The manufacturing industry is among the most challenging industries when it comes to health and safety. According to the BLS, the manufacturing industry accounts for 15% of all workplace non-fatal injuries in the US in 2019 and around 5% of workplace fatalities.
So, we can’t deny the importance of having a comprehensive health and safety program for manufacturing..
However, starting a comprehensive health and safety program is often easier said than done. Different manufacturing companies will face their own unique challenges, and thus it’s also necessary to develop a custom-tailored manufacturing health and safety program for the company.
With that being said, in this guide, we’ll discuss all you need to know about starting and implementing health and safety policies for your manufacturing business, and how to more effectively protect your workforce.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Step 1: Defining the roles of management and workers
Before anything else, it’s crucial to first secure the commitments from both employees and workers for the implementation of the manufacturing health and safety program.
Safety objectives should be clearly defined and communicated in this step. The objectives should be measurable (we can assign safety KPIs and metrics to them) and should be clear enough for all parties involved.
The health and safety program can only work when management and staff work together, and it’s crucial to communicate how the health and safety policies will affect both parties and what are their responsibilities.
Management should act as the evangelists of the health and safety program and they should contribute to the implementation, review, and improvements of safety policies.
On the other hand, workers should clearly understand that the health and safety policies are implemented and evaluated for their sake, and not just another chore.
If possible, health and safety policies should be integrated into HR policies and mandatory job responsibilities. Safety proficiencies should be included as criteria in performance evaluations.
Step 2: Performing safety audit
The next step is to perform a safety audit to identify existing and potential safety hazards in the manufacturing facilities and workplace.
A manufacturing health and safety software solution like iReportSource can help you in performing an accurate safety audit for this step.
The main purposes of a safety audit are:
- Identify all health and safety hazards in the workplace and manufacturing facilities
- Evaluate the risks presented by each hazard within the workplace
- Help meet legal health and safety requirements in your area
- Determine who is at risk with each hazard
- Evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of existing risk control measures
- Determine which activities or tasks require new control measures or modifications to existing control measures
- To decide whether further resources are needed to ensure all of the above
The safety audit should effectively identify hazards so that the manufacturing business can then develop and implement effective control methods for each hazard identified, which we will discuss in the next step.
Step 3: Develop and implement hazard control policies and systems
Based on the results of the safety audit above, we can develop and implement a hazard control system, which will include:
- A system for fixing hazards, or at least mitigating the effects of those hazards
- Communicating hazards to workers and management to ensure awareness
- Developing policies and guidelines for workers and management to prevent and mitigate these hazards
- Developing a system to collect and review information about hazards and near-misses, including a reporting system
- Developing a system for investigating near misses, incidents, injuries, and work-related illnesses to determine the hazards causing these issues and how to control them
For each hazard, we should apply a control method by following these principles:
- Eliminate hazards completely whenever possible as the main priority
- When elimination is not possible, change the people, equipment, environment, material, and/or process with safer alternatives
- When substitution is not possible, implement administrative controls:
- Providing comprehensive written guidelines and manuals
- Intensive monitoring of the use of hazardous materials
- Intensive training
- Limiting exposure time to hazardous environments and materials
- Provide additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as the last resort when all of the above is not possible
Step 4: Implementing a continuous safety training program
A key aspect of a successful manufacturing health and safety program is ensuring your workers and management have the required knowledge, skill, and experience to perform their work safely.
This is achieved through safety training.
Safety training should be made mandatory as a new employee onboarding program, and refresher courses should be given regularly to accommodate changes in the industry and/or workplace (i.e. when new equipment is introduced).
Again, a safety management software solution can help in managing your safety training program. You should plan safety training for:
- A new employee
- Workers working on an activity where hazards or processes have changed
- Workers who moved to a new work location and/or were assigned to a different task
- Workers facing new potential hazards and risks
Step 5: Continuous evaluation and improvement
By following all the steps above, your manufacturing health and safety program is ready.
However, it’s crucial to remember that a health and safety program is a continuous process, so you’ll need to maintain records and documentation about the implementation and ongoing management of the program.
This is not only important for reviewing the safety program but can be a legal requirement to show that you’ve practiced the due diligence to comply with your local regulations.
Conduct regularly scheduled inspections to ensure that your workers and supervisors are following the health and safety program, and regularly review the documentation to check how the safety program is performing.
Update the safety program when new hazards are identified or whenever there are any significant changes that might affect your manufacturing facilities’ safety.
The manufacturing health and safety program should be reviewed and updated every three years at the very least.