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Top 10 Manufacturing Safety Tips

Toby Graham /

Manufacturing safety: it’s good for your people, your business, and your ability to sleep at night. 

But you already know that. You know that you have a fundamental responsibility to keep employees safe with the right training, policies, and procedures. You understand the link between your environment, health, and safety (EHS) program and your bottom line. You know that better industrial safety correlates with improved productivity, higher workforce morale, and a host of other benefits.

You also know that manufacturing compliance is no joke—that regulatory authorities such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are paying close attention to your safety program, just waiting to hit you with massive fines if they discover any issues.

You’re here because you’re looking for manufacturing safety tips. You’d like to learn some quick, actionable ways you can improve industrial safety each and every day at your organization. Lucky for you, we have no shortage of tips for manufacturing health, safety, and compliance. 

Here are the top 10, as chosen by our expert team of EHS professionals, trainers, and consultants.

1. Lock down your biggest risk areas.

These are the 5 most common safety hazards in the manufacturing industry, based on frequency of OSHA violations:

  • Machine Guarding: OSHA requires that certain pieces of equipment have specific protection mechanisms in place. This is what’s known as machine guarding. Examples of machine guarding include barriers, light curtains, and two-hand trips. Learn how to avoid a machine guarding violation.

  • The Control of Hazardous Energy AKA Lockout/Tagout: OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy control programs, usually called the “Lockout/Tagout” standard (or LOTO for short), outlines what workers should do to safely depower dangerous machines. Learn how to avoid a lockout/tagout violation.

  • Hazard Communication: OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard is the way you’re supposed to inform your employees about dangerous chemicals in the workplace. It’s a set of rules that covers labeling and tracking chemicals, as well as employee training on chemicals. Learn how to avoid a hazard communication violation.

  • Respiratory Protection: OSHA’s respiratory protection standard outlines how organizations should minimize worker exposure to hazardous air. Learn how to avoid a respiratory protection violation.

  • Electrical Wiring Methods: Wiring is one of the most common sources of electrical hazards. Wires—particularly flexible wires—cover wide areas, may be misconfigured, and can wear down easily, making hazards difficult to manage. Learn how to avoid an electrical safety violation.

2. Manage safety incidents and issues quickly.

This is one of the most important industrial safety tips as it can be a matter of life and death. Consider what steps you and your team take in the aftermath of a manufacturing safety incident. Are you prepared to act quickly? After all, a lot can happen in 30 minutes, and swift action could be the deciding factor in saving money and saving lives. 

Effective emergency response starts with preparation. If you have a plan, you can maximize the moments immediately following an incident—and minimize the fallout. 

Here’s a 10-step procedure recommended by manufacturing health and safety experts:

  1. Have a plan and work the plan.
  2. Let the worker know you will take care of them.
  3. Do an initial diagnosis.
  4. Administer first aid.
  5. Calm the worker.
  6. Control hazards that caused the injury if needed.
  7. Get help quickly if needed.
  8. Have a manager accompany the worker to the clinic.
  9. Follow up after the incident.
  10. Complete case management.

3. Conduct frequent safety audits and inspections.

Audits and inspections are the cornerstones of safety programs for manufacturing. If it’s been a while since you last conducted a safety inspection or audit—or if you’ve never one before—it’s time to get to work. By evaluating your facilities, people, and processes, you’ll make your workplace a whole lot safer, more efficient, and more compliant with state and federal health and safety regulations.

Learn the keys to safety audits and inspections.

4. Assign corrective and preventive actions.

To improve manufacturing safety at your facility, you and your team will need to take corrective and preventive actions. 

When inspections and audits are complete, be sure to follow through on what you found out. If you discover any issues, direct employees to take corrective actions to resolve those issues. If no immediate hazards are identified but there are areas that could become worse or need improvement, take preventive measures.

Learn why corrective and preventive actions are critical for a manufacturing safety program.

5. Train your workforce effectively.

Manufacturing training is essential for making sure your workers can do their jobs, operate machinery, and wear and maintain safety equipment correctly. Make sure all workers are trained on the first days of their jobs, and periodically thereafter. Workers will need to be trained on any new processes, policies, machines, and regulations as well.

(Did you know that KPA offers an award-winning library of manufacturing training courses? Check out our catalog.)

To train your workforce as effectively as possible, you’ll need to…

  • Know your audience.  Take time to understand the individual learner—or learners—that are taking the training and adjust your content accordingly.

  • Use real-world examples. Incorporate real-world examples into your training materials to improve retention, drive engagement, and provide opportunities for employees to practice scenarios.

  • Assess prior knowledge. Ask questions throughout your training to empower learners, drive engagement, challenge novice learners, and acknowledge prior experience.

  • Promote behavioral change through repetition. Set a training schedule with different activities, deliver training in different formats (videos, audio narratives, live performances, role-plays, journaling, etc.), and reinforce concepts by applying them to tangible details of the job.

Download The Keys to Better Workforce Training eBook.

6. Run safety meetings regularly.

In addition to training, you need to conduct safety meetings regularly. Some manufacturers conduct safety meetings once every 3 months; others conduct them every month or even multiple times per month. If you’re seeing increased accident rates and your safety program isn’t performing well, you likely need to increase the frequency of your safety meetings.

Keep in mind that a safety meeting is not a “toolbox talk.” A toolbox talk is an informal and usually very short (5–10-minute) conversation about a particular hazard—usually one that pertains to a project people are currently working on. Safety meetings are more formal than toolbox talks, and typically longer. 

To run safety meetings the right way, do the following:

  • focus on one issue at a time
  • keep it not too long, but not too short (20–45 minutes)
  • involve your employees in creating and running the meetings
  • use different approaches and a mix of media (videos, slideshows, interactive activities, etc.) to make it interesting
  • document everything to track the results and improve future safety meetings

7. Cultivate a safety culture.

A good manufacturing safety program is centered on people. It’s for, about, and by people. In other words, your company needs to take care of employees and also make sure employees are taking care of themselves and each other.

This is what’s known as a safety culture. It’s about going beyond paying lip service to safety and genuinely embedding worker well-being in the beliefs and values that unite your workforce.

To establish a safety culture, you need to take stock of your organization’s current culture, determine what needs to be improved, and make safety a habit for every member of your workforce.

Read more about safety cultures.

8. Complete required OSHA logs on time. 

Too many manufacturers overlook this industrial safety tip—and face significant costs as a result. Make sure to fill out and file all OSHA Forms 301, 300, and 300A as required for your organization. 

Generally speaking, you don’t need to mail forms to OSHA. However, if your facility receives a Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Form from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or their designee, you must complete the form and return it following the instructions. Your facility may also need to electronically report accident information to OSHA.

Many companies are required to submit information electronically to OSHA.

  • Organizations with 250 or more employees at a single establishment must file all forms—301, 300, and 300A.
  • Organizations with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries (such as commercial truck shops, automotive parts manufacturers, and transportation facilities) must submit Form 300A.
  • Organizations with fewer than 20 employees at all times during the year do not have to routinely submit information electronically to OSHA.

Learn the fundamentals of OSHA recordkeeping.

9. Complete all other required regulatory paperwork on time.

OSHA isn’t the only regulatory authority out there looking for records. If your business generates hazardous waste, for instance, you’re subject to a number of federal and state rules and regulations, each with particular timing requirements. You’ll need to file permits with the Environmental Protection Agency and your state regulatory authority by certain deadlines. Don’t wait until the last minute as there are multiple, work-intensive steps in obtaining a permit.

If your organization experiences a spill, chemical release, or other environmental violation, you’ll also need to file timely reporting paperwork for that.

10. Use mobile-ready EHS software to automate manual processes and make safety easy.

You can’t rely on pens, paper, and manual systems to keep your people safe and compliant in a highly complex, constantly changing world. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps built for manufacturing safety and compliance. 

Look for software that supports the functions and initiatives above—audits, inspections, incident response, training, reporting, and so forth. Also consider variables such as cost, accessibility, ease of use, customizability, and level of developer support.

Here are 12 steps for finding and implementing manufacturing safety software:

1. Gather all your existing EHS information. 

2. Develop a timeline and scope.

3. Create a team and project plan.

4. Create a list of key features.

5. Shop around. 

6. Narrow your search. 

7. Do your homework. 

8. Perform a few test runs.

9. Discuss your needs. 

10. Present your top choice to company stakeholders and get buy-in.

11. Purchase the software.

12. Work with the provider to implement the software. 

Read more.

Mobile-readiness is essential. Manufacturing compliance and EHS mobile apps bring the power of workforce safety software to a convenient, easy-to-use format. With key safety and compliance tools within your reach at all times, you’ll stay ahead of the various risks that threaten workers’ safety and your organization’s bottom line. Learn all about manufacturing safety mobile apps.

(Need help convincing your leadership to invest in safety software? Here’s how to fit software into any budget.)

Get All-in-One Manufacturing Safety Software, Training, Consulting + More with KPA

Ready to put these manufacturing safety tips into practice? KPA makes it incredibly easy to manage and optimize your industrial health and safety program.

With KPA, you get comprehensive, mobile-ready manufacturing safety software, along with a rich library of training materials and consulting, auditing, and inspection services. Manufacturing companies throughout North America trust KPA to keep incidents and costs down, train their workforces on important safety topics, ensure compliance, and maximize profit. Our solutions are built for efficiency and ease of use—and designed for the needs of today’s manufacturers.

See a demo.

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