5 key hazards in manufacturing that employers should know about


There are numerous hazards in manufacturing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported roughly 2.9 million nonfatal work injuries and illnesses during 2016. The organization noted that these injuries and illnesses occurred "at a rate of 2.9 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers" — clearly making this a concern for businesses across the wide spectrum of manufacturing industries.

Regardless of the different types of manufacturing businesses, certain hazards predominate and should be addressed in order to prevent injuries (or worse), as well as to minimize the negative economic impact of an unsafe work environment. Here are five 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. Slips, trips and falls remain a leading hazard for workers in manufacturing. Providing employees with safety helmets and other types of fall-protection equipment (while also mandating they be trained in the best on-the-job 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 for severe injuries. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported, more than 10,000 serious work-related injuries occurred in 2015, leading to more than 2,600 amputations. To combat equipment-related injuries, manufacturers should:

  • Ensure that machine guards are properly installed.
  • Limit access to equipment by untrained employees.
  • Increase training in awareness of surrounding conditions (to protect other workers in the area).

Don't allow your veteran employees to become overly confident when handling equipment. No matter how experienced they are, remind them that accidents can take place at any time.

3. Chemicals

Hazardous chemicals are often present in a workplace setting. Wherever these materials are used, they should be clearly labeled and safety procedure instructions should be prominently posted throughout the work vicinity. Training your team to be alert to chemical exposure signs and symptoms — and providing training for prompt first aid treatment — is another way to reduce hazards in this area.

4. Electrical Risks

Hazards relating to electrical equipment, exposed wires, unsecured electrical panels, etc., represent threats both to trained electricians and workers in other manufacturing areas. Employers should maintain vigilance against any number of potential threats. As OSHA notes, key risks include "overhead and buried powers lines [that] carry extremely high voltage," as well as ordinary wear and tear of electrical equipment "that results in insulation breaks, short-circuits and exposed wires."

5. Fire

From engineering to welding, there's always a threat of fire in a manufacturing workplace setting. Proper maintenance and handling of equipment can help reduce this threat. In addition, fire extinguishers that can be clearly seen (and easily employed) should be installed throughout the facility. It's a good idea to periodically train all employees in how to effectively use these devices in the event of an emergency.

Hazards in manufacturing can never be completely eliminated, but with certain safeguards, you can sharply reduce their potential to hurt your business. Common-sense precautions include:

  • Never let productivity become more important than workplace safety. According to Occupational Health & Safety, by demonstrating a commitment to safety for employees, "a company's owners set the tone and values for their entire workforce."
  • Make safety best practices part of your company culture. Hold ongoing classes and seminars in injury-prevention techniques. Hire managers who are dedicated to improving workplace safety. Ensure that all of your written policies emphasize worker safety and are clearly understood throughout the organization.

Accidents happen. In addition to protecting your workers, find an insurance company that shares a commitment to reducing the incidence of manufacturing-related injuries and fatalities. Learn more about prevention of costly worker injuries with the Westfield Insurance Risk Overview, a comprehensive look at risk control services designed to meet your business needs and prevent loss.