One of the largest responsibilities and challenges for managers in the manufacturing industry is to keep the work environment safe. Manufacturing facilities contain necessary hazards, such as machinery, that could easily injure someone if proper care is not taken. For that reason, it's no small feat to create a company-wide effort to create a safe work culture—and it does pay off. Here are eight components to create a safe work culture in manufacturing to help ensure your workplace accounts for hazardous conditions, practices, and more.
You need to ensure there's a strong emphasis on safety and caution to prevent apathy about safety in the workplace and ensure caution is pervasive in your employees' mindset. Offer lessons and lectures on safety practices to all employees throughout the year. Don't confine such education to employee onboarding or occasional meetings. The workplace needs to prioritize safety so that workers don't become lax in their safety practices or make the safety information seem like lip service, quickly forgotten once they are on the manufacturing floor.
Furthermore, to foster a safety culture, you need to make sure your workers know what to do in emergency situations. Whenever there is a hazard present, leadership must commit to addressing and eliminating or minimizing the hazard as much as possible. Acting on and responding to reports will show employees that there is a dedication to safety and well-being and encourage them to prioritize it as well.
In a similar vein, you will need to consistently train and update your safety practices to ensure they stay relevant and in the minds of your employees. Consistent training will help ingrain safety practices into the minds of employees so that, in the event of an emergency, they will know what they need to do to keep themselves and their coworkers safe.
Furthermore, regularly updating your safety practices is crucial because technology advances quickly, and you may have new machinery or processes to account for. Communication practices are key for both daily operations and emergencies. On a day-to-day basis, workers should be able to communicate openly with each other so that everyone is aware of what's going on around them. In an emergency, employees will know whom they need to turn to for a swift response.
A big part of open communication is making sure workers can report safety hazards easily and without fear of reproach. Unfortunately, it is common for employees to feel like they can't report danger in their workplace because the company may be trying to cut corners or protect its reputation and will retaliate as a result.
Make reporting hazards accessible and a direct line to the appropriate leadership to ensure responses are swift and create a safe work culture in manufacturing. Suppose it takes too long for a response and investigation into the hazard to occur. In that case, employees may lose faith in the process and become more apathetic toward reporting and addressing hazards.
A common tactic to try and encourage safety practices is to incentivize employees by rewarding them for maintaining a safe workplace. The problem, however, is that it backfires when employees receive penalties for reporting safety hazards. Workers will downplay or cover up hazards and injuries if they know they'll only receive a reward for maintaining the perception of a safe workplace.
Instead, incentivize and reward workers for swiftly reporting safety hazards and allow for swift action to correct the hazard. Such incentives will ensure the workplace is safe, efficient, and compliant with safety laws.
Your facility needs to invest in preventative safety measures that anticipate the workplace's necessary hazards to increase an effective safety culture. For instance, in most industries, falling is the number one cause of workplace injuries. While you can't eliminate gravity, you can minimize falls by ensuring all walkways, catwalks, staircases, and more have handrails to provide support.
Furthermore, a lot of machinery has some sort of exposed section that can be dangerous if a worker's clothes or limbs were to get caught in it. Custom machine guarding provides a barrier to protect employees and cover these exposed areas without impeding the machinery.
Another general tip is to ensure your facilities receive a regularly scheduled inspection. Safety hazards often start subtly; then, they grow into larger, more dangerous, and more expensive problems. Catch them early to benefit both your company and your workers' safety.
As part of your routine inspections, you should also provide maintenance to your machinery—even if it's just making sure they're clean. By taking regular care of your machines, you'll keep them clear of any dust, dirt, and debris that may clog their internal components and cause costly or irreversible damage. It'll also be important for preventing contamination, depending on what your facility manufactures.
Regular maintenance is also a good way to instill a routine of safety practices and avoid negligent ones. If you or your employees discover an issue, the machinery can be taken offline and repaired before more damage occurs.
Falling under the area of communication, make sure you create proper signage and labels and post them in accessible areas throughout the facility. Providing clear directions will make sure everyone gets where they need to go or that employees are performing company best practices correctly. Human error is always inevitable, but signs and labels that provide guidance will help minimize it by always detailing the proper instructions whenever necessary.
Lastly, if you want your employees to fully invest in perpetuating a safe work culture, leadership must also remain invested. The moment leadership takes a step back, employees will as well unless they are given adequate incentives to uphold all your best practices. It's also the responsibility of leadership to facilitate and implement new practices and address hazards. Best practices can quickly become outdated, and hazards will go unaddressed if you or the members of your leadership team are not around. Therefore, leadership and employees on the ground floor effectively communicate with each other to ensure this doesn't happen and that the best practices remain up-to-date, consistent, and effective, preventing delays.