Workplace safety is one of the most important conversations in the manufacturing sector. Especially since manufacturing often tops ‘most dangerous industries to work’ lists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing accounted for 15% of all private industry nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2019.
That’s why regulators take manufacturing safety very seriously. In fiscal year 2020, OSHA recorded more than 10,000 citations with penalties totaling nearly $40 million in manufacturing alone.
Here, we’ll highlight the most common manufacturing safety issues — and how RealWear HMT-1 wearable computers can empower manufacturing workers while improving worker safety in hazardous worksites.
1. Lack of Machine Guarding
Manufacturing factories and facilities often have workers working next to heavy machinery and mission-critical equipment. However, machinery can pose significant risks to a worker’s life and limbs.
Fast-moving parts can snag fingers or loose clothing, sparks can turn deadly, and loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss. Even long exposure to vibrations can cause nerve damage. It’s essential to protect workers from injuries using proper machine-guarding practices. But the lack of machine guarding is one of the most common manufacturing safety citations.
Even with proper machine-guarding practices, it’s important for workers to maintain a sense and awareness of their environment. But as the industry introduces more devices to the manufacturing floor, this can get tricky.
While connected workers are more productive and can refer to important information, more screens can take attention away from the immediate environment. This can be disastrous around heavy machinery. A worker looking at a tablet or smartphone isn’t looking out for themselves.
That’s why RealWear hands-free wearable computers are great devices for workers who work near heavy machinery. The one-inch screen is a high-resolution micro-display that sits in a worker’s field of vision without blocking the wearer’s line of sight. This allows a worker to quickly glance at the screen without taking their attention off of dangerous equipment.
2. Lack of Lockout/Tagout
Despite how simple a practice it is, lockout/tagout citations are one of the most common OSHA citations in the industry. Injury and death risk is so high that these citations account for nearly 25% of all OSHA fines in 2020 at $9.38 million.
Lockout/tagout procedures help prevent unexpected or unintended machine or equipment start up, or the release of hazardous energy. Ensuring systems remain off is especially vital during system or equipment maintenance.
In addition to lockout/tagout practices, the RealWear HMT-1 wearable computers can add another level of security with its ability to read barcodes or QR codes. Workers can digitally “check out” a system before beginning service or repairs. If other workers scan the same code, they’ll see that maintenance is being performed.
Of course, the act of physically tagging should never be skipped!
3. Lack of Fall Protection When Working at Heights
It doesn’t take a big fall to get hurt. In fact, OSHA requires fall protection for any height change that’s greater than four feet.
There are a lot of safe work practices that can help prevent falls:
- Tidy, clutter-free work areas
- Even, slip-free footing
- Good lighting
- Installing fall protection systems
- Personal protective equipment
Workers who work at heights have a lot to manage when ensuring their own safety. Laptops, smartphones or tablets can be necessary tools, but they are distracting and cumbersome.
RealWear HMT-1 wearable computers are entirely hands-free, so there’s no need to worry about dropping an expensive device. The devices are also entirely controlled with voice commands. This frees up workers’ hands to hold other tools or maintain a solid grip on safety lines or handholds.
4. Improper or Insufficient Personal Protective Equipment
The manufacturing sector is full of worksite hazards. While facility management can address many of these hazards, some require personal protective equipment, or PPE. These can include:
- Eye protection
- Hearing protection
- Respiratory protection
- Safety harnesses
- Face shields
- Hazmat suits
One of OSHA’s most common citations is inadequate respiratory protection. This is a big concern because the manufacturing process often involves or creates dangerous chemicals or airborne particles.
RealWear HMT-1 wearable tablet computers are designed with safety in mind. That includes being compatible with nearly all forms of PPE listed above. The RealWear devices are tablet computers in a headworn form factor that can attach directly to hardhats. Because of their slim, lightweight design, they can also be worn with vision, hearing and respiratory protection.
The HMT’s hands-free voice commands are perfect if workers need more robust PPE, such as heavy gloves or hazmat suits.
5. Lack of Training
Training is a huge factor in manufacturing safety. Poor training can increase the risk of severe injury or death, and the best safety practices are useless unless the worker can properly identify or understand the risks.
Creating standardized operating procedures is key to training. SOPs allow workers to reference proper procedures and ensure everyone is on the same page. RealWear HMT devices allow workers to access these documents — along with other media — quickly and easily. Fast access to important checklists and procedures help manufacturing workers make sure they’re following safety protocols.
RealWear HMT-1 wearable computers are also great for remote training. With crystal-clear display and two-way audio, the HMT headsets have everything a worker needs to have a video call with a remote expert. Powerful connectivity and a high-resolution camera allows real-time collaboration by allowing the remote expert to see everything the onsite worker sees.
How to Improve Manufacturing Safety
Improving manufacturing safety is an ongoing conversation, especially as the industry undergoes a digital transformation. The traditionally low-tech industry is seeing more tools and devices to help improve worker productivity and efficiency.
However, these additions need to truly be designed to complement and support workers at hazardous worksites. They need to hold up to the rigors of frontline work, empower workers, and — most importantly — help workers stay safe.
Learn how RealWear technology can empower workers and improve manufacturing safety.