Manufacturing Health and Safety – Getting it right in 2019
by Duncan Davies
2019 so far has highlighted a number of issues that businesses need to be aware of in order to manage Manufacturing Health and Safety challenges. So far this year we’ve seen attitudes towards mental health change, technological developments change the way we work, and processes scrutinised as ecological breakdown becomes one of the planet’s most pressing issues.
The implications of these changes on the way we manage manufacturing Health and Safety are both large and small.
We’ve researched and listed some of the most important ones to consider to protect your team and keep your business in line with the changes that 2019 has brought so far.
In the UK, according to an NHS study, reports of mental health issues, in general, has risen in recent years, and experts attribute it to both a rise in mental health problems overall, and a break down in the stigmas surrounding mental health, leading to more people being willing to report their problems. In light of this information, it has become clear that ensuring your team’s mental wellbeing as well as their physical safety is an important part of running a business.
In manufacturing, though the statistics are lower than in other sectors, workers who reported mental health issues such as depression, stress and anxiety made up 31% of the workforce.
These problems lead to absenteeism, high worker turnover and can lead to injury and suicide. It’s therefore important that you assess and manage the risks posed to the mental health and safety of your team in as much detail and with as much commitment as you would their physical health and safety.
While physical injuries are often easy to spot and often reported, work-related mental health issues may exist in your business without ever being spotted. To identify and manage the risk, additional steps may need to be taken:
Ask your team – asking staff to complete a short survey about how their job affects them mentally may help you to gauge the mental state of your team. However, it is important to bear in mind that asking them about it can be a complex procedure. While stigmas in our wider society around mental health are steadily being broken down, they do still exist, and even when asked outright some workers may not want to reveal their mental health problems. Allowing anonymity in your survey may help, however, it may take some time and work around your company culture to get a true picture of your team’s mental health.
Assess procedures and workloads – looking at the amount of work your team is expected to complete and analysing the processes they go through can indicate whether your team are likely to feel stressed or anxious due to their roles. Asking staff whether they have enough time to complete their tasks, or whether processes could be redesigned to reduce pressure can help you to create a more worker-friendly environment.
Analyse Company Culture – the best way to make your team feel comfortable about talking about their mental health issues is by ensuring their work environment encourages openness and honesty. While this may be easier said than done, working towards destigmatising speaking about mental health in the workplace can help workers to be more open about their own mental state.
Training – Organise workshops, talks, seminars and one-to-one discussions around mental health in order to both breakdown stigmas attached to talking about mental health, and to teach your staff about how to manage their mental health, where to find help, and what support is available for them.
In 2019, cost-cutting, maximising profits and streamlining processes is the name of the game. While improving your business and increasing productivity is important, be careful these efforts do not put the health and safety of your workers at risk.
Time pressures can cause workers to make dangerous mistakes. While increasing production and minimising time wastage may improve your profit margins, having workers being absent due to injury or stress won’t. Ensure your team have enough time to safely complete the tasks assigned to them.
Make time for health and safety checks, risk assessments and surveys. As someone running a business, it’s understandable that you want to avoid downtime as much as possible, but sometimes stopping production momentarily to carry out tests, checks and inspections is essential. Many electrical related injuries and incidents occur during testing, so it’s important to ensure that wherever possible, cables and machinery are not live during tests and inspections, which may mean stopping production while this work is being carried out.
Look after your workers. While streamlined processes and micro-management of time can give the impression of productive and efficient business, it can affect your recruitment and employee satisfaction significantly. People thrive in work that is challenging but achievable; structured but allows some autonomy. Giving your workers mindless tasks, managing their time harshly and giving them no say in how the business is run all makes for unhappy workers who are likely to develop mental health issues, take time off or look for work elsewhere. High staff turnover means more resource pumped into training new employees on the health and safety issues within your workplace, and inexperienced staff can put others at risk. Moreover, a happy team is more likely to help you improve efficiency, as workers who enjoy their work and feel valued will put in the extra effort for the company.
In 2019, we’re much more environmentally aware, and the pressure on manufacturing businesses to deal with their waste materials responsibly is higher than ever. As technologies are being developed and implemented to help ensure manufacturing waste poses no threat to the public or the environment, more factors are presented that need to be considered in order to fully protect your staff.
Compactors and balers – machinery that is used to compact waste comes with a regime of servicing, inspections and health and safety measures that need to be implemented. Ensure any new machinery to help you manage your waste effectively is fully risk assessed, included in your health and safety audits and surveys, and is maintained to a high standard.
Liquid waste – some manufacturing processes can create huge amounts of liquid waste, including trade effluent containing biological waste and harsh chemicals. In an attempt to reduce trade effluent charges, many businesses are treating their liquid waste before it reaches the public sewer systems. While this is very good business sense and is beneficial for the environment, it’s important to ensure that systems such as these are safe for your staff.
Ensuring any solid waste that is removed during treatment is safely and responsibly dealt with.
Any chemicals that are used during treatment need to be COSHH assessed and plans made for the handling, storage and disposal of such chemicals.
Protective equipment for any staff who may need to be in contact with dangerous or hazardous waste is supplied in the appropriate sizes and levels of protection.
In today’s world, where the use of technology is more commonplace and necessary than ever, more and more sophisticated machinery is being used in manufacturing.
Recent figures from HSE suggest that 12% of all the injuries in the manufacturing sector are caused by coming into contact with moving machinery. This could be whilst operating the machinery or tripping or falling into it. So that you can reap the benefits of implementing more machine-led manufacturing processes without putting the safety of your workers at risk, here are a few precautions you can take to prevent these incidents happening on your site:
Keep machinery in good working order – malfunctioning or poorly maintained machinery can cause injuries, incidents and near misses. Not only this, but poorly performing machinery can have an effect on the rate of production in your manufacturing business. Ensure you have in place a rigorous inspection, servicing and maintenance routine for the machinery you use, to protect your staff and make your processes as efficient as possible.
Top Tip – Technology is currently being adopted by businesses that monitor the health of your machinery, taking measurements and readings of a number of different aspects and features, meaning you can be proactive about keeping your machinery in good working order and catch a problem before it goes it wrong.
Safeguards and safety equipment – it is vital that any machinery you use is fitted with the appropriate recommended safety mechanisms, including guards and emergency stops. It’s important to make sure these are installed correctly and are in good working order – ensure these are included in your regular inspections and servicing routines.
Training – proper training in the operation, daily inspection and emergency procedures of a piece of machinery are essential to ensure the protection and safety of your team. This not only protects those using the machinery but also ensures your business’s compliance, so keeping on top of licence and training renewals (including first aid training) will keep your workers safe and your business within the law.
PPE/clothing – baggy clothes, long hair, jewellery and gloves can all pose a major health and safety risk to machine operators in manufacturing, as they are prone to become entangled in machinery. Make sure your team are equipped with the appropriate PPE for their roles and ensure your staff are made aware of the dangers of dangling or baggy clothing around machinery.
Managing health and safety in Manufacturing in 2019
In a sector where efficiency, productivity and responsibility are key, solutions are available to manage the health and safety challenges in manufacturing that promote all three.
Investing in health and safety management software can:
Improve efficiency – using cloud-based, mobile-friendly software can streamline your processes through updated risk assessment documents, app-based incident reporting, and online scheduling, task assignment and activity trackers. These streamlined processes for carrying out essential assessments and inspections, reporting and paper trails means your company can stay compliant whilst needing to funnel less resource into paperwork and “red-tape”.
Increase productivity – Using the data your software gathers, you can be proactive about identifying and managing problems before an incident occurs, meaning your operations are not disrupted by health and safety issues, workers are not absent due to injury or illness, and your health and safety management team can do their jobs with the support of a data-led system.
Care for the Environment – by switching your health and safety management processes to a cloud-based system, you can cut your paper usage dramatically. As well as this, the improved risk management processes mean that introducing new systems to improve your business’s environmental impact are more feasible from a health and safety viewpoint.
Want to discover how Notify can help businesses in the Manufacturing and Engineering field to better manage their Health and Safety processes? Check out our dedicated sector page for more information.