Industrial Safety is a vital part of any workplace, whether employees operate in an office-type environment or a factory. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States, 4,679 workers were killed at their jobs in 2014, which is approximately 13 lives lost per day.
Industrial Safety seeks to address the dangers that exist in any work environment through the use of policies and protections from any hazards that might injure an employee in the course of their daily work. Most nations have their own regulatory organizations, such as OSHA in the United States, and EU-OSHA in Europe, which set in place rules and regulations for businesses operating inside their borders. Furthermore, all companies create and maintain their own policies and procedures to reduce worker injuries, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Lockout/Tagout, Hazard Communication, Hearing and Respiratory Protection, Emergency Evacuation and Preparedness, Fall Protection, Industrial Trucks, etc. As a rule, the more heavy machinery or industrial chemicals that are involved in a worker’s job, the greater the chance for employee injury. The first step to mitigate hazards is to analyze the task, and find any potential dangers; the second step is to address those hazards to keep the employee from falling victim to them. The important thing to remember about safety in industry is that the job is always evolving, and new dangers can easily be created by a change in process, be that new machinery or chemicals, a new regulatory mandate, updated environment, etc. Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) is an ongoing process that is not just for new workplace situations; reevaluation of existing workplace hazards must be done on an annual basis, at minimum.
Working knowledge of industrial safety and its core programs is a valuable tool in all business settings. The following are a few of the core programs which are an essential part of any safety program:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is any protective gear that is designed to protect a worker’s body from injury or infection. This gear can includes the typical hard hat, safety glasses, earplugs or muffs, gloves, and steel-toed shoes from a standard factory-type environment, but it also includes specialized gear like the breathing apparatus of firefighters, the specialized suits which virologists wear to protect them when handling infectious diseases, and the lead-filled aprons which medical professionals wear to protect them from radiation (lead presents its own dangers, and there are alternatives!)
Respiratory/Hearing Protection falls under PPE above, but an industrial setting usually necessitates separate programs for each of these workplace hazards, as it is the atmospheric contaminants/noise levels at a specific workplace that makes this PPE essential. Because of this, outside monitoring of the industrial setting must be done and analyzed. If dangers are found, medical tests usually also must be done annually on employees as well as providing them with required PPE to mitigate the environmental hazards and provide a safe workplace.
Hazard Communication is the necessary instruction a company mandates for all employees on the hazardous materials in their workplace. Most of the time these materials are chemicals, but that is not always the case. Hazardous chemicals typically are classified as being of one or more of the following types: irritant, corrosive, flammable, health hazard (asphyxiation, carcinogen, mutagen), toxic, environment (danger to aquatic and/or other plant/wildlife) and combustible. How to determine if a material is hazardous or not is easily done by reading its Safety Data Sheet, which is usually available via internet search using the name of the chemical with the acronym “SDS” added on*. If that search fails, SDS are available from the company that manufactures them; request an SDS via the company website or nearest branch office. Recently, OSHA in the United States mandated a Global Harmonization System (GHS) update to conform with the documentation already in use by the United Nations. This GHS update standardized the SDS for all U.S manufactured chemicals in two important ways:
*Please note that if you locate older documents called Material Safety Data Sheets online, they were created previous to the GHS update. They will not have sections necessarily listed in the order above, and no pictograms will be in section two!
Lockout/Tagout is the control of hazardous energy during maintenance that is inherent to machinery and equipment (usually large machinery, such as industrial presses, lathes, mills, press brakes, stamping machines, etc). Some examples of hazardous energy are electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic. To keep employees safe during maintenance, a Lockout/Tagout procedure is followed using padlocks and tags to keep all employees aware that a machine that is being worked on is not to be used or tampered with until the process is complete, and the lock/tag is removed. All newer equipment usually has a Lockout/Tagout process detailed out in its maintenance section, along with all steps to follow and any tools required.
Emergency Evacuation and Preparedness means having a plan for emergencies on which all employees are made aware and trained regularly, so that in the event of an actual emergency, no one panics and everyone knows what to do. This is one area in which many businesses fall short, because setting off a fire drill for a few moments and turning it off is just not enough. Evacuation routes must be displayed and accurate for the building. Employees should practice evacuating twice a year, and not be limited to “good” weather. Fire is also not the only emergency; workplace violence, weather disasters like floods or hurricanes, structural failure, or traffic accidents also can necessitate an emergency evacuation of a workplace. All sirens and alarms in place should be tested regularly, and any automatic signal sent outside for help verified to make sure that it is being correctly sent and received.
If you are seeking to develop programs for your workplace or for a school project/college course, click this link for online resources for the United States, and this link for international information.
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