The Importance of Machine Operation Safety

Safety should be a paramount concern for all employees, from C-level executives to mid-level managers, and entry-level laborers. By prioritizing attention to detail, consistent safety inspections, and regular training on safety standards and equipment maintenance, all employees can operate in a safe and secure environment.

When this doesn't happen, the costs can be staggering. OSHA fines, lawsuits, efficiency impacts, and work stoppages amount to millions of lost dollars each year for warehouses, data centers, construction sites, and factories.

Continue reading below to learn about common workplace accidents, machine operation safety, and the high costs of workplace injuries.

1. Common Workplace Accidents and How To Avoid Them

Injuries can happen suddenly. They can be avoided, however, with proper training, safeguards, compliance, and proactive awareness of the likely dangers. Each of the following scenarios is scary to think about, but can be prevented with strategic minimizing of the risks.

Safety should be a paramount concern for all employees, from C-level executives to mid-level managers, and entry-level laborers. By prioritizing attention to detail, consistent safety inspections, and regular training on safety standards and equipment maintenance, all employees can operate in a safe and secure environment.


Caught by Active Machinery

A bedrock principle of construction safety is to avoid getting caught in the machine. This happens when loose clothing gets caught in the moving parts of the device, or when the machine itself strikes a person during its regular course of action.

The best prevention strategies here are to ensure that the appropriate team members are accountable for machine maintenance and that every moving part that endangers a person's fingers, eyes, arms, and legs is safeguarded properly.

All employees should be properly trained, and those without training should not operate equipment that could injure them. At all times, everyone should wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for their job.

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Workplace fires and explosions are often caused by faulty wiring, damaged gas lines, open flames, and combustible chemicals that were improperly left open or otherwise mismanaged. Construction, manufacturing, and energy sectors are particularly susceptible to risk in this area. There are four major types of injuries that come from fire.

  1. Primary Blast: Affects the skin, organs, and GI tract of those closest to the ignition point.
  2. Secondary Blast: Occurs when flying objects from the explosion injure nearby workers.
  3. Tertiary Blast: Causes a person to be lifted into the air from an intense explosion.
  4. Quaternary Blast: Results in crush injuries, burns, and inhalation of toxic materials.

These particular outcomes can be avoided with OSHA-standard safety data sheets to facilitate equipment inspection on all machines with chemicals. Wearing personal protective gear such as gloves, eye protection, and flame retardant clothing can also reduce the impact of a fire event.

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Falls and Slips

Warehouse safety practices dictate that spills should be cleaned up as soon as they occur. When this doesn't happen, an unexpected slip or fall can cause injury. As many as 1/3 of workers' compensation claims come from head, neck, back, arm, and leg injuries that resulted from a fall at work.

If a spill cannot be cleaned up immediately, workers or supervisors should immediately place a sign or create a roped-off section to steer employees around the spill. Other risks to warehouse safety and construction safety that may cause a slip or fall include:

  • Weather hazards
  • Loose carpet
  • Unsecured cables and cords
  • Oily surfaces in dimly lit spaces
  • Wrinkled industrial mats
  • Uneven flooring
  • Broken steps
  • Cluttered workstations

To ensure safety, employees should wear appropriate footwear at all times, all areas should be well-lit, and employees should be routinely encouraged to report dangerous areas to their supervisor.

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Falling Equipment or Objects

This is a particularly sinister risk to look out for because it can happen unexpectedly, seeming to come from nowhere. Many job sites have multiple vertical levels and several floors of work being done simultaneously, creating unseen hazards for those working below.

Through regular maintenance of mechanical equipment, surprises can generally be avoided. Look out for excessive vibrations that could cause a bolt or component to come loose and fall on someone.

When machine safety inspection does not occur at the proper intervals, everyone's safety is at risk. Wearing hard hats and other personal protective gear can prevent head and neck injuries that may occur due to falling debris. Injuries also occur when a load or tool is dropped from a higher elevation.

These types of mistakes can occur when employees are fatigued or overworked, so ensuring that everyone takes regular breaks and honors their shift times can also improve safety in manufacturing.

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The risk of electric shock is particularly scary because it is a leading cause of workplace fatality. One of the "fatal four" along with crush impacts, falling from tall heights, and getting caught in machinery, electrocution can occur when:

  • Wiring is faulty or frayed.
  • Underground cables are struck with a tool.
  • Live power lines criss-cross the worksite.
  • Water comes into contact with electricity.
  • Outlets are improperly installed.
  • Metal surfaces become accidentally electrified.

Every workplace should have an electrician or machine inspection team to ensure that there are no exposed wires and that outlets and ballasts are safe to the touch.

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This hazard comes about when workers interact with pulleys, gears, rotors, extension cords, nets, harnesses, and ropes. All employees should be properly trained on warehouse safety practices such as removing personal jewelry, keeping long hair tied back, rolling up sleeves, avoiding loose clothing, and using the safety gear properly.

Management should also install proper safety guards on all machines, provide regular training on machine operation safety, and display signage that alerts workers to the dangers of entanglement.

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2. What Is Machine Operation Safety? 

Every machine is unique. Operators must be properly trained in each aspect of the machine. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines machine operation safety as any method or device that reduces the likelihood of workplace injury or death.

Employees, therefore, need to follow manufacturing safety guidelines with alertness. It may be helpful to have a machine maintenance checklist for accountability and efficiency.

How To Make Sure a Machine Operates as Safely as Possible

In addition to functioning properly with regular maintenance of gears, oil, belts, and electronics, the process of guaranteeing safety in manufacturing should require that each machine:

  • Has safety features that are difficult to remove or turn off.
  • Poses little obstacles to the working process.
  • Creates a safety barrier between the worker and the danger area.
  • Makes it easy to complete factory machine maintenance without removing safety guards.
  • Requires special tools to turn on and off.

Major Risks of Not Following Safety Protocols

Consequences of failing to ensure safety in manufacturing processes include:

  • Loss of productivity.
  • Expensive replacements of safety guards.
  • New purchases of damaged equipment.
  • Legal fees.
  • Harm to the company's reputation.

Additionally, OSHA violations can cost $14,500 for each violation. That same amount can be tacked on daily for each day the problem is left unresolved.

3. Rules for Machine Operation Safety

Following these rules can significantly reduce harm to employees and minimize financial risk for the company.

  1. Be aware of machine safeguards and how they are installed or used.
  2. Never use a damaged piece of machinery.
  3. Immediately report any problems with machinery or its safety guards.
  4. Only remove safety guards after lockout-tagout.
  5. Always wear PPE.
  6. Never leave machinery unattended while active.
  7. Stay up to date on equipment safety and refresh your knowledge regularly.

Internal job site safety inspections should take place with these rules in mind.

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4. How Workplace Injuries Cost Companies

According to the National Safety Council, in 2020 alone, workplace injuries and deaths cost a total of $163 billion, with each individual injury costing $1,100 and each death costing $1,300,000.

Whether you are concerned about warehouse safety rules, data center safety standards, food processing safety, or vehicle safety inspections, making the necessary changes can save your company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here is a breakdown of the high annual cost of workplace injuries.

  • $40 billion in lost productivity.
  • $34 billion in medical expenses and insurance claims.
  • $61 billion in unplanned administrative costs.
  • $12 billion in uninsured medical expenses.

Workplace Injury Cost by Type

Some injuries are more expensive than others. Prioritize your safety strategy accordingly. Below are the big-picture numbers for how much each injury costs companies each year.

  • Slip or fall: $2 billion.
  • Compressed by equipment: $2 billion.
  • Struck against equipment: $2 billion.
  • Struck by equipment: $5 billion.
  • Falls to a lower level: $5 billion.
  • Overexertion and fatigue: $13 billion.

Valuable time is also lost when injuries occur. The National Safety Council reports that injuries in 2020 resulted in 65 million days of lost production time.

Equipment Loss

A final consideration is that a machine under maintenance leaves money on the table. The more proactive a company can be about completing advanced machine maintenance, the more money that can be saved on not replacing physical capital and fixed assets that you've already purchased.

Taking Care of Employees Is Taking Care of Business

A company simply must take steps to protect its employees from injury. Doing so not only guarantees a safe and efficient workplace but also saves thousands, if not millions of dollars per year.

Across the industry spectrum of manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, data centers, construction, and energy, it pays to implement robust safety protocols that guarantee worker safety and corporate profitability. View our catalog today to explore a wide selection of safety products. All of our products are made in the USA, with the utmost attention to safety.