Managing Safety in Process Manufacturing

Risky Processing Activities in Manufacturing

All manufacturing processes come with their own unique sets of hazards.  Major hazards common to most industries include:

  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Machine guarding
  • Powered industrial vehicles
  • Electrical hazards
  • Lock Out – Tag Out of equipment
  • Environmental hazards

Manufacturing processes must be evaluated for these hazards as well as pinch points, sharp edges, bump hazards, confined space any other unique hazard to the process. Once identified, it’s critical to take action to minimize or eliminate the hazards to keep employees safe.

The Importance of Safety in Manufacturing Industry

Safety in the manufacturing process is important to prevent or minimize the risk of worksite injuries, related illnesses and even death.  Employee morale and efficiency improves with a highly effective safety process. Unsafe equipment leads to injuries that add to the cost of running the facility, along with degrading morale and efficiency. An effective manufacturing safety process includes 100% employee participation and holds everyone accountable.

Five Responsibilities Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act

The OSHA website, osha.gov lists several employer responsibilities concerning providing a safe workplace. Five of those are:

  1. Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSHA Act.
  2. Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicable OSHA standards.
  3. Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment.
  4. Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards.
  5. Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.

Safety Standards and Precautions in Process Manufacturing

Process manufacturing is a production system that creates finished goods by combining various materials using a predetermined process or formula. It is frequently used in industries that produce bulk quantities of goods such as food and beverage, oil byproducts, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, plastics, paper and roll goods. The basic types of production processes for these industries include individual projects, small batch production, bulk production, and continuous production.

Every manufacturing production process comes with its own set of safety concerns.  To address all concerns, there are some important things to take into consideration:

Hazard Identification

The first step in addressing safety in the manufacturing process is to identify the hazards. This is best done during design of the equipment. The next opportunity to identify hazards is during equipment installation. And lastly, the least desirable time, is after the equipment is running production. Hazards can include exposed moving parts, pinch points, uneven surfaces, trip hazards, electrical exposures, hot surfaces, sharp edges or corners, environmental, fall hazards and more. Once hazards are identified, they can now be addressed.

Hazard Controls

When addressing identified safety hazards in the manufacturing process, PSbyM uses the Countermeasure Ladder as our guide.  The Countermeasure Ladder concept “forces” us to think critically about the hazard mitigation process.  Too many issues are resolved at the training or audit level, when in-depth thinking would lead to a better resolution of the hazard. Every hazard identified should be addressed as high up the ladder as possible to ensure the most effective prevention actions have been determined and can be put into place.

Proper Guarding

Whenever a hazard cannot be eliminated, measures must be taken to safely protect the operator from the hazard.  Proper guarding of equipment includes any barrier that prevents the operator from encountering moving parts that could cause harm or injury. Areas that require guarding include conveyors, turning rolls, chains and gears, belts and pulleys, presses and so on. It is important that the guard be installed in such a way as that it is not easily removable.

Environmental Hazards

The manufacturing process area must be accessed for biological, chemical and physical hazards.  Biological hazards may be the result of waste or byproducts of the manufacturing process. Chemical hazards may be present because of certain chemicals used in the manufacturing process, or reactions of certain chemicals being blended during the manufacturing process. Examples of physical hazards are poor air quality, extreme noise, temperature, and radiation exposure. Once these hazards are assessed and rated, proper precautions must be taken to protect operators. Precautions may range from eliminating the hazard from the process to providing adequate operator PPE such as respirators, rated clothing and hearing protection.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

After all reasonable precautions are taken for worker safety, the manufacturing process needs to be accessed for operator PPE.  This may consist of hearing protection, eye protection, gloves suitable for the task, protective clothing and respirator needs. The PPE must be properly fitted and the operators need to be trained on proper use of the PPE to make sure it is effective and will provide the necessary protections.

Safety Training

Operators must be trained on how to safely use the equipment in the manufacturing process.  Clear Safety procedures must be written and signed off by the operators. This ensures that they understand the training and agree to using the equipment as intended. Any gaps in the training process must be addressed immediately and again signed off by the operators.

Operator Ownership of Safety

The Operators MUST OWN THE SAFETY PROCESS.  Management MUST SUPPORT THE SAFETY PROCESS.  Top down safety processes rarely are effective because operators feel that they are forced to do things and their voice is never heard when they bring up issues.  Statistics show that operators are the ones getting hurt in the manufacturing process making it crucial for them to be the owners of safety.  Management must allow the operators to own safety while providing the resources needed by the operators.

Successfully managing safety in the manufacturing process improves profits, improves production efficiency and improves employee morale. Performance Solutions by Milliken works with clients to create a disciplined system of cultural safety consciousness that engages the entire workforce, produces proactive focus, and utilizes continuous improvement. Learn more about our manufacturing safety consulting services today.

About the author

1 Response
  1. Safety is so important to manufacturing. We need to make sure that are safety protocols are effective and up to code. It is up to leadership to make sure the rules that are in place work and are being enforced.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.