Laws and regulating bodies require your company to provide a work environment that’s free of known dangers. To prevent accidents. For each industry this presents a different challenge. More moving parts, it means more things can go wrong. If your company features a combination of man, machine and vehicles, the risk of incidents and accidents is notably higher than in for instance a workspace consisting solely of an office. 

Companies today progressively go beyond the scope of those laws and regulators to prevent accidents from happening or to mitigate the damage when they do. These are some of the proven ways to make the shop floor safer for everybody. From the worker on foot and the forklift operator, to the occasional or frequent visitor. 

1. The need to know

Knowledge might be power, but it also protects you from harm. And from possibly harming someone else. Therefore it’s crucial that everyone accessing your work site, whether for the hundredth or for the first time, is informed of all necessary safety rules, and understands those rules. 

Safety information is provided in different, possibly overlapping but never contradictory ways. From training and coaching, via clear signage and safety markings to simply being (made) aware of potential risks and hazards. 

2. The need for trust

Ideally every worker only receives the proper practical training and has been made aware of every safety rule. Even more ideally he also fully understands the reasoning behind this ever evolving and improving system that keeps him and his colleagues safe(r). 

A forklift operator knowing why he’s not allowed to take an “obvious shortcut” or a worker being explained why he can’t do something in a “clearly more efficient way”, dramatically decreases the chances of them cutting corners and thus prevent accidents. Infrequent visitors are exempt from this why behind the what, but nevertheless need to be persuaded that “Yes, you are required to wear that high visibility jacket at all times”.   

3. Today is a new day

Your shop floor today might look the same as last year,  but actually it differs from yesterday’s. A closer look will reveal small changes, that from a safety point of view, may prove to be surprisingly significant. All of which need to be communicated to all personnel involved. Some will require new training or coaching. 

Some examples of significant changes: a new machine, a change in a procedure or the work schedule, an experienced worker getting replaced by a trainee, a new model of forklift, an expansion of the workspace … . Changes can be temporary, like repairs, revisions, or clean ups. Others might also come from outside, for e.g. new work/safety regulations, seasonal or climate-related changes, etc. 

4. Keep it clean and clutterless

Clutter in an office desk projects untidiness and, worst case, may cause a hygiene problem. Clutter on a shop floor might cause accidents with, worst case, serious injuries or fatalities. Each year studies confirm trips and falls as the main cause of occupational injuries. And unclean or cluttered work floors simply increase the risk of just such incidents. 

So eliminate loose wires, keep passageways clear and clean. When not in use items and equipment need to be stowed away in their proper place, while always keeping passageways and emergency exits clear. Spillage needs to be cleaned up immediately and properly. 

5. Rapport & react reflex

Even on shop floors that enjoy the most positive of safety cultures, things can and will go not as required. An often overlooked benefit of a positive safety culture is workers knowing how to respond accordingly. They see something out of line and either promptly correct it themselves in an appropriate, possibly trained manner. Or they know how to pass it on to those best equipped for the task. 

This requires a clear safety structure with continuously updated protocols and fast/efficient communication channels. And again also: an assimilated knowledge of this structure, these protocols proper channels. See it, say it and it should get sorted. And even if your workers have the experience and attitude to properly address (potential) safety risks, they still should get reported. 

6. An eye on things visible and invisible

Oversight and relevant monitoring systems let you to keep an eye on operations in general, and on higher risk areas/sections/components in particular. Recent technologies in work place safety allows for quicker detection and response times, being able to monitor more processes and moving parts on the shop floor, lone worker or visitor monitoring, … . 

The capability of these new technologies to gather and process huge amounts of data, enables the tracking of a lot more than actual safety incidents. It can also provide invaluable insights in after incident analysis, near misses and previously overlooked risk hotspots. In effect allowing you to prevent accidents by eliminating the causes that might lead up to them.

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