According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics, over 71,000 workers were injured and 144 workers were killed, in the UK during the year 2017/18. Factory environments are high risk, as they present a number of potential safety hazards and unique risks.
- contact with moving machinery,
- falls from height,
- being struck by moving vehicles,
- exposure to hazardous materials,
- and injuries resulting from excessive noise.
It is therefore important for factory workers to take the necessary steps to minimise these risks. In addition, employers are responsible for creating a safe working environment for their employees and anyone who might visit their business premises. Here are some of the top health and safety considerations that all factory owners should understand.
Moving machinery, such as cutters, incinerators, autoclaves and conveyor belts, present a serious risk to workers. Misuse or defective equipment, can easily lead to serious injuries and even death. It is therefore vital that inspections and maintenance on all machinery and equipment is regular. Staff training should include how to operate machinery the risks involved. This is especially important for new employees, who may not be familiar with factory equipment. The NEBOSH National General Certificate is a leading health and safety qualification that staff can complete online. It teaches workers how to identify and control workplace hazards, to help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries occurring. This qualification is highly recommended for all workers, especially those working in high-risk sectors such as a waste management site or factory setting.
Being struck by moving vehicles is a leading cause of injuries within factory settings. Vehicles such as pallet trucks and forklifts, tend to be in operation on factory floors throughout the day. To reduce the risk of accidents occurring, the presence of vehicles should be made clear to employees through the use of warning signs. There should also be separate walkways for workers to use, away from the path of moving vehicles. It is important to keep walkways clear and unobstructed and clearly marked. Make sure that any visitors to your site are aware of the walkways they should use, to avoid the risk of injury from moving vehicles.
Banksmen are in charge of all vehicle movements on a waste management site or in a factory setting. They are the eyes and ears for the truck driver. By using pre-agreed hand signals or radio, the banksman will guide the driver safely where visibility is limited. Because of the potential risks, a banksman needs to complete training before they can supervise vehicles.
Working at height
According to HSE, working at height is one of the leading causes of major injuries and fatalities in the workplace. Factory workers are often required to work on gangways and platforms. This presents a number of potential hazards. HSE recommend the following, to help reduce the risk of injuries occurring when working from height:
- Avoid working from height whenever possible.
- When you cannot avoid working at height, reduce the risk of falls by using an existing place of work that is already safe.
- Ensure that employees can get safely to and from where they work at height.
- Always use the right type of equipment and inspect it regularly, to make sure that it is secure and strong enough for the job.
- Reduce the consequences of a fall by minimising the distance.
- Provide employees with protection from falling objects i.e. hard hats.
Most factory workers will have some level of manual handling as part of their job. When workers lift or carry items incorrectly, serious long-term injuries can occur. This includes a range of musculoskeletal disorders from lower back pain to shoulder and neck injuries. For that reason, it is vital that all employees receive manual handling training, to make them aware of the risks and teach them safe lifting and manoeuvring techniques. To further reduce the risk of manual handling injuries occurring, automation and lifting equipment should be used, and tasks should organised to avoid manual handling as much as possible. It is also important to make sure that employees do not attempt to carry more than they can handle.
Slips and trips
Slips and trips are the most common cause of workplace injuries. Factory settings present a number of potential hazards – from uncovered wires and leads, to spilled liquids and inadequate floor surfaces. In a factory, it is important that workers wear safety shoes that have anti-slip soles as well as toe protection. Keep cleaning equipment nearby, to clean any spillages quickly thereby reducing the risk of an accident occurring. Make sure that factory flooring is clean and clear from any debris at all times. It is important to inspect and maintain the factory lighting to ensure that all walkways are sufficiently lit. This is especially important near steps or other tripping hazards. This will help protect employees and create a safer working environment, by minimising the risk of an accident occurring.