Dangerous machinery, the transportation of heavy goods and people working at height and in confined spaces combine to make engineering and manufacturing sectors of naturally high risk. But are accidents and fatalities inevitable? Happily, the answer is no. Most risks are completely avoidable if companies follow sensible advice. By careful planning of business processes, hazards can be identified, risks addressed and safety precautions enforced.
What are the most common accidents in the engineering and manufacturing trades?
According to the HSE, between 10 -15% of accidents in engineering involve the use of machinery. The potential for injuries caused by plant and machinery, in both engineering and manufacturing, is vast. Here are some examples:
- People can be hit or injured by a machine’s moving parts
- Parts of the body can become trapped between rollers, belts and pulley drives
- Sharp edges of tools and equipment can cause cuts and injuries
- Workers can be crushed both between machine parts, or between a machine and wall, or vehicle
- Machine components, materials and emissions (e.g. steam or hot water) can cause burns or scalds
- Electricity can cause electrical shocks and burns
But what about the other 85 – 90% of accidents?
More than half of all engineering accidents reported to HSE involve lifting and moving goods or slips, trips and falls. In addition, injuries and fatalities are commonly caused by:
- falling objects
- work at height
- work in confined spaces
What can your business do to lessen hazards?
A high percentage of accidents occur because people have chosen the wrong equipment for the job. The first thing any engineering or manufacturing company needs to do is examine its processes and identify the correct tools and equipment for the required result – and ensure that these tools are used in the correct way.
Having correctly identified the right equipment, the next step is to assess the risk posed by the tools or machinery. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does it have sharp edges or moving parts?
- Are there electrical components?
- What training is required for workers to use this equipment, and how can you ensure it isn’t used wrongly or by untrained individuals?
- How will the plant and/or machinery be cleaned, and could cleaning pose additional risks?
It is important to involve your employees in the process of this risk assessment. Their experience may help you anticipate risks you hadn’t thought of.
Document and train
Once the hazards have evaluated, you should ensure they are documented and publicised, and the correct training provided to employees.
Make sure this training is extended to every individual who could be affected. For example, cleaning staff and visitors may not work with machinery directly, but could suffer a serious injury if they were to accidentally touch the wrong part.
Label machines appropriately, and mark off dangerous areas.
Report and inspect
The engineering and manufacturing trades carry high levels of risk. It is particularly important to follow through planning and training with reporting and maintenance procedures.
Reporting – Make sure you have a system in place that enables employees to record problems or malfunctions with equipment.
Maintenance – In order to keep operating safely, plant and machinery needs to be properly maintained and regularly inspected. If you are unsure of when and how, speak to the machine’s manufacturer.
The manufacturing and engineering sectors involve naturally high levels of risk, but many of the accidents and fatalities that occur in these industries arise from neglect and lack of forethought. Ensuring that your company plans and implements the correct safety procedures will dramatically decrease risks, and lead to a safer and happier working practices.