1) Focus on preventable health issues

Occupational health problems, such as noise-induced hearing loss and skin disorders can be costly. As well as causing sickness absence, they can lead to additional recruitment and training expenses and compensation claims. So they should be taken seriously.

The main occupational health risk associated with the manufacturing sector is noise. Machinery noise can cause permanent hearing damage and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Noise levels and duration of exposure contribute to hearing damage but there are many practical, cost effective measures to prevent this including:

  • Implementation of machinery noise reduction measures.
  • Provision of adequate hearing protection and staff training.
  • Conduct regular hearing checks for those at risk.

Skin conditions range from dermatitis (eczema) and allergies to skin cancer, arising from uncontrolled exposure to cleaning products, mineral oils, solvents and other chemicals.

Safety measures:

  • Avoid direct skin or eye contact by wearing protective clothing and eye protection.
  • Provide hygienic washing facilities.
  • Check skin regularly for signs of irritation.

2) Make sure machinery guarding is doing its job

HSE statistics for the UK manufacturing sector show that 18 per cent of fatalities and 12 per cent of non-fatal injuries in the last five years were from contact with machinery. At the same time, total fines for health and safety breaches in the industry virtually doubled to £22.8 million in the first year of the new sentencing guidelines.

So check that:

  • Moving parts of machinery are adequately guarded.
  • Guards cannot be easily bypassed.
  • Staff are trained in safe use of the machine including safe removal of blockages, cleaning and maintenance.
  • Daily pre-use checks on safety features are conducted before use.

3) Be ready for the new PPE regulations

New PPE regulations come into force in April 2018 so you need to make sure your managers and equipment buyers are up to speed on the changes. Look out for hearing protection moving from Category II to Category III, the highest level. More rigorous certification testing is also being carried out in line with the category change, so expect to see prices rise.

4) Be ready for harsher manslaughter sentencing

Following the introduction of new sentencing guidelines in 2016 for organisations and individuals convicted of health and safety and food safety offences, the Sentencing Council is soon to publish new guidelines for those convicted of manslaughter. The latest guidelines are designed to send out a warning to managers and company directors who put saving money before the safety of their employees by giving them longer prison sentences.

But manufacturers who take their health and safety responsibilities seriously, not merely paying lip service to health and safety, have nothing to fear.

5) Be sure you have competent staff

You are obliged by law to ensure that your workers are competent, which means that they have the right level of skill, knowledge, training and experience to do their jobs safely. This includes senior managers and supervisors, contractors and self-employed staff.

Health and safety training planning:

  • Analyse your risk assessment, accident reports, near misses and sickness records to see where training is most needed.
  • Decide who needs what training and how it is to be delivered.
  • Make use of online training where possible.

6) Make forklift truck drivers belt up

There is increasing pressure across all industries, not just manufacturing, for employers to enforce the use of seatbelts on forklift trucks. Around a quarter of all workplace transport accidents involve forklift trucks, with drivers being crushed after falling from a forklift a common occurrence. So make seatbelts compulsory in your health and safety policy.

Forklift drivers are also required by law to have regular training on the specific type of truck they operate and refresher courses every three to five years. Forklifts should be inspected at the start of each shift and any problems reported.

7) Check drivers are safe behind the wheel

Driving is a potentially hazardous activity that should be included in risk assessments – more than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve somebody who is driving as part of their work at the time.

Consider in your health and safety policy:

  • Journey planning – routes, weather conditions, rest breaks.
  • Vehicle condition – free from defects, insured for business use and MOT’d.
  • Driver suitability – fitness and required level of training.

Reviews should include licence checks and monitor long-term conditions, medication and eyesight.

8) Take stock of racking

Stock falling from racking or its collapse can cause serious injury and even death, so racking should be visually inspected at least once a month by a technically competent person. Load capacities should be obeyed and a damage log kept.

Also ensure that:

  • Access to racking is kept clear.
  • Racking is anchored securely and well spaced.
  • Lighting is adequate and floors are not slippery or uneven.
  • Pedestrians and forklifts do not operate in aisles at the same time.

9) Loading, unloading and visiting drivers

Falling loads, falls from loading docks and agency drivers who are unfamiliar with your procedures are just a few of the potential hazards found in loading areas. Special care needs to be taken to prevent vehicles moving away from loading bays unexpectedly – so make sure vehicles have their brakes on and stabilisers in place while loading and prevent them from being driven off too soon with traffic lights, restraints and/or by keeping keys elsewhere.

Provide training on using dock levellers, tail lifts and other equipment and provide instructions in advance if agency drivers will be required to load/unload goods.

10) Be prepared for Brexit

Anyone hoping Brexit would bring about a sea change in health and safety regulations will probably be disappointed – in the short term at least. Employers in manufacturing are more likely to be affected by recruitment issues as we leave the EU as ONS figures show that net migration plummeted by 100,000 – nearly a third – in the year following the EU referendum, with EU citizens accounting for most of the fall. That means fewer migrant workers and increased investment in recruiting, training and supervising new staff for manufacturers. Online training, such as the e-learning modules in our Safety Cloud software, is a simple way of covering the basics quickly.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues in this article or any other health and safety matter, please contact Southalls on 0345 257 4015 or e-mail hello@southalls.com. Our team of highly-qualified and experienced consultants will be happy to answer your questions. We also offer a manufacturing e-guide. You can view it by clicking here.