) Being Careless
This one is easy to avoid. If you see a significant hazard, make sure you stop and check on it. This includes filling up machines with water, turning off fans, and other similar actions that can create a serious hazard of their own. Not only will this prevent an accident from happening that could lead to severe injury or death, but it also prevents damage to another company’s equipment or product quality.
8) Exhaust and Dust
Workstations need to be designed so as not to let dust and moisture build-up, and particulate matter can negatively affect the performance of your workstation’s equipment.
In this article, we have covered a lot of different safety hazards found in a typical factory, warehouse, or manufacturing environment. We hope the information provided helps you identify these hazards and avoid serious injury, death, or even damage to your products. So, would you please use safe practices when working in your shop or warehouse environment?