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How to Maximize Employee Health and Safety in a Manufacturing Environment

Category: Blog, Manufacturing

Health and safety in a manufacturing environment are an absolute priority. There are hundreds of hazards that workers will face every day, and without proper training, the results can be catastrophic. Not only can injuries and accidents put worker safety at risk, but they also result in lower morale, productivity, and damage workplace culture. 

There are many regulations in place designed to protect workers, but these are only a baseline. A company that wishes to preserve its culture and make employee health a priority needs to find ways to make workers take ownership of safety standards. Luckily, there are many options for incentivizing and motivating workers when it comes to health and safety in a manufacturing environment. 

Standards for Health and Safety in a Manufacturing Environment

Maximizing health and safety in a manufacturing environment

When it comes to specific federal regulations for manufacturing safety standards, the go-to guide is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s provisions for general industries. While these requirements are extensive, it’s possible to break them down to a few broad categories. 

Inform

Train

Record

Employers are required to provide information to employees regarding their rights when it comes to workplace safety and reporting incidents. Companies covered by OSHA regulations must prominently display a poster that informs workers of these vital rights.  Workers must understand the necessary safety equipment, as well as techniques for minimizing injuries. Examples of such training include going over lifting techniques to reduce injuries, providing videos or written instructions for using eyewash stations, or certifying workers on the use of hazardous equipment or chemicals.  Employers must record all reported and known workplace injuries as well as any complaints regarding violations of standards. They also need to keep track of all safety tests and the results. On a limited basis, workers have the right to request access to these records.  

Test

Protect

Report

Employers must complete air quality, noise, and other safety tests when necessary. Such tests are often called exposure monitoring. Also, companies may cover medical tests for workers who have been exposed to a hazard, or complete tests before employment to get a health baseline.  The protect provision of OSHA is perhaps the largest, as it covers everything from warning and training employees on hazards to providing necessary safety equipment like earplugs, goggles, and gloves. The requirements for employers under this section will vary widely based on the types of equipment used and the work environment.  Employers must notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace fatality and 24 hours of a workplace injury requiring inpatient hospitalization. Also, workers who report OSHA violations or ask to speak with inspectors are protected from retaliation in the form of adverse action like layoffs, blacklisting, demotions, and other employment-related threats. 

OSHA regulations cover both private and public employees in all 50 states, except for self-employed individuals, immediate family members of farm employees, and workers covered by other federal safety sections, like maritime employees or longshoremen. It’s also vital to point out that these are just the bare minimum standards. If employers want to build a workplace culture that fosters productivity, they need to go a bit further than just meeting OSHA requirements. 

Keeping Morale and Productivity High

The total direct and indirect costs for a workplace injury cost a company about $41k, while a fatality is over $1 million. As COVID-19 increases exposure risk, these numbers are only likely to increase. Companies need to find ways not just to protect employees, but to get them invested in workplace safety. There are a few measures for managing this:

  • Lean protocols: Lean manufacturing doesn’t just improve productivity. It helps leaders discover where they could eliminate steps that put employees at risk. For example, during a Lean assessment, a manager may find that an employee must carry hazardous material downstairs, which could put them at risk. As a result, they’ll reconfigure the assembly line and eliminate this dangerous step. 
  • Controlled workloads: Overworked employees are far more likely to suffer workplace injuries as they rush to complete tasks and are typically stressed out. By strictly monitoring and limiting the workloads of employees, employers eliminate injuries related to overwork and improve morale. 
  • Preferred medical providers: Having a regular medical provider for workers can help to minimize the overall cost of injuries by giving them immediate treatment. However, it is essential to check state laws. Some locales allow employers to direct employees’ medical treatment for workplace injuries, while others prohibit it. 
  • Recognition: When employees make it a certain amount of time with no injuries or incidents, having some kind of recognition policy shows them their contributions are valued. On top of that, making safety a component of their annual performance assessment indicates that this is a top priority to their employer and ensures the employee views it as a vital part of their work. 
  • Profit-sharing: When employees own a piece of the company they work for, they’re far more likely to protect its bottom line. Offering a profit-sharing program makes them more accountable for safety in the workplace and can help limit incidents. 

Health and safety in a manufacturing environment aren’t just about meeting the bare minimum set by OSHA. Employers should go further through recognition and empowerment. This strategy is one that prioritizes the health of workers and makes them feel like a valued part of the company.

Pacific Research Laboratories, an employee-owned company, makes employee health and safety in the manufacturing environment an absolute priority. Visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603  for more information.