12 January 2018
The most overlooked workplace safety issues in the heavy and mechanical industries
For the heavy and mechanical industries, the risk of injuries and accidents is a factor that must be taken seriously, and which affects the workers as well as how the different job tasks are solved. There are, of course, numerous concerns to be dealt with, but in this article, you will find the seven most widespread safety issues that many companies tend to overlook.
1. Underestimating the risks from welding or radiant heat
Welding is one of the most common work activities that workers from the heavy duty and mechanical industries engage in. But even so, the welders do not always pay enough attention to and in some cases, underestimate the risks that they are faced with.
One example is the risk of catching fire. Certainly, most welders understand that this is one of the most immediate risks, but even if the welders are wearing a fireproof jacket, they are exposed to risk if they wear flammable clothing underneath the protective outerwear. A fireproof jacket is designed to give you exactly enough time to take the protective wear off before getting burned, but if the clothes you wear underneath isn’t made of the right inflammable material then it can become highly dangerous. If the clothes you wear underneath is exposed to a high amount of heat stress through the welding jacket it could even melt or catch fire in some circumstances.
Another example is radiant heat. Being invisible to the naked eye the worker may not notice that the radiant heat may cause considerable damage to the workwear or in worst case setting the workwear on fire until it is too late.
2. Lack of visibility
Lack of visibility is often endangering employees. This is especially an issue if you work at construction sites, in dark industrial buildings, or along road sides where you can be difficult to spot. The risk that a backing truck or another kind of moving vehicle could hit you will increase substantially if you are not wearing high-visibility garments. Such garments are designed to alert the surroundings to your presence and make you visible from all angles in any kind of weather with fluorescent and contrast materials, and reflective strips.
For the garments to work properly, even after a wash, there are high demands on the bleeding between the contrast materials and the fluorescent material and reflective strips. Bleeding refers to the residues of color in the material that risk polluting or stain sensitive parts of the garment. If not all the materials perform in accordance with the stipulated protection levels, the safety of the wearer could be compromised.
If you wish to add a company logo to the garments you must be aware that there are limits to what is possible since a logo might absorb too much of the required of fluorescent and reflective material. This is stated in the applicable certifications for high visibility garments. The aim should always be to place logos on the contrast material since this doesn´t affect nighttime visibility.
Overprotection is also an issue that the companies are not giving much attention. They can overdo safety by solely looking at the safety issues and not minding other factors such as the actual workflows of the workers. For instance, wearing to much protection can sometimes affect the level of effectiveness with which the workers are able to perform their tasks because the protective wear sometimes can slow them down or force them to find other more time-consuming ways to complete a task. Also, when wearing high visibility garments the workers should be aware that there are different classes of protection – three in total - and that wearing a too high class could be unnecessary in some circumstances. Class 3 high-visibility garments are more expensive because of the amount of fluorescent material used in the production of the garment. Because of this type of light material, the garments are more easily stained and thus harder to launder and maintain. In some cases, this will lead the worker to dispose of the garments before they are worn out.
Therefore, it is crucial that the workers are wearing protective workwear tailored to the specific job assignments with the right level of protection, no more no less. This will benefit the company by reducing costs for excessive use of protective workwear and equipment.
4. Wearing the wrong sizes or not adjusting the garments to the wearer properly
The protective workwear and equipment needs to fit. Otherwise the wearer will jeopardize his or her own safety because the level of protection is inadequate. For instance, if the garments are too small you expose parts of the body that were meant to be protected.
5. Changes in production setup
Changes occur in the production setup and work environments on a regular basis. For an example, workflows can change, the machinery can change, work stations or even work locations can change. This means that companies need to constantly rethink their approach to safety and make sure that the habits of the workers develop and are updated along with these changes.
For an example in situations where the employees are used to wearing regular protective clothing, but then the tasks change and suddenly the workwear is exposed to heavier “pressure” and heavy-duty work. Under such circumstances a totally different set of protective garments could be required.
6. Dirty garments
When the garment is dirty from oil, grease or other substances the garment itself can be dangerous for the wearer. Many companies do not pay attention to the fact that care and maintenance of the protective workwear is a vital prerequisite for keeping the employees safe.
Therefore, it is important to check and maintain the garment continuously and make sure that the garment’s protective functions are not compromised. The garments can be repaired but it requires that you do it with the right materials with a thorough knowledge of the specific design functions.
7. Skipping safety training of employees
There is a high neck for a reason. In fact, not much is a coincidence when it comes to the design or the choice of material for the protective workwear or equipment that you wear. Therefore, it is necessary to provide employees with a thorough safety training. First, the worker needs to know what kinds of risks that they are exposed to and second how wearing protective workwear can prevent accidents from happening or even more important, the workers need to know the limits of the protective workwear and equipment. With this knowledge they are more inclined to actually put on the protective workwear and wear in the correct way.
This means that the wearer must have the knowledge and a clear understanding of how he or she dress according to the specific work situation and how the garments are maintained to preserve functionality through thecomplete lifespan of the protective workwear.