Zero Harm: A Safety Manager's Guide to Identifying and Mitigating Top Causes of Workplace Injuries in the Manufacturing Sector
Blog | February 27th, 2024

Zero Harm: A Safety Manager's Guide to Identifying and Mitigating Top Causes of Workplace Injuries in the Manufacturing Sector

Continuous improvement of safety management systems is a regulatory requirement in most industries but is a critical factor in high-risk industries like manufacturing, medical devices, and aerospace. The term ‘Zero Harm’ has been gaining popularity because it refers to “real safety” and goes beyond just reported safety incidents. Often, very minor incidents are ignored, but this will backfire in the long run. Safety leaders unanimously agree that ensuring the entire organization has a “Zero Harm Culture” is the way forward. However, this journey towards zero harm is complex due to the many factors that interact with each other, several moving parts, and the globalization of the supply chain.

In this blog, we put together a blueprint for safety managers and leaders to follow to build an organization-wide culture and mindset of “safety first”.

Some of the top workplace injuries according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) include:

  • Falls, slips, and tripping
  • Respiratory issues
  • Electrocution
  • Due to heavy vehicles
  • By heavy machinery
  • Fire
  • Explosions
  • Chemical exposure
  • Overexertion
  • Repetitive motion injuries

The hazards can be broadly categorized into Physical, Chemical, Biological, and Ergonomic.

Many factors can trigger an incident, such as:

  • Human Intervention: Manual processes are prone to errors due to mistakes and oversights. These could be caused by fatigue, inadequate training, lack of concentration, and poor communication. It manifests itself as operating machinery incorrectly, not implementing proper safety procedures, not securing materials or equipment properly, not handling hazardous substances correctly, and so on.
  • Insufficient Training: An organization may not stress preparedness to meet potential hazards and not provide adequate training and awareness to its employees regarding the importance of safety protocols. This increases the risk of safety incidents.
  • Failure or Malfunction of Machinery: Equipment failure or improper handling is one of the leading causes of hazard that can lead to serious injuries and even death. Therefore, regular inspections, maintenance, and following manufacturer instructions when using it are essential. Predictive maintenance must be scheduled to minimize the risk of incidents and disruption to business while increasing safety.
  • Compliance with Safety Protocols: Compliance with internal and external standards and protocols is critical to ensuring a safe work environment. Leadership engagement, periodic updates, training, inspections, audits, and safety data reviews, among others, are critical for ensuring compliance and continuous improvement.
lean management system cta implementing-iso-9001

5 Steps to Ensure Zero-Harm in the Workplace

Given the many factors that can go into triggering an incident, safety leaders need a data-driven strategy. This provides them insights into the impact of any changes introduced at any stage on upstream and downstream processes.

One of the precursors to improving safety management and working towards zero harm would be to invest in cloud-based solutions that enable end-to-end integration of workflows and provide access to data for analytics and insights.

The 5 steps involved in safety improvement to achieve zero harm include:

Step 1: Robust Risk Assessments

Safety leaders need constant inputs about the potential risks in the various processes to be able to implement appropriate safety measures. They need an organization-wide view of all processes and alerts and notifications in case of any deviations. They need data on potential hazards, the effectiveness of existing controls and mitigative measures, and the gaps to know what they should do next. Some of the data they need include past incidents, insights from workers on the shop floor, safety experts, near misses and observations, and data from audits and inspections.

Step 2: Periodic Scheduled and Unscheduled Inspections

Periodic inspections must be scheduled to ensure the premises are kept clean, hazard control measures are implemented properly, and uncover new hazards. This improves inspection readiness and compliance and enables the identification and mitigation of hazards. Immediately after an incident or near misses, an inspection must be initiated to identify the possible hazards responsible for it.

Step 3: Initiate Incident Investigations Proactively

Whenever an incident, a near miss, or injuries and illnesses are reported, initiate an investigation to identify the root cause. This is essential to uncover new hazards and implement appropriate controls. Assess whether this was a one-time incident or likely to recur. This information is crucial to understand if CAPA needs to be initiated to implement preventive action along with corrective actions. Also, share the findings with the relevant teams to create awareness and appropriate safe behaviors to minimize the risk of their recurrence.

lean management system cta implementing-iso-9001

Step 4: Prioritize Risks & Mitigate with Focus

In an organization, there are many risks, and trying to resolve or mitigate all of them can be time-consuming and meaningless. It is more important to identify critical hazards and address them first. Therefore, the hazards must be assessed and ranked based on how frequently they are likely to occur and the intensity of their impact. Some hazards cannot be completely eradicated. The control measures must reduce the impact. It is also important to perform a cost-benefit analysis and implement it accordingly.

Step 5: Monitor and Track the Effectiveness of Risk Management Efforts

It is important to ensure the effectiveness of the mitigative measures in making the workplace safe. Therefore, leading and lagging indicators must be identified and quantifiable metrics should be established to track and monitor the effectiveness of the safety protocols. Any deviation must be reviewed and corrected.

Along with these 5 crucial steps, training and documentation also play an important role in improving safety behavior, tracking progress, and demonstrating compliance.

Cloud-Based AI-Powered Safety Management Solution from CQ to Ensure Zero Harm

ComplianceQuest’s SafetyQuest is an AI-powered, cloud-based safety solution built on Salesforce. Its mobile-ready features empower organizations to continuously improve their safety management system and achieve zero harm.

Some of these include:

  • Incident Management: This feature enables reporting incidents, near misses, and observations anywhere, anytime, even as an event unfolds. It facilitates collaboration between different teams to collaborate, conduct data analytics, and submit reports to OSHA electronically.
  • Safety Inspections: Increase inspection efficiency, reduce risks, and drive workplace safety by effectively planning, scheduling, and conducting safety inspections across your entire organization. You can perform inspections on the go, with or without connectivity on your mobile device.
  • Safety Risk Assessments: Access to real-time data helps prioritize areas of high risk and improve health and safety programs. It enables the automation of risk tracking, management and tracking of corrective actions, and generation of advanced reports and analytics for better decision-making and prediction.
  • Job Safety Analysis: Identify potential hazards in every step of the JSA process and recommend the safest way to execute a job. It helps identify undetected hazards, increases job knowledge of the participants, improves safety and health awareness, and promotes better acceptance of revised safe work procedures, among others.
  • Behavior-based Safety: It is critical to identify and prevent incidents caused by unsafe behavior, which is a leading cause of incidents and injuries. It is a powerful approach that focuses on understanding and influencing employee behavior to prevent accidents and promote a safe culture by correcting individual actions and decisions.

Download the toolkit to improve worker behavior for improving workplace safety:

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