Our director, Andrew Ashford CMIOSH, gives some top tips for safety in factories.
Over the last 35 years, I’ve gained a lot of experience working in factory environments, from almost 5 years as an apprentice, right through to my current role as a health and safety consultant and trainer. In that time I have seen a lot of changes in technology and new methods of working. However, no matter how much workplaces change, the fundamentals always seem to remain the same.
Here are a few of my top tips for helping to keep your factory safe and healthy:
Use suitable work equipment
Not only is this a legal requirement, but it makes good sense. Using the wrong tool for the job may mean that the tool gets broken and needs to be replaced, plus the worker may be injured. Using the right tool means that the job can be done at less risk to the individual and more efficiently.
Inspect and maintain
I was always taught to keep my tools in good condition, which is why I still have tools that I bought over 30 years ago. Look after the tools and they’ll serve you well. Employers need to devise and implement a system of planned preventative maintenance and inspection to ensure that tools and workplace machines continue to offer good service and break down less frequently. Start with the manufacturer’s suggestions but then look at how much you use the machine in question – does it need to be maintained more or less often?
Pay attention to housekeeping
This is one of the simplest, yet most effective controls there is. Not only will this create a tidier workplace where you can actually find things and work more efficiently, but it will likely reduce slip and trip hazards. Slips and trips are the most common types of accidents in the workplace and can have serious consequences; attention to good housekeeping will help reduce these simple but potentially serious incidents. Housekeeping also helps reduce the risk of fire. Significant fires caused by the simplest of incidents can ruin a business, so why take the chance when the solution is so straightforward?
Store flammables safely
Staying with the housekeeping theme, it costs very little to set aside a suitable cabinet in which to store those small amounts of flammable substances that may be needed from day to day. This will help reduce the risk of a fire starting and will help to ensure that flammables do not contribute to a fire. Larger volumes of flammables, especially flammable gases, should be stored outside. We’d be happy to advise you on this.
Maintain good lighting
Poor lighting (which can be too bright as well as too dim) increases the risk of slips and trips, as well as vehicle accidents. It can also lead to eyestrain and headaches. Maintain your lighting and ensure that any diffusers are regularly cleaned. Conduct a lighting survey to check that light is at the right level and is adequately distributed around machines, in storage areas, and over workbenches. Check for strobing with rotating machines and supply lamps where needed.
Work at height – avoid, prevent mitigate
Accidents caused by falls from height frequently lead to life-changing injuries, or worse. I’ve seen workers being lifted up on pallets placed on lift trucks, or working on a single plank with no edge protection, or working on ladders and steps that are far too short or in poor condition. Employers should follow these simple steps to make work at height safer:
- Wherever possible, try to avoid the need to work at height;
- If work at height cannot be avoided, look at reducing the chances of a fall, for example by providing barriers;
Lastly, if a fall could still happen, put in place measures to minimise the distance of consequences of the fall, e.g. by providing a harness where appropriate.
Manual lifting is an everyday necessity in a factory environment. Each year, more than half a million people go off with injuries related to manual handling, leading to a big loss to their employers in terms of lost production, wages etc. Try, where possible, to mechanise or automate manual lifting tasks. If lifting is necessary, only lift what you can manage and always adopt safe lifting technique.
Finally, a note on personal protective equipment. This is the last resort which should be used after all other controls have been considered but where an unwanted level of risk still remains. Your employer is legally obliged to supply you with appropriate PPE for the hazards to which you are exposed while at work; it is your legal duty to ensure that you wear it. If it breaks you should be able to get a replacement straight away. Never use damaged or worn out PPE.
In summary, attention to good safety and health practice is good for your business. Not only will you experience fewer accidents and periods of ill health absence, but the associated costs will reduce too. There will be a lower chance of experiencing enforcement action or being sued by an injured worker. Employers’ Liability Insurance premiums may reduce. Worker morale will be maintained and may even improve, leading to an increase in productivity. Staff turnover will reduce, which means savings on recruitment and training costs.
The benefits are clear and none of the above are hard to do. These actions, coupled with an effective training programme will help to ensure the success of your business, so why not contact Griffin Safety to discuss how we can work with you to ensure that your staff from top to bottom through your company get the safety training they need.
Griffin Safety Training Limited, January 2018