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6 Key Hazards in Manufacturing That Employers Should Know About

While property and product damage are important considerations in the manufacturing industry, workplace injuries and cybersecurity are also top of mind when it comes to risk management.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported roughly 2.6 million nonfatal work injuries and illnesses during 2021. When considering only injuries, there were 2.3 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers.  Preventing hazards in a factory is the primary way to improve sustainability of operations, worker safety and financial health. Here are six key hazards that manufacturing businesses should watch for and work to avoid.

1. Falls

Whenever a worker must climb a ladder or otherwise access high places, there’s a risk of falling. Falls remain a leading hazard for workers in manufacturing. Maintaining guardrails and providing personal fall-prevention equipment (while also mandating personnel be trained in safety practices) can help keep employees safe.

2. Handling equipment

Workers in manufacturing industries handle all types of heavy equipment, often putting themselves at risk of severe injuries, which are defined as amputation, in-patient hospitalization or loss of an eye. According to data reported on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, just over 8,700 serious work-related injuries occurred in 2021. To combat equipment-related injuries, manufacturers should:

  • Ensure proper installation and use of machine guards
  • Limit access to equipment by untrained employees
  • Increase training to improve awareness of safety issues in areas surrounding equipment

Even veteran employees are at risk, especially when they become overconfident. Remind your team that accidents can take place at any time. 

3. Chemicals
Every workplace should clearly label hazardous chemicals and toxic substances and prominently post related safety procedures. Provide training on signs and symptoms of chemical exposure as well as on first aid and proper response to exposures. 

4. Electrical risks

Electrical equipment, exposed wires, unsecured electrical panels and other related hazards are a threat to workers as well as machinery and products. Look for ordinary wear and tear and regularly inspect your facilities and equipment using OSHA’s electrical standards to protect against issues like electric shock, electrocution, fires and explosions. 

5. Fire

The threat of fire is constant in manufacturing, but proper maintenance and use of equipment can reduce flare-ups. In addition, keep fire extinguishers visible and accessible throughout your facility and provide periodic employee training on their effective use in the event of an emergency.

6. Cyber

Modern manufacturing often relies on robotics and other computerized or networked equipment, which are rich targets for cyber criminals and are vulnerable to internal cyber failures. A hack, coding error or other network problem can shut down production, cause damage to machinery, and corrupt or destroy product. Because cybersecurity is a very specialized area, many companies wisely seek external help to make sure their systems are hardened against attack and failure. 

Risk management reduces losses

While manufacturing hazards can never be completely eliminated, you can sharply reduce their potential to harm your employees and your business. Never let productivity become more important than risk management, and remember that leadership sets the tone. Emphasize safety in written policies and talk openly and frequently about your commitment to best practices. Provide regular training to keep your employees aware, informed and prepared to handle incidents that do arise.

You can benefit greatly by working with an insurance company that shares your commitment to reducing hazards in a factory. Westfield provides not only excellent insurance coverage but also helpful resources that reduce manufacturers’ property and worker-injury risks. Learn more about prevention of costly employee injuries with the Westfield Insurance Risk Overview, a comprehensive look at risk control services designed to meet your business needs and prevent loss.