Safety in the workplace is no joke.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows there were more than 4,500 fatal workplace injuries across all sectors in 2014, in addition to more than 3 million total recordable cases of non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses.
In physically demanding and/or high-risk industries like many industrial operations, the implications of such injuries can be disastrous. Each year, manufacturers and distributors lose valuable manpower to slips, falls, and other accidents that hurt people, cause employees to miss work, and cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation claims.
If you run a warehouse, manufacturing operation, or heavy commercial facility, practicing workplace safety isn’t just a good idea: It’s essential.
Safety in industrial operations is about more than just protecting workers, although that’s always going to be the top priority. Promoting safety throughout the organization also helps to optimize worker productivity and drive revenue growth, over both the near and the long term.
Let’s take a closer look at how.
Investment in People
It’s no secret that the American industrial industry is undergoing a significant shift in workforce demographics as the older generation looks to retire in the coming years and younger workers increasingly enter the workforce. Pew Research Center data, in fact, shows approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years, which corresponds to increasing numbers of older workers retiring – at an alarming rate.
For manufacturing and distribution companies, the time to start capturing the safety knowledge of the retiring workforce is now. In other words, manufacturers and DCs need to set up a knowledge transfer process between new and retiring workers to promote safety best practices, as well as thwart any inefficiencies that might impede productivity.
While such an investment in workers and their safety requires due time, resources, and attention, a Penske blog on workplace safety notes that “every penny spent trying to prevent an accident is better than any expense dealing with the results of an accident.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data referenced above may appear shocking at first glance, but what the statistics fail to mention is that many of the workplace injuries highlighted could have been prevented in the first place with simple ergonomics.
Injuries aside, ergonomics also helps to promote worker productivity as well as improve morale. By reducing physical strain on the body (i.e., floor-level lifting, stretching to reach loads above or below arm level, or bending over for long periods of time), ergonomics allows workers to focus on the value-added work — not the amount of physical effort required to get the work done.
As noted by Bishamon’s Bob Clark, “the right [ergonomic] equipment can not only alleviate heavy loads and increase the range of motion for workers, it can also lead to efficiencies that translate to profit for your bottom line.”
While training is the foundation of all good safety programs — training and retraining not only reminds employees how to be safe, it also reminds them why to be safe — training programs can (and should) be augmented by safety automation.
When integrated into a well-planned safety training and safety process, automation can be a valuable asset because it reduces the need for workers to be in high-risk areas. As a result, workers can be redeployed to areas where they can be more productive and efficient. What’s more, companies can reinforce the importance of safety to employees across the organization.
“By using automated systems and intelligent software,” said SI Systems' Ed Romaine, “our organization can reduce walking, searching, and time spent delivering things. These are all different means of reducing the ergonomic strain on an individual, which helps enhance a company’s return on investment on their employees. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.”
With the sheer volume of worker injuries, illnesses, and fatalities that occur each year in manufacturing and distribution operations, organizations must be prioritizing workplace safety at all times. Working to promote safer and more efficient operations not only protects workers, but it also drives productivity and improves a company’s bottom line.
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