3 things managers in manufacturing must do to protect workers

If you have experience with any part of the manufacturing industry, you know that keeping the workers healthy and safe is not just the right thing to do – it’s critical to staying productive.

Men in hard hats

by Brenda Christensen
Commercial-Account Executive at State Auto Insurance

If you have experience with any part of the manufacturing industry, you know that keeping the workers healthy and safe is not just the right thing to do - it's critical to staying productive.

We've spent a lot of time looking at the conditions that lead to unhealthy or even dangerous situations for workers in manufacturing operations. In the insurance business, this is what we do - identify risk and how to mitigate and manage through it to keep businesses, well, in business.

I've listed three areas here - if you're managing a manufacturing operation, you need to make sure you're aware of the best way to manage these risks to keep your workers and your business in good shape.

Strictly enforce protective equipment.

Whatever your employees are supposed to be wearing or using - gloves, glasses, helmets, masks, the right shoes, whatever it is - make sure they're using it.

This takes a real commitment and a conscious effort. You have to create a culture where it is unacceptable to go without these items. This takes time. It also takes more than a few posters or a single training meeting (not that these aren't excellent tools as part of an ongoing program).

Provide ongoing education, training and reminders to employees. This is crucial to help ensure safety is always top of mind. And, perhaps most important for truly creating a culture focused on safety, make sure your leaders are setting the right example. Management has to wear/use the right things and make sure the workers see it. No shortcuts.

Keep the risk of lung disease top of mind.

Safety accidents get a lot of attention, but a major cause of work-related illness in the United States is lung disease. Lung diseases are often caused by repeated and long-term exposure to chemicals, fibers, dusts, and other things often inherent to the manufacturing process.

Dust exposure and asthma are serious concerns for manufacturing workers. This has to be dealt with from two angles - both housekeeping and protective gear.

The right housekeeping measures are essential - things like proper ventilation systems, process to quarantine dust sources, and ensuring correct handling and removal of containers that include irritants.

And again (and I can't say this enough), enforce the use of protective gear and respiratory equipment, including masks, at all times. And, have a documented process, and follow it.

Demand safe equipment maintenance.

Insurance professionals are all too familiar with the problems that can be caused by half-hearted maintenance programs.

You have to have a formal program for maintaining equipment. This is critical for worker safety and for preventing things like fires that can cause major issues for people and the operation.

How you maintain the equipment is also a major factor. Machinery accidents are far too common. You absolutely have to make sure your workers are following lockout/tagout procedures every single time. When a worker performs routine maintenance over and over again, they may be likely to get too comfortable and circumvent a procedure to save time. Make it your priority to make sure this doesn't happen. 

The absolute critical issues surrounding worker safety are yet another reason we work only with independent agents at my company. You need a team of people who are thinking about all these things and looking closely at your business with you to make sure your operation, and your people, are protected.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.