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Put the Focus on Safety in Machine Shops

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that workers operating and maintaining machinery on an annual basis experience approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions and more than 800 fatalities. Moreover, most machine shops also contain flammable liquids and other chemicals that may increase the risk of fire. To help minimize the risk of accidents and injuries, a laser-like focus on safety is integral to any program designed to protect the welfare of employees and the health of the shop. Unsafe work environments combined with unsafe and untrained workers make for accidents and injuries waiting to happen.

Let’s take a look at several factors that comprise a safety program designed to foster a culture in the machine shop that puts safety first. This is an environment where employees feel not only cared for by an employer, but also accountable to help one another maintain a safe workplace, mitigate losses and reduce manufacturer’s Workers’ Compensation claims.

  • Communication: A safety program must include a system of communicating with employees that is readily understandable by all. It should include provisions that encourage employees to inform the employer of hazards on the job without fear of reprisal. Methods of communication should include a company safety policy or statement and regular safety meetings along with posters and bulletins, newsletters, and a suggestion box for employees to feel they are a part of the machine shop’s overall safety goals.
  • Safety Training: An effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program includes training for both supervisors and employees. Training for both is required by Cal/OSHA, and involves training all employees on the program, ensuring that new employees get trained, and providing additional training for new job assignments or when new substances, processes, procedures or equipment are introduced to the workplace and present a new hazard.

Supervisor Training

Due to the many hazards that exist in machine shops, be sure supervisors are well qualified and safety conscious. Supervisors should be familiar with the safety and health hazards to which employees under their immediate direction and control may be exposed. They should have the experience, knowledge and training to mitigate hazards related with machinery and tool use. They should ensure that only trained and qualified operators are permitted to operate machinery and equipment, that the machinery and equipment is in good operating condition, and that all employees comply with applicable safety regulations. Also, supervisors should ensure that all employees are trained to report all injuries and “near misses” immediately to the appropriate safety coordinator.

Operator Training

Operator training is also critical and should include a description and identification of the hazards associated with the machinery the employees may operate. Also, include training on the safeguards that are installed on each machine, how they provide protection, and how and under what circumstances these safeguards can be removed. In addition, train operators on what to do if a safeguard is damaged or missing and on immediately reporting any machinery or tools that exhibit signs of excessive wear or have damaged or misused parts. Operators should be trained on the use, care and maintenance of personal protective equipment; keeping the work area clean; and on emergency planning for medical incidents, chemical spills, loss of power and response to evacuation alarms.

  • Hazard Assessment & Control: Conduct periodic inspections and establish procedures for correction and control; provide a method of identifying existing or potential hazards in the workplace, and eliminating or controlling them.
  • Accident Investigation & Reporting. Even with the best safety practices in place, accidents occur. When an accident does happen, it should be immediately investigated and reported with an Employer’s First Report of Injury completed. It’s important to note that the time it takes to initially report the claim can have a significant impact on the overall cost of the claim. During the first 48 hours, the employer can earn the trust of a legitimately injured employee, which prevents unnecessary attorney involvement and enables the employer to help the employee obtain the most effective medical care. Additionally, the steps taken during the first 48 hours after an injury is reported are often more important than all of the other actions taken over the remaining life of the claim. Just take a look at the statistics: If there is a two-week lag between the time the accident occurred and when it was reported, the medical spend is 18% higher than for those accidents reported the same day as the injury; a three-week lag time results in a 29% hike in costs and a five-week lag time yields 45% higher costs. (We’ll discuss this in greater detail in a future article.)

When investigating the accident, find out what happened and why the incident happened: what caused the situation to occur; who was involved; was/were the employee(s) qualified to perform the functions involved in the accident or “near miss”; were they properly trained; were proper operating procedures established for the task involved; were procedures followed, and if not, why not; and where else this or a similar situation might exist, and how it can be corrected. It’s not about placing blame, but about preventing this type of accident from recurring.

Precision Manufacturing Insurance Services (PMIS) is committed to protecting machine shops in Southern California with comprehensive, competitive insurance and risk management services. Part of our commitment also involves helping our clients promote and implement sound safety programs to protect employees and the shop’s future growth by keeping Workers’ Compensation costs in line. For more information about our insurance products and services, contact us at (855) 910-5788.

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