Heavy machinery, corrosive chemicals, and the physically demanding nature of the job all combine to make factories a high-risk workplace. In this fast-paced environment, factory accidents can cause a vast range of injuries including catastrophic injuries and even fatalities. Under these circumstances, it’s more important than ever for employers as well as workers to be vigilant and proactive with regard to safety at work. Following strict safety guidelines is key to ensuring that everyone goes home safely at the end of their shift.
Understanding the common types of accidents in factories can help both, employers and employees, understand what to look out for and how to minimise the risks at work.
Machinery And Equipment Malfunctions
Heavy-duty machines and assorted equipment are a common sight in any factory. They are used for almost all processes, from sorting out raw materials and manufacturing products to adding the finishing touches and packaging to finished items. On a busy factory floor, these machines are often used continuously for long periods, without any downtime. This nonstop use can inevitably result in malfunctions caused by gradual wear and tear, seriously injuring the workers operating the machine.
Regular inspections, preventive maintenance programs, and prompt repairs are essential to prevent factory accidents caused by industrial machinery.
Exposure to Hazardous Materials
They may not be as visible as huge machinery, but chemicals are used just as extensively in various manufacturing processes in factories of all sizes. In fact, it’s the invisible nature of toxic chemicals that makes them even more dangerous. Workers may not even be aware that they are inhaling a toxic gas in case of a slow leak from a broken pipe. Mishandling of hazardous chemicals and lack of proper protective equipment can also lead to chemical burns, respiratory issues, or other health problems.
Proper labelling, storage, handling, and disposal procedures, along with employee training, are essential to prevent such accidents. Most important of all is the need for all workers to wear adequate personal protective equipment.
Wet Or Cluttered Factory Floor Spaces
Slips, trips, and falls are common accidents in factories. They are most commonly caused by oil and water spills, clutter lying strewn around the place, unsafe ladders, uneven surfaces, or unsteady climbing equipment. A slip, trip, and fall accident can leave a worker severely injured, especially if they hit their head or back on a hard surface.
The risk of slip, trip, and fall accidents can be minimised by maintaining clean, well-organised workspaces and promptly addressing spills and hazards.
Electrical Hazards in Factories
Electrical hazards are a real and ever-present danger in factories, which typically have a complex network of electrical systems, wires, and equipment. While these elements are essential for production processes, they pose several dangers to workers.
Workers may come in contact with live wires or equipment or electrical malfunctions may cause a fire or explosion injuring all workers in the blast radius. Worn-out wiring, overloading circuits, inadequate grounding, and poor maintenance are some of the more common causes of electrical hazards in factories.
Ensuring that electrical systems are properly maintained, prioritising prevention, and training employees to identify electrical hazards can prevent electrical accidents at work.
Fires and Explosions
Aside from electrical hazards, fires and explosions can also cause factory accidents due to improper storage of flammable materials, chemical reactions, inadequate fire prevention measures, ignoring safety protocols when handling combustible substances and even lightning strikes. Inadequate ventilation can escalate the dangers by allowing the buildup of flammable gases, which, when ignited, can result in devastating explosions and worker injuries.
Proper storage and handling of combustible materials is key to reducing the risk of fires and explosions. It’s equally important to ensure that the workspace is equipped with sufficient fire safety equipment and that workers receive adequate fire safety training.
Collisions With Moving Vehicles
With moving vehicles and personnel working in close proximity to each other in factory environments, there is a high risk of collisions. Factories use a wide range of vehicles such as forklifts, industrial trucks, and delivery vehicles that can cause serious injuries to workers in case of a collision. Small spaces, blind spots, rushed environments, and overall carelessness can amplify the risk of a vehicle colliding with a worker.
From defining separate pathways for vehicles and installing vehicle safety features to imposing speed limits and training both, vehicle operators and pedestrians, several safety measures can be put in place to minimise factory accidents with moving vehicles in factories.
Overexertion And Strain
Factory workers may experience overexertion or repetitive strain injuries when lifting heavy objects, working in poor ergonomic conditions or performing repetitive tasks for extended periods of time. While these may not cause visible injuries, they can lead to lifelong chronic pain that can be debilitating.
Overexertion and strain injuries can be prevented by implementing ergonomic improvements, providing lifting aids, and offering adequate training on proper lifting techniques.
Overworking or working long hours without sufficient breaks can result in fatigue, leading to decreased alertness and coordination. This is regardless of whether the work being done is physical or mental – both can be equally exhausting. In an environment where staying alert and vigilant at all times is key to staying safe, fatigued workers are more likely to make mistakes, putting themselves as well as their colleagues at higher risk of workplace injuries.
Employers must establish reasonable work hours and incorporate adequate breaks into workers’ schedules to ensure employees are well-rested and vigilant on the job.
Unsafe Work Practices
Taking shortcuts is one of the most common of all unsafe work practices. Workers often disregard safety procedures and take shortcuts either because they feel overconfident in their years of experience at the job or just total disregard for ‘restricting’ rules and regulations. Unfortunately, something like not wearing safety goggles when working with chemicals, failing to wear fall protection gear when working at heights, or operating a forklift rashly can lead to serious injuries.
Workplace safety procedures must be established, placed where they are clearly visible to all workers, and strictly implemented on the factory floor with no excuses.
Lack of Training
With so many high-risk factors present in the workplace, proper operational and safety training is mandatory for workers and floor supervisors. New employees should undergo proper training programs on how to use relevant equipment correctly and also to familiarise themselves with safety practices and protocols. It shouldn’t stop there though. Employees and supervisors must mandatorily attend ongoing training programs regularly to stay updated on the latest industrial best practices, guidelines, and regulations.
There’s no doubt that preventing accidents in factories requires a comprehensive approach that combines safety policies, training, regular maintenance, and a commitment to creating a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. Regular safety audits and continuous improvement efforts are also critical in reducing the risk of accidents and potential compensation claims for factory accidents.