In a manufacturing setting, safety should always be your top concern — ahead of productivity and efficiency. Your workers should be able to do their jobs knowing how to avoid injury or property damage, and they should be confident that their employer has taken every possible precaution to help them. From worker education to a clear evacuation plan, here are five ways you can make sure you are operating a safe manufacturing plant. 1. Make a Safety Checklist Easily Accessible In many ways, plant safety falls to the employees, as they are the ones in regular contact with plant equipment. For that reason, worker education is crucial to plant safety. Whatever precautions you have in place for safe equipment and procedures, they don’t amount to much if workers are unaware of them. It’s your job make safety instructions easy to understand and accessible, and a safety checklist is an excellent start. Your list should cover personal safety as well as the safety of the plant (e.g., understanding safe work conditions, how to spot red flags, when to perform equipment maintenance). Post the list in preparation areas and break rooms. In addition to using the checklist as a general guide, make it enforceable. Follow up with each employee to make sure they are complying. Have your workers frequently inspect the plant using the list to ensure that they are familiar with it and that the plant actually is safe. In addition to safety, you can reference the checklist as a defense in the event of a work-related injury or lawsuit. 2. Provide Emergency Attire In manufacturing, protective clothing is crucial for simple day-to-day activities — think helmets and protective eyewear. In an emergency, the need for protective attire can change dramatically and without much warning. And it can even affect employees who don’t typically work in hazardous conditions. Be sure your plant is equipped with such emergency attire as smocks or hazmat suits capable of protecting against chemical spills and burns. Facemasks and eyewear should be available throughout your facility in the event of noxious gas or fire. And make sure the employees assigned to overseeing an evacuation have brightly colored vests so that workers can easily find them. 3. Frequently Inspect Your Equipment It is vital to general plant operations and worker safety that you have a strict equipment inspection schedule. Regular equipment inspections should be done at least every six months. You should also inspect any piece of equipment that has been moved, is being used in a new setting or is being used for a new purpose. Each worker should understand when inspections take place, and they should know how to do a brief inspection before every use — regardless of inspection schedules. 4. Know How to Spot Safety Hazards Addressing hazards is just one part of a safe work environment. First, you must know how to spot them, and this takes training. It is important for you and your employees alike. You should be familiar with what types of safety hazards are common in your specific plant. That way, you can do regular walk-throughs of your facility and more easily spot the red flags that can result in accident or injury. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration website is an excellent resource for looking at different types of workplaces so that you can better identify unique risks. 5. Have a Clear Emergency Exit Plan Even with all precautions taken, emergencies can happen. You must have a clear evacuation plan in place — and everyone in your plant should be familiar with it. Your emergency exits should be easy to find, and each employee should know exactly where to go in the event of an emergency. It does no good to have all employees crowding the same emergency exit, so be sure employees have multiple points of egress. It helps to have an “assignment” plan so that everyone is routed a specific way. An outdoor meeting point should be clearly defined. If most employees are gathering in the north parking lot while a few have exited to the south, the scramble to locate employees who are unaccounted for can add to the chaos. In the event of an emergency, you need to know who is working that day and how many people might still be in the building. A plant safety supervisor, or an assigned employee, should have easy access to a roster of employees who are in the plant on any given day so that they can take an accurate count of who is coming and going during an evacuation. For any type of safety concern within your plant, consult with the U.S. Department of Labor or OSHA. Author Bio: Tom Bonine is president of National Metal Fabricators. The Chicago area firm, established in 1944, offers custom fabrication, angle rings, welding, and bar milling services.

OSHA Safety Training Products