Best safety practices in manufacturing

For an organization to have a robust safety program, it must have a strong commitment to safety. If implemented, there are recommended practices that provide responsible employers and workers with a proactive and practical framework for managing safety and health issues in the workplace.

Benefits of implementing the recommended safety practices include:

  • Preventing workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths
  • Preventing suffering and financial hardship for employees, their families, and employers
  • Improvements in product and process quality
  • Improved morale among employees
  • Decreasing employee turnover
  • A positive image and reputation among customers, suppliers, and the community

A study of small employers in Ohio found that when adopting programs similar to these recommended practices discussed in this blog, worker’s compensation claims decreased by 52%, and costs per claim decreased by 80%.

There are six key recommended elements of a successful Safety and Health Program. The crucial components include Management Leadership, Worker Participation, Hazard Identification and Assessment, Hazard Prevention and Control, and Education and Training.

Management leadership

Management Leadership help create a culture of safety and facilitates trust in the organization. The management leadership element provides the vision and resources needed to implement an effective safety and health program.

Business owners, managers, supervisors will:

  • Make workplace safety and health a core organizational value
  • Commit to reducing hazards, protecting workers, and continuously improving safety and health in the workplace
  • Provide the resources to implement and maintain aspects of the safety and health program
  • Visibility demonstrate and communicate their safety and health commitment to workers
  • Set an example through their actions

Worker participation

Worker participation results in better design, implementation, and evaluation of the safety and health program. For a safety and health program to be effective, there must be proactive worker participation.

Workers know the most about the potential hazard they face during their job, and successful workplaces will build an effective program with their worker’s knowledge and expertise.

Workers should:

  • Be involved in establishing, operating, evaluating, and improving the safety and health program
  • Be encouraged to participate and feel comfortable providing comments or reporting health or safety concerns
  • Have the opportunity to participate in all phases of the program design and implementation
  • Not experience retaliation for expressing health and safety concerns, report injuries, or exercise any of their rights under the OSH Act.
Inspecting Assembly Line

Hazard identification and assessment

Hazard Identification and assessment is a critical element that identifies and documents all known and potential hazards. After an injury occurs, a probable root cause is the failure to identify or recognize hazards.

An adequate safety and health program will have a robust process to identify anticipated hazards.

To identify and assess hazards, employers and workers must:

  • Collect and review information about the possible hazards in the workplace
  • Conduct periodic workplace inspections to identify new or frequent hazards
  • Investigate injuries, illnesses, and near misses to determine the underlying hazards, their causes, and the safety and health program weaknesses
  • Identify trends by similar grouping incidents, injuries, illnesses, or near misses reported
  • Consider hazards associated with emergency or non-routine situations
  • Determine the severity and likelihood of each hazard identified, and use this data to prioritize corrective actions

Hazard prevention and control

The Hazard Prevention and Control element prevents injuries using the hierarchy of controls. Elimination or Substitution is the most effective control, followed by engineering controls, then administrative controls, and the least effective control is the use of Personal Protective Equipment.

Having effective controls protects workers from workplace hazards, preventing injuries, illnesses, and near misses, minimizing or eliminating risk, and providing the worker with a safe workplace. After hazards are identified and assessed, an organization must control the hazards.

To successfully manage and prevent hazards, employers should:

  • Involve workers in how they think hazards should be controlled
  • Identify and assess options for controlling hazards using the hierarchy of controls
  • Use a hazard and control plan to guide the selection and implementation of controls
  • Develop policies with measures to protect workers during emergencies and non-routine activities
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented controls to determine if they continuously protect from hazards

Education and training

The Education and Training Element ensures that all workers understand the hazards they face while on the job, safe work practices to prevent injuries, and recognize how to participate in a safety and health program.

Providing training and education are essential tools for informing workers and managers about workplace hazards and controls to ensure they can work more safely and be more productive. It will also provide workers with a better understanding of the safety and health program to participate in its development and implementation.

Education and training provide business owners, managers, supervisors, and workers with:

  • Knowledge and competences needed to work safely and to avoid creating new hazards
  • Understanding of hazards and how to identify, report, and control them
  • Specialized training when the work involves distinctive hazards
  • Effective training and education can be provided by classroom discussions, peer-to-peer training, on-the-job training, or demonstrations
Training factory team

Program evaluation and improvement

Program Evaluation and Improvement determine programs’ effectiveness and if modifications are needed. Once a safety and health program is created, it must be evaluated initially to verify it is working as it was intended.

Periodically and at least annually, the program must be assessed to determine what is and is not working and if it is on track to achieve its goals. If opportunities are found to improve the program, all employees (supervisors, managers, and employees) should make corrections and monitor how well the program performs.

Sharing the monitoring results and the evaluation in the workplace and celebrating success will help drive further improvement within the organization.

Program Evaluation and improvement include:

  • Establishing, reporting, and tracking goals, objectives, and targets that determine if the program is making progress
  • Evaluating the program initially, then periodically to determine weaknesses and opportunities for improvement
  • Offering ways for workers to participate in program evaluation and improvement

As part of your program evaluation, consider holding weekly meetings regarding various manufacturing safety topics. Getting your team members talking about safety on a regular basis will help them develop critical analysis skills.