Three Secrets to Building an Effective Manufacturing Safety Program
Safety is one of the first lessons we learn as kids—don’t touch the hot burners on the stove, don’t run with scissors, and don’t push your sister too hard on the swings.
But developing a comprehensive safety program for your manufacturing plant isn’t so simple—and the stakes are much higher. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal workplace injuries rose 5.7% in 2022. Injury and illness cases were also up from the previous year by 7.5%. Sloppy safety standards can lead to fines, fatalities, and financial disasters for your business. So how can you ensure that your company doesn’t become a warning statistic this year?
By building an effective manufacturing safety program. And we’ll show you how.
Below, we’ll lay out ten of the most critical OSHA safety standards for manufacturers, plus reveal three concrete strategies that will help you create a truly robust safety program. Let’s get started.
What is a manufacturing safety program?
A manufacturing safety program develops and implements comprehensive policies, procedures, and training initiatives that emphasize the significance of workplace safety. Adopting this systematic and proactive approach promotes employee safety and well-being.
The primary goal of any safety program is to identify and mitigate potential hazards that are associated with manufacturing processes, machinery, and materials. Not only do effective programs comply with regulatory standards, such as those set by OSHA, they also help to reduce workplace accidents, enhance employee well-being, improve quality performance and foster a secure and productive work environment.
What are the most important OSHA standards for manufacturing?
The mission of OSHA is “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
To that end, OSHA sets down nearly 1,000 standards—but don’t worry. Not all of them will apply to you. We’ve narrowed the list down to the 10 most important standards for small business manufacturers.
The Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom) ensures that manufacturers communicate chemical hazards effectively through labels, safety data sheets, and training.
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) prevents accidental machine start-ups during maintenance in order to safeguard workers from hazardous energy sources.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards mandate that manufacturers provide and ensure the proper use of protective gear, such as goggles and gloves.
4. Respiratory Protection
This standard requires manufacturers to implement respiratory protection programs so that workers are shielded from airborne contaminants.
5. Hearing Protection
Manufacturers must address noise hazards and implement measures to safeguard employees’ hearing in noisy environments.
6. Fire Safety
Covering fire prevention, evacuation plans, and fire extinguisher use, fire safety standards ensure manufacturers are equipped to handle fire emergencies.
7. Fall Protection
These standards require businesses to implement measures like guardrails and safety nets to prevent falls from elevated surfaces.
8. Electrical Safety
OSHA’s Electrical Safety standards provide guidance on the safe use of electrical equipment in order to reduce the risk of electrical accidents.
9. Chemical Hygiene
The Chemical Hygiene standard mandates that manufacturers with “lab scale” laboratories must develop a program to manage associated chemical health and safety hazards.
10. General Duty Clause
As you can tell from the name, this clause is more broad and requires that manufacturers maintain workplaces free from recognized hazards, emphasizing a proactive approach to safety beyond specific regulations.
For smaller companies, the complexities of OSHA compliance can feel a bit overwhelming. So, with an overview of these top 10 standards under our belt, let’s take a look at some concrete strategies for how to implement these safety standards in your workplace.
Three Rock-Solid Ways to Build an Effective Manufacturing Safety Program
Time to get to the meat and potatoes of how to build your safety program from the ground up. We’ll lay out three strategies here, but don’t worry—we’ll be covering these in more detail in future blog posts.
1. Start with a safety-first approach.
Anything worth doing needs a solid foundation, whether you’re running a marathon, designing a skyscraper, or creating a manufacturing safety program. The most important building blocks for your program are:
- developing a safety mission statement and
- cultivating a commitment to safety culture at your organization.
A crucial part of this commitment is establishing clear policies and procedures that are based on OSHA guidelines. Once established, you also need to make certain your team is following through on them. Be transparent about who is responsible for what within your organization—whose role is it to ensure guidelines are being followed?
Ultimately, enforcing safety in the workplace shows your commitment to employee well-being and that attitude goes a long way to promote a safety culture across your company.
2. Assess risks.
Once you’ve developed a mission statement and begun to foster a culture of safety, start looking around to assess the risks in your environment. Conduct thorough workplace hazard assessments to identify potential areas of danger for your employees.
Start with the list of OSHA standards we covered above. What hazardous materials or chemicals do you work with? What machinery or equipment do your employees operate and maintain? Are your workers exposed to dust particles, loud noise, or falling objects?
Evaluate the risks for each area you’ve identified. Make a priority list based on the severity and likelihood of each occurrence. This will help you target which areas need your immediate attention and which are less urgent.
3. Develop a tailored safety program.
Now that you’ve identified and prioritized the potential areas for risk, you can start to develop a safety program that’s actually tailored to your company’s specific needs.
That means creating protocols and procedures for each area that applies to your business (e.g., HazCom, LOTO, respiratory and/or hearing protection, and fire prevention). Likely, these procedures will involve implementing both engineering and administrative measures, providing necessary PPE, and developing safety training programs.
Developing a safety program isn’t something you need to do all on your own, though. Consider hiring a consultant as well as creating a safety committee from your own team members.
Get proactive about your manufacturing safety program.
Worker health, safety, and well-being should never be left to chance. Don’t wait until an employee is injured (or worse) to start implementing your safety program.
Whether you need help getting a brand new safety program off the ground or your existing policies need tightening up, our expert team at Berg Compliance Solutions is ready for your call. Reach out today to take charge of your workplace safety.