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Health and safety in the factory – part 2

Continuing an examination of key issues that can affect employee health and safety and the best practice for different areas of production.

Image © Dmitry Kalinovsky | Dreamstime.com

Part 1 of this article investigated airborne hazards, solvent stores and mixing rooms, electrical dangers, fire precautions, dust and particulates, and noise levels. This concluding article will investigate such issues as factory lighting levels, mechanical hazards, safe manual handling, ergonomic factors and what to do in the event of an injury.

Lighting

Illumination is important, not only to enable workers to see what they are doing and where they are going, but also to prevent long-term eye damage due to strain. Lighting in each area must, therefore, be designed for the relevant operation (table 1) – not only of sufficient intensity, but also correctly designed to prevent shadows (see figure 1). Maximum use should also be made of natural daylight.

Table 1: Examples of SATRA-recommended lighting levels

Sorting and grading leather 1,500 lux
Cutting leather 1,500 lux (can be 1,000 lux if supplemented by local directional lighting)
Upper preparation 1,000 lux
Closing 1,000 lux (local lighting on stitching machines also required)
Lasting/making/finishing 1,000 lux

Figure 1: A well-lit materials cutting area

The build-up of dust on lights can reduce intensity, so regular cleaning is essential. Defective or broken tubes should be replaced immediately. Some operations, such as stitching, will benefit from localised lighting set on machines. However, this must be correctly positioned.

Potentially dangerous lighting such as lasers or ultra-violet sources must be screened and never located in the direct line of sight. Users of computers and other machines with visual display units (VDUs) can suffer eyestrain if the units are incorrectly adjusted for intensity and glare. Positioning to minimise reflections is also important.

All users of VDUs should be asked to complete a questionnaire concerning the time they spend in front of the screen in a normal day’s work and what discomfort, if any, they experience. These assessments should be repeated periodically, and also whenever work practices or locations are changed.

Mechanical hazards

Mechanical hazards are many and varied. Perhaps the most obvious are moving machine parts, where contact with the body could cause injury. Training for all operatives on potentially hazardous machinery is essential before they are allowed to use such equipment unsupervised. Guards to restrict access where appropriate need to be fitted and secured. It should not be possible for operatives to reposition or disable such guards.

Stitching machines are commonly overlooked when considering dangerous machinery. However, careless operation and broken needles can cause very serious injuries to hands, faces and eyes. There are many types of guards for different stitching machines – SATRA can help users to identify the most appropriate for the machine and the work being undertaken.

Where access is essential to presses and other machines which pose entrapment hazards, they must be fitted with simultaneous two-handed controls. Hot surfaces and naked flames must be clearly labelled, and heat-resistant gloves or other protective clothing must be made available. Heavy loads should not be handled manually. Lifting and moving gear should be provided (figure 2) and training given. Operatives manually moving smaller loads also need to be given training. Again, suitable PPE (such as protective footwear) must be issued where potential hazards are identified.

Figure 2: Special lifting and moving equipment must be used on heavy and bulky loads

Machinery should be positioned to minimise the need for hoses, flexes or other attachments to protrude or lie across floors. Rails on raised walkways, stairs and suspended floor levels must be high enough to prevent falls.

Manual handling

Guidelines are widely available for maximum weights that can be lifted by hand. There is also a specific body posture to be adopted to minimise stress on such areas as the spine. Personnel must be made aware of these guidelines and must demonstrate that they understand and practise them at all times.

Where stacking is required, wooden crates should be considered if the stack exceeds heights at which cardboard cartons may collapse (figure 3). Storage at extreme heights is to be avoided unless items can be moved on pallets and stacked using forklift trucks. Climbing to place or retrieve items should be done using guarded stairs (or fixed ladders) whenever possible. Moveable ladders should be avoided, but where they are necessary, they must be fitted with non-slip feet and rungs and also be of an appropriate height to reach the work level. As well as ladder height, the space between racks is also important, as these factors establish the correct angle between ladder and floor. All work on ladders should be limited to about 15 minutes at one time and must always be aided by a second person holding the foot of the ladder.

Figure 3: High stacks of cardboard cartons can become unstable

Other ergonomic factors

Correct posture when working is important – particularly where operatives are seated for long periods. The most common operations requiring correct posture are stitching and computer work. Adjustable seating will enable operatives to sit with their forearms horizontal and wrists straight or angled downwards. Similarly, thighs should be horizontal with feet on firm supports.

Computer operators need to consider the care of their vision. They should be seated at arm’s length from the screen.

If they cannot clearly see the text, eyesight tests should be conducted if font size or colour adjustment cannot improve matters.

Computer monitor heights and angles must be adjusted, both for positioning relative to the operator’s eyes and to reduce reflection and glare. Mouse and similar input devices should be at the same level as the keyboard. As mentioned previously, all computer users should have periodic workstation assessments.

In the event of injury

While serious accidents will always require professional help, minor injuries can easily be treated in-house. First aiders should be nominated and trained for each work area and supplied with well-stocked medical kits with supplies that are kept up-to-date. As well as provisions for treating minor cuts and burns, bandages and splints for more serious injuries must also be available so that casualties can be made comfortable prior to professional treatment. Access to a stretcher is recommended, in case casualties have to be moved out of a hazardous area.

Whatever the incident and regardless of how trivial or serious it appears, a full record of the incident must be kept, along with the cause and the preventative measures taken. Such measures should also be applied in other areas of the factory where there is a risk of similar incidents occurring. Furthermore, when incidents occur which could have caused injury, these should also be treated with similar concern and comparable action taken. These incidents are known as ‘near misses’ and lessons learned from these can equally help prevent future injuries.

Monitoring is essential

While many hazards can only be determined by inspection, others (such as vapour levels, dust concentrations, noise levels and light intensities) must be measured scientifically. SATRA offers monitoring services for these health and safety issues, together with airborne dust pumps with dust filters and solvent vapour monitor badges (figure 4) for factory personnel to assess levels.

​ Figure 4: A solvent vapour monitor badge

Companies demonstrating good health and safety practices (and which are independently audited by SATRA) will find this to be a valuable means of attracting orders. This will particularly be true from brand owners and sourcing companies, many of whose customers value commitments to good ethical trading practices.

How can we help?

Please contact us at healthandsafety@satra.com for further information on how to develop an effective health and safety programme.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 44 of the October 2019 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

Other articles from this issue »