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How to optimise safety in a growing manufacturing business

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by Startacus Admin

manufacturing
Kelly Friel, Digital Product Manager with PPE and tool supplier Zoro, discusses how growing UK businesses can create a safer working environment and ensure they meet the current legal standards for health and safety.

Manufacturing can be a highly physical job involving lots of skilled manual labour, often using powerful tools and complex, heavy-duty machinery and equipment. As a result, manufacturing workplaces can be hazardous, especially if employers and staff aren’t taking the proper precautions — and unfortunately, around 60,000 workers are injured on the job every year (HSE).

Even if your manufacturing business is still in the early stages of development, health and safety should still be a priority: after all, it is your legal duty asmanufacturing health and safety employer. It’s not just a matter of ticking boxes and meeting your legal obligations, either: a safe workforce is also happier, healthier, and more productive, so encouraging a responsible and mindful working culture can help to boost your profits, too. If you think your health and safety policies could do with an update, then just read on to learn what you can do to prioritise your employees’ safety in your workplace.

Carry out a risk assessment

For all manufacturing businesses of any size, the first part of any new health and safety strategy is to carry out a risk assessment. This is a careful examination and analysis of manufacturing health and safetyanything in your work processes that could cause harm to people (including both your staff and members of the public). If you employ less than five people, then you still need to carry out a risk assessment, but you don’t need to put it on paper.

Once you’ve identified potential hazards, you need to evaluate the risks and decide on some sensible precautions, prioritising those which are more likely to happen or cause the most harm. The simplest way to minimise the risk of an accident is to avoid any hazardous processes unless they’re absolutely necessary, but when this isn’t possible, you’ll need to implement alternative solutions and provide your staff with some personal protective equipment (or PPE).

You may need to carry out different risk assessments for different departments — if you have an office or administrative area, then this will have very different health and safety requirements to a factory floor or workshop, for example. If you’re not sure what to consider in your assessment, or how to format it, then take a look at some example risk assessments on the HSE website to get an idea of what to include.

Pick PPE to suit your industry and day-to-day processes

The manufacturing sector encompasses a huge range of different industries, including everything from textiles, paper, plastics, ceramics and even work with molten metals, glass, heavy clay and bricks. Because the manufacturing industry is so diverse, every industry involves unique hazards and risks, so the HSE doesn’t specify exactly what sort of PPE you need for different tasks. Instead, this is left up to the employer, who must use their judgement and do everything possible to protect their staff.

To work out which PPE your staff will need to stay safe on the job, take a look at your risk assessment and work out which hazards can’t be avoided or minimised by other means. Then, consider which equipment could be used to help minimise the risk of hazard causing an accident or long-term damage to health.

For example, if your staff involved in cutting and sanding processes, then you’ll need to supply them with respirator masks with a filter that suits the material being handled. Or, if your employees work with hazardous substances — like corrosive chemicals — then you’ll need to provide adequate eye and skin protection, in the form of chemically resistant gloves and safety glasses.
manufacturing health and safety

Ensure your PPE is fit for purpose and listen to your staff

It’s no good supplying your staff with uncomfortable or ill-fitting equipment, as they simply won’t be able to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability while wearing it. So, consult your employees on what may suit them, and do your best to cater to their needs. It can help to hold trial sessions for them to test out new PPE before you put in a bulk order: this way, you’ll know that your investment hasn’t been wasted on unsuitable equipment.

Your staff are the ones putting their health on the line, and they may need to wear the equipment provided for hours at a time, so it’s important that you listen to their feedback. It they notice a safety hazard that hasn’t been addressed, or think their equipment could do with an upgrade, then make sure there’s a process in place for them to report this. Encouraging a working culture where employees feel able to offer feedback will help to prevent accidents and injuries, and it can also help to foster a more communicative, trusting relationship between you and your staff, too.

Keep your protocols and training up to date

Laws around health and safety are constantly being amended and rewritten, so you need to stay alert for any upcoming changes to the law. So, keep an eye on the news in your sector, and sign up for updates from the HSE: this way, you can plan training around new legislation before it comes into force. It’s also a good idea to refresh training every six months or so, as this will help to stop your employees from becoming complacent during everyday tasks.

New technological advancements are constantly changing the way we work, especially in the manufacturing industries, where staying on top of the latest machinery and software can be key to getting an edge on your competitors. But, that also means you need to be especially vigilant about keeping your employee training programme up to date. Remember to provide new training every time you introduce a new piece of equipment — even if it seems similar to things they’ve used in the past.

The manufacturing industry can expose your employees to all sorts of hazards, so it’s vital that you keep your health and safety procedures up to date. By carrying out regular risk assessments, choosing PPE that suits your employees’ needs, and updating your training regularly, you should be able to create a safe and productive workplace where accidents and injuries aren’t an issue.




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Published on: 2nd July 2018

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