We tend to think of modern manufacturing plants as being places of relative safety. But every year, some 100,000 manufacturing workers suffer a job-related injury. That’s a lot when you think about it, given that only around 20 percent of the workforce is involved in the industry.
In this post, we’re going to delve into the ugly truth of manufacturing injuries. How are they being caused and what can be done about it?
1. Contact with Objects
Contact with dangerous objects is the biggest cause of injuries in manufacturing right now. It’s a deliberately vague category. But it encompasses everything from being crushed by robots to getting cut by sharp edges. Contact with dangerous objects accounts for around 40 percent of all manufacturing. That’s about 40,000 separate events each year.
But why do so many injuries of this sort happen? First, a lot of employers aren’t implementing enough safety training to prevent workers from taking risks. And second, workers and machinery are often not well segregated.
Overextension is responsible for around 24 percent of all manufacturing injuries. Overextension refers to the times when workers have injured themselves trying to pick up bulky items off the floor. But it can also relate to any situation where an employee has been put under undue strain trying to carry out work.
Again, there is a need for more employee training. But there’s also a case to be made for better organising factories so that work can be carried out more easily. That means keeping tools used most often in the most accessible drawers. And it means finding ways to assist workers with heavy loads, like using pallet jacks.
3. Contact from Harmful Substances
Everybody knows that manufacturing companies deal with some pretty harmful substances. And so it is not surprising that around 6 percent of all injuries are from contact with hazardous substances. Workers can suffer chemical burns or receive hydraulic injury. The key here is to make sure that the safety equipment the businesses uses is up to scratch. That means that companies should provide hydraulic gloves for workers working on high-pressure systems. And it means providing protective clothing workers in contact with chemicals that are dangerous to the skin or airways.
4. Repetitive Motion
The number of rote tasks that factory workers perform is declining each year. But there are still a lot of jobs that are repetitive. Human bodies aren’t designed to do the same things over and over again. And so it’s not surprising that repetitive motion injuries account for about 8 percent of the total.
To counteract this, companies can rotate workers between different tasks. Or they can automate routine tasks and set workers onto higher-level, less repetitive tasks.
5. Slips, Falls, and Trips
Just like in the construction industry, slips, falls and trips account for a substantial proportion of injuries. Roughly 19 percent of all falls in the manufacturing sector are attributable to workers falling over in some way. And that means that it’s a significant cost to business. There are some super simple solutions, however. One is to put down non-slip flooring. The other is to avoid the use of stairs where possible.