Accidents resulting in injuries have become all too common in the automotive industry. With the rise in popularity of machinery and automation, it's time to take a step back and look at how leveraging it all can create a safer workplace.
Understanding injuries and their cost
First things first—how do workplace accidents affect an employer? Based off of 2013 injury data, the Liberty Mutual Safety Index pegs the cost of "the most disabling workplace injuries" at $61.88 billion. That's just for one year.
"Overexertion and repetitive motion injuries cost companies $21.05 billion in 2013."
If you dig a little deeper, you'll find there are certain areas that seem to rank too high given the modern workplace. Overexertion and repetitive motion accounted for roughly 32.1 percent of all reports, which equates to $21.05 billion, per the source.
This is an incredible amount of money to be spending on easily preventable accidents. The source of these injuries seem to be heavily focused on musculoskeletal, as well. The Department of Labor and Industries aggregated data from 1995 to 2005 on the source of pain experienced by employees. Nearly 33 percent of all reports involved muscle harm. While this isn't a majority, the cost of said injuries totaled 58 percent. This means that while they may not occur most often, they do represent one-third of reports, and they are indeed the most expensive in terms of claims cost.
Automation is a must
There are two definitive steps a company can take to reduce the risk of injury. The first involves a complete top-down makeover when it comes to safety culture surrounding employee well-being. Preventing accidents in the workplace must be paramount.
To create transparency from C-suite executives down to entry-level workers, Environmental, Health and Safety software should be used. This allows for the following:
- Risk management assessment through aggregation of injury data.
- Safety risk assessments per activity and area of workplace.
- Analytical insight into safer practices.
Leveraging EHS safety software will give safety managers the ability to read and react to real-time situations, and protect workers accordingly. Automation isn't the future—it's already here.
Rely less on brawn
Ridding a workplace of ergonomic injuries, the second step an organization should take, relies heavily on both smarter methods of work and leaning on machinery when possible.
According to DOLI, start by removing any obstacles that could spawn an injury. This includes placing heavy objects at chest level to reduce back injuries, as well as hanging heavy parts that are used frequently, rather than putting them on the ground.
The source also reported that leveraging jacks and lifts to move around heavy objects can help cut down on back, wrist and shoulder pain because it reduces the chances of overexertion. Heavy lifting is the primary cause behind many musculoskeletal disorders, as a report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine concluded. Avoiding it at all costs by using machinery and automation to do it will greatly relieve a workplace's injury rate for this category.
Manual assembly and repair methods should also be phased out where possible. This includes, but is not limited to, manufacturing lines, bolt tightening and sanding down parts. All of these methods have mechanical counterparts that can speed up production and keep employees safe at the same time.
It should be noted that proper safety gear must always be used with machinery. Failure to do so could result in loss of limbs, lacerations or other more serious injuries. With the switch to a mechanized workplace comes responsibility that should be maintained.
By incorporating safe practices, utilizing intuitive data analysis from EHS safety software, and relying more on machinery, the automotive industry can reduce the risk of injury from repetitive actions or overexertion.
Using this approach, companies like Harley Davidson significantly improve their safety performance, earning the company industry accolades such as the 2016 Verdantix EH&S Information Management Award.
Which safety processes have helped you reduce injuries? Leave a comment below to let us know.