6 Common Industrial Safety Hazards (and How to Avoid Them)

While every job comes with its own set of hazards and pitfalls, some are potentially more dangerous than others. If you work in manufacturing or any type of industrial situation, safety isn’t just something to consider—it must be a top priority to avoid serious injury or death. A proper emphasis placed on safety helps keep your team safe.

However, knowing that industrial safety is important is one thing. Having a full understanding of how to put proper safety protocol into practice is another. The following are some of the most common concerns when working in industrial environments. Do your team members and working facilities make the grade?

1. Handling of Dangerous Chemicals

Many industrial working environments involve at least potential exposure to hazardous chemicals. Industrial-strength solvents, high-octane fuel, corrosive cleaning solutions and so forth need to be handled with absolute care. There also needs to be a proper protocol in place when it comes to how your team should handle potential spillage.

Employee training on the handling, storage and transport of hazardous chemicals isn’t just something that benefits new employees. Consider exposing your team to frequent refresher courses via regular safety meetings and evaluations. Post signs on proper procedure in high-traffic areas like corridors and break areas so workers see them throughout the day.

Last, but definitely not least, evaluate your facility’s spill containment equipment, and upgrade if need be. Stacking seals, drum pallets, spill trays, decontamination decks, spill collectors and more help ensure that if a spill ever occurs, your team will be able to make short work of it.

2. Fall Hazards

It’s a common misconception thatfall-related accidents only happen to inexperienced workers who have no idea what they’re doing when working at great heights. In actuality, workers who’ve become complacent and overconfident regarding their tasks are just as likely to be injured or even die because of a perfectly preventable fall.

The solution? Invest in solid fall protection equipment for your workers and take measures to confirm they wear it properly. Many workers adopt the bad habit of taking fall protection gear off and on because it’s cumbersome or uncomfortable. Lower the likelihood of this happening by making sure the equipment is as comfortable and user-friendly as possible.

3. Heavy Machinery and Industrial Vehicles

As with heights and hazardous chemicals, complacency can easily lead to accidents when work involves heavy machinery and the use of industrial vehicles. This doesn’t just apply to the person operating the machinery in question, either. When proper safety procedure isn’t followed, anyone who happens to be nearby is also put in harm’s way.

Employee safety training should emphasize the practice of keeping a continuous eye on other employees or passersby who happen to be in the area. Those working near machinery should also be thoroughly trained on how to anticipate a vehicle’s movements or alert the operator to an emergency if needed.

The installation of proper safety gear and equipment can help here as well. Check to make sure all gangways, loading ramps, canopy systems and safety cages are in step with current technology and safety standards. Regular maintenance checks should also be performed on industrial equipment—don’t wait until it’s obvious something needs to be repaired or replaced.

4. Fire Hazards

When your work involves heavy machinery, industrial vehicles, electrical wiring or welding equipment, fire safety precautions are an absolute must. Again, all employees should be trained on how to handle the potential of fire or situations involving combustibles. Signage should also be posted in appropriate areas so it can serve as a constant reminder on what to do.

Fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and other types of anti-fire equipment should be placed throughout your facility. They should also be clearly labeled and inspected on a regular basis to ensure they’re in good condition. Emergency phone numbers and instructions should also be posted throughout your facility.

5. Confined Space Hazards

Many industrial working environments require employees to work in confined spaces from time to time — places where oxygen could easily become scarce, leading to trouble (Vats and tanks are just two examples). The symptoms of suffocation aren’t always obvious and can make it hard for the affected person to call for help. The presence of toxic chemicals may complicate matters even further.

Make sure all workers know what constitutes a confined space and how to stay safe when working in one. Have team members work in pairs so that one is always clear of danger and free to react if necessary. Consider investing in reliable rescue equipment appropriate for confined spaces as well.

6. Presence of Non-Employees

Inept or complacent team members aren’t always the issue when it comes to industrial workplace safety hazards. Far too many accidents occur because of the presence of people that shouldn’t have been on the premises in the first place.

Limit who has access to your facilities and job sites. Make sure clear warnings are posted in as many places as necessary to prevent outsiders from unknowingly wandering into danger. Most importantly of all, make sure all employees are fully aware of the rules regarding non-employees or visitors. Make it clear that no exceptions are to be made under any circumstances — not even for friends or family. Diligently enforce the rules.

In addition to making clear rules and implementing thorough training, you can drastically improve the safety of your workplaces and job sites by investing in the right equipment. Always purchase equipment from a top vendor that makes it a point to keep safety in mind—a company like SafeRack is a great option. SafeRack specializes in supplying industrial companies and facilities with safety-centric fall protection equipment, gangways, loading ramps and more that are guaranteed to keep your workers and the integrity of your company safe.

About the author: Graeme Murphy serves on the executive leadership team of SixAx is as vice president of business strategy and development. Murphy oversees business development strategy for SafeRack in addition to managing international sales operations from the SixAxis office located in Kent, England.

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