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If you're a frontline manufacturing worker, chances are you've already experienced or witnessed an injury (or near-miss) on the job. Manufacturing is one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of injury and illness cases recorded each year.
While safety hazards are common, injury doesn't have to be. In fact, advanced technologies like wearables and connected worker platforms — paired with comprehensive safety training — help manufacturers facilitate safer shop floor environments.
Here are eight ways frontline workers can create safer factory floors through traditional safety practices and modern technology.
1. Regular training and safety education
Manufacturing workers should undergo regular training sessions on safety procedures and best practices. Connected technology like VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) can be used for immersive and interactive training experiences, allowing workers to practice in a simulated environment without the risks associated with the shop floor.
2. Use of personal protective equipment
Workers should always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for their tasks. Smart PPE, equipped with sensors, can monitor environmental conditions like toxic gas levels or extreme temperatures and alert workers to potential hazards.
3. Adherence to safety protocols
Strictly following established safety protocols and guidelines is crucial. Connected safety technology can help enforce this by using Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) badges or biometric scanning to ensure that only authorized personnel operate certain machines or enter specific areas.
4. Regular equipment maintenance and checks
Keeping equipment in good working order is essential to prevent accidents. IoT sensors can be installed on machinery to monitor their condition and performance, providing real-time data to predict and prevent equipment failures.
Although advanced technologies have simplified maintenance tasks, it's still crucial to perform thorough maintenance checks.
5. Clear communication and reporting
Effective communication is key to maintaining safety. Workers should report any hazards or unsafe conditions immediately. Communication tools like smartwatches or mobile apps, integrated with a connected workforce platform, can facilitate instant reporting and feedback, ensuring that issues are addressed promptly.
For example, L2L's Safety Cross makes incident reporting simple by enabling workers to identify, report, and understand plant safety incidents on a single screen.
6. Emergency preparedness and response
Every worker should be trained in emergency response procedures on a regular basis. Moreover, safety information needs to be easily accessible across the plant.
Technologies like IoT networks and real-time analytics can improve emergency response times by integrating alarms and notifications through mobile devices and wearables, ensuring quick evacuation or response.
7. Ergonomic workplace design
Proper workplace design reduces the risk of injury — and frontline workers should always take advantage of available ergonomic equipment.
Monitoring technology, such as wearables that track body movements, can help identify signs of strain, improper posture, and other ergonomic problems in real time. This data can be used to adjust workstations or processes to reduce strain and injury risk.
8. Adopt a Kaizen approach to safety
Kaizen, a term describing continuous improvement through collective effort, is a common approach manufacturers use to drive improvements on the shop floor. Applied to workplace safety, Kaizen events can involve providing feedback regarding ongoing safety concerns or isolated incidents.
Connected technology like L2L's Lean Tools facilitates Kaizen on the shop floor. For instance, workers can suggest improvements and alert the whole team to safety issues with a few clicks.
Shop floor safety: A collective effort
As manufacturing technology evolves, performing shop floor tasks safely will become easier. However, human vigilance will remain key in facilitating a safe factory environment.
If you work on the shop floor, following safety protocols and taking advantage of the safety-enhancing technologies available go a long way in lowering manufacturing injury rates. And when you encounter potential hazards — immediate communication is critical.
Take our Virtual Product Tour to see how the L2L Connected Workforce Platform makes factory floors safer, more efficient, and more productive.