Employees who work in a manufacturing setting are exposed to many potential hazards. Hand tools, power tools and machinery can all be dangerous if handled incorrectly or if proper safety precautions aren’t followed. It’s your responsibility as an employer or supervisor to maintain a safe work environment and protect your employees from injury.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that employers spend approximately $4 billion a month for workers’ compensation costs, but these costs are nothing compared to the human cost of injuries or deaths that could have been prevented, if only the correct safety measures had been taken.
Hand tool safety
Because they don’t run on electricity, hand tools are rarely considered a hazard, but improper use or poor maintenance of hand tools can lead to injury.
Instruct employees on the proper use of hand tools – for example using a screwdriver as a chisel could cause the tool to break and possibly send bits of debris flying.
Include hand tools in regular maintenance checks. Tools with loose or damaged handles should be replaced or repaired immediately. Tools that are supposed to be sharp, such as a saw, should be properly sharpened. Sharp blades are less hazardous than dull ones. You should also:
- Provide employees with appropriate protective equipment such as gloves and safety goggles.
- Use only spark-resistant tools in your workplace, if flammable substances are present.
- Keep floors clean and dry, and use slip-resistant mats in areas where workers use tools, to prevent falls.
Power tool safety
Whether they’re electric, hydraulic or pneumatic, power tools can cause injury if used improperly. Most employees are aware of the hazards of power tools, but regular training is an important part of workplace safety. As with hand tools, proper use, regular maintenance and the right protective equipment can prevent or reduce accidents on the job.
Just as with hand and power tools, machinery must be properly maintained in order to run safely and efficiently. Servicing machinery often requires workers to place their hands, head or limbs near or into parts of a machine, and if that machine starts up unexpectedly, serious or fatal injuries can occur.
Lockout devices prevent machines from starting up unexpectedly or the spontaneous release of stored energy in a machine. When lockout devices are used, workers must manually bypass or remove the guard in order to restart equipment. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends the use of lockout/tagout devices to reduce the risk of injury.
The failure to follow lockout procedures was the most common safety violation from 2006-2007 according to OSHA, and in more than 50 percent of accident investigations between 1984 and 1997, proper lockout procedures were not followed – or even attempted.
Each employee is responsible for following safety guidelines, but ultimately it’s your job as the owner or manager to make certain the workplace and all equipment is maintained properly and that proper protective gear is provided and used. Failing to supply workers with the right training and the right equipment could cost your company millions, but more importantly, it could cost a life.
Felicia Baratz is a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media addict living in Indianapolis, IN. As a contributor to ProfessionalIntern.com, Felicia discusses new, innovative technology and it’s relation to the business world and social media marketing.