In metalworking shops, the risk of injury is always a concern. From slips and falls to air pollution, an industrial environment is bound to include hidden hazards. By making workplace safety a priority, employers can increase productivity and worker satisfaction. To start, familiarize yourself with these five common mistakes to avoid, and their associated risk factors.
Regardless of what type of injury is sustained, these three risk factors affect the likelihood of accidents occurring.
Bear in mind that vulnerable workers may be less inclined to insist on proper training, due to their potential ignorance of the risks, or their concerns regarding job security. Since machinists and mechanics are among the most frequently injured workers, proper training in these fields is especially critical. Men are more commonly injured in the workplace than women, which can be attributed (in part) to an increased likelihood that they might shortchange training procedures or safety practices.
Proper on-site training is essential for regular employees, as well as members of a workplace’s joint health and safety committee, (who must be certified to perform their duties effectively).
Avoiding these common hazards will significantly reduce the risk of injury in your shop.
1. gnoring Slip And Fall Risks
Slips and falls are among the most common workplace injuries, in an industrial setting or otherwise. Oil on a floor is frequently to blame for falls, as even a slight sheen can create a precarious surface (particularly if workers are carrying heavy loads throughout the shop). This oil may be the result of a leak, or the result of fine oil mist in the air, which has not been efficiently collected by an air filter. Another common cause of falls in the workplace are items left on the floor, often by mistake. In a shop environment, employees may be wearing safety goggles that impair their peripheral vision, making that unnoticed box of supplies at their feet a hazard. Make sure that all stock is stored promptly and neatly. If storage becomes an issue, be sure to resolve the problem before the overflow ends up on your shop floor.
2. Ignoring Minor Injuries
In an industrial work environment, many employees may be inclined to “tough it out” rather than report a small cut or sprain. However, what seems like a minor injury may later be revealed to be more serious, and a delay in treatment means a delay in recovery. If ignored, cuts can get infected, and sprains can worsen as the victim attempts to compensate for their discomfort or limited mobility. These actions will affect their ability to operate machinery, which might lead to a more severe injury.
This also increases the risk to co-workers, since a compromised worker is more likely to make mistakes as a result of their pain, or their attempt to hide their injury. Again, vulnerable workers are more at risk in this scenario, as they may be less inclined to report a minor injury (due to the fear of being perceived as accident-prone). Make sure that first aid kits are well stocked and readily available, and that employees are encouraged to report injuries promptly.
3. Permitting Overexertion
While this may initially seem like a vague concept, one that is tricky to monitor and prevent, it is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. Overexertion is to blame for a wide range of injuries and conditions, from carpal tunnel syndrome to slipped spinal discs. It is strictly defined as “working beyond one’s capabilities”, and it is particularly common in the trades. Overexertion often occurs during activities that entail lifting, pulling, turning or carrying, since muscular functioning is impaired by fatigue and excessive strain. Just as shop employees may be reluctant to report minor injuries, they may also be unwilling to speak up when they feel they’ve reached their physical limit.
Because it can be difficult to pinpoint which activity is responsible for an injury (especially in cases involving back pain), employers may dismiss some injuries as a natural result of industrial labour. However, research shows that teaching workers to recognize the signs of overexertion will reduce the risk of injury. Since everyone’s personal limit is different, each worker should be educated regarding the signs of muscular fatigue, so they can take steps to prevent accidents or strain.
To further reduce risk, jobs could be redesigned to limit physical demands on the worker. This might include the use of specialized machinery to reduce lifting requirements. The initial financial output of a redesign will be offset by the long term boost in worker efficiency.
4. Allowing Distractions
A “distraction” could be a cellphone, a set of earphones, or merely a chatty co-worker. While these factors would not increase risk in some work environments, in an industrial setting they can be problematic.
Distractions due to electronics limit a worker’s awareness of their surroundings, which makes them more susceptible to trips and falls, injuries from falling objects, electrocution, and collisions. The everyday “walking and texting” scenario is responsible for a growing number of pedestrian accidents, and it’s also accountable for many workplace injuries.
Make sure to provide workers with regular breaks, so that they may use electronics (or catch up with co-workers) in a safe, separate environment. Discourage loud music in the shop, since excess noise makes it difficult for workers to hear instructions, irregularities in machine functioning, or an injured colleague’s call for help.
5. Ignoring Air Quality
In an industrial work environment, unseen risks are often discovered too late. However, smoke, chemicals, and oil mist in the air (which may be too fine to be seen) can cause bronchitis, asthma, dermatitis, eye irritation, and aggravations in the lining of the throat and nose. Oil mist can also turn into puddles on your shop floor, increasing the risk of slips and falls.
To avoid the potential health complications of excess airborne oils and other pollutants, be sure to have a professional assess your work environment, to install the correct oil collector for your space. Filtermist oil collectors can be adapted for use on a wide variety of machinery, due to their range of accessories. They are currently in operation in over 60 countries worldwide. Flitermist technology doesn’t just remove oil from the air- it also reduces smoke, chemicals (borne by steam), and coolant mist, all of which present health risks.
To make sure air pollution doesn’t increase risk at your workplace, call (416) 675-7760 to speak to an air filtration expert. Whether you need your current filter replaced, or if you’re looking to protect your employees by installing a new oil collector, our team will help you choose the right solution, anywhere in Ontario.