What’s the best thing since sliced bread? Maybe the real question is what’s better than an industrial bread slicer? Since the Industrial Revolution, the development of machinery has been responsible for great advancements across almost all industries. Machinery runs the gamut from the industrial production ovens that bake the bread to the pumpjacks that extract the petroleum that powers the delivery trucks to the construction equipment that builds the store that sells the bread. Machinery covers a vast array of products and tools with a single common theme: it reduces or eliminates physical human effort.
The production of this machinery, however, still requires people. The United States is the world’s largest market for machinery and its third largest producer. Machinery is one of the largest and most competitive sectors, with some of the highest paid jobs in manufacturing. It is a complex and dynamic industry that requires extra vigilance to ensure worker safety.
Many of the larger machines—meant for agriculture, mining, construction—require multi-stage production in large firms and use different teams of individuals. These complicated processes require clear communications guidelines and strict safety protocols. Transparency is crucial.
Unfortunately, machinery manufacturers haven’t been particularly good about safety in the past. In 2012, TRIR (4.2) and DART (2.1) rates were about 10% above U.S. averages. That is at least 117,530 work days and $718 million lost to injuries. Most commonly, OSHA citations are issued for respiratory protection, machine guarding, HazCom, LOTO, and powered industrial trucks. At an average of $6,000 per citation, that adds up quickly.
There are a few steps that can help. Machinery manufacturers need to focus on good job hazard analysis, incident reporting, and follow up. These are crucial for safe and healthy workplaces, especially in shops that are filled with people and kinetic energy. On a more granular level, manufacturers need to focus on appropriate machine guarding, proper protective equipment, good environmental controls, and mitigation of electrical hazards.
Machinery manufacturing companies have a responsibility to keep their employees safe so they can stay on the job. Their bread and butter depend on it.
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