Manufacturing

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Klaus Kuhl, Kooperationsstelle Hamburg IFE GmbH, Germany

Introduction

Manufacturing refers to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech. It is the production of goods - using labour, machines, tools, chemical / biological processing, etc. Such finished goods may, in turn, be used for the manufacture of other, more complex products, e.g. computers, aircraft, or automobiles. Alternatively, they may be sold to wholesalers, who supply the retailers that sell them on to end users.

The NACE classification has a section for manufacturing (section C). This excludes agriculture, mining, electricity generation, construction, etc.

This article will look at typical problems in this sector for SMEs and large companies, describing the effects of such trends as short work contracts, labour leasing, and increasing stress; it also highlights prevention and control measures.


Definitions and descriptions

The Business directory defines the manufacturing sector as an agglomeration of industries engaged in chemical, mechanical, or physical transformation of materials, substances, or components, into consumer or industrial goods.[1] Manufacturing aims at the production of goods, using labour, machines, tools, chemical and biological processing, or formulation. The term is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a larger scale, and then used along the supply chain.[2] The NACE classification for manufacturing (section C) includes food production, textiles, wood and wood products including paper, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. However, it excludes agriculture, mining, electricity and gas generation, water supply, waste management, construction, and transportation.


Table 1: Important subsectors of section C – Manufacturing according to NACE classification (Rev. 2)

Division Subsector Examples
10 Manufacture of food products
11 Manufacture of beverages
13 Manufacture of textiles
14 Manufacture of wearing apparel
15 Manufacture of leather and related products
16 Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture; manufacture of articles of straw and plaiting materials
17 Manufacture of paper and paper products
18 Printing and reproduction of recorded media
19 Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products
20 Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products
21 Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations
22 Manufacture of rubber and plastic products
23 Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products Glass, porcelain, cement, concrete
24 Manufacture of basic metals
25 Manufacture of fabricated metal products , except machinery and equipment Metal structures, tanks, treatment and coating
26 Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products
27 Manufacture of electrical equipment Domestic appliances, electric motors
28 Manufacture of machinery and equipment NEC. (not elsewhere classified) Pumps, gears, furnaces, cranes, machinery for agriculture, mining, metallurgy, textile production
29 Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers
30 Manufacture of other transport equipment Ships, railways, planes
31 Manufacture of furniture
33 Repair and installation of machinery and equipment

Source: Compiled by the author


Figures and trends

Comparing the three overarching sectors of the economy in the EU27 - agriculture, industry and service - service is the largest. Its proportion of employment continues to grow (from 63.1% in 2000 to 66.9% in 2007). [3] Nevertheless, when looking at the NACE sections, manufacture still comes first or second regarding both the number of workers and the gross value added (GVA) between 2000 and 2010 (see: Sectors and occupations). This underlines the strong position this sector still has in the European economy.

In comparison to the number employed, manufacturing accounts for relatively few accidents, as shown in the following tables.


Fatal accidents

The following comparative table shows the number and trends of fatal accidents in selcted sectors:

Table 2: Fatal accidents EU-27 (and in comparison with Croatia and UK)

2000 (EU-15) 2008 2010 Change [%] Position
Number

Incidence*

Number

Incidence*

Number

Incidence*

2008-2010
All sectors (NACE section level) 5237 4895

2.27

4395

2.1

-10.21

-7.49

Construction (NACE section F) 1279

14.8

1309

7.94

1023

6.59

-21.85

-17.00

1

1

Transportation and storage (H) 885

13.7

733

7.13

674

6.49

-8.05

-8.98

2

2

Activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies (U) 8

7.01

Confi-

dential

19

3

Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (E) 100

6.64

94

5.93

-6.00

-10.69

8

4

Manufacturing (NACE section C) 976

2.6

841

2.43

701

2.17

-16.65

-10.70

2

5

Manufacturing Croatia 7

2.72

Manufacturing UK 50 26

0.95

28

1.01

+7.69

+6.31

(*) Cases per 100,000 workers

Source: Compiled by the author, adapted from ESAW[4] and Eurostat[5]

Although the number of accidents is quite high (second highest among all sectors), the incidence rate is relatively low (about average of all sectors), due to determined efforts by all stakeholders, e.g. the widespread company policies for zero accidents. However, a closer look at the sub-sectors shows that the picture can be quite diverse, e.g. the incidence rate can be as low as 0.90 and as high as 4.19 (in 2010).

Whilst data for these sub-sectors (NACE division level) are not available for EU-27, Eurostat published the following figures in 2013 for Germany (sector incidence rate: in 2010: 1.18; fatality number: 99)[5]:

Table 3: Fatal accidents in manufacturing sub-sectors (Germany)

Manufacture sub-sectors (NACE division level) (GERMANY) Number shown on top, incidence rate below 2008 2009 2010 Position
Manufacture of food products : 4

0.47

12

1.36

2

7

Manufacture of beverages : : 4

4.19

1

Manufacture of tobacco products : : :
Manufacture of textiles : : :
Manufacture of wearing apparel : : :
Manufacture of leather and related products : : :
Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture; manufacture of articles of straw and plaiting materials : 7

4.00

6

3.67

5

2

Manufacture of paper and paper products : : :
Printing and reproduction of recorded media : : 4

1.54

6

Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products : : :
Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products : 5

1.09

4

1.01

Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations : : :
Manufacture of rubber and plastic products : 4

0.81

4

0.90

Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products : 9

2.99

10

3.73

4

3

Manufacture of basic metals : 4

0.87

4

1.05

Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment : 11

1.00

17

1.68

1

5

Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products : : 8

1.54

6

Manufacture of electrical equipment : 5

1.05

4

0.93

Manufacture of machinery and equipment N.E.C. : 11

0.79

11

0.91

3
Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers : : :
Manufacture of other transport equipment : : :
Manufacture of furniture : : :
Other manufacturing : : :
Repair and installation of machinery and equipment : 7

3.49

:

4

":" means data not available

Source: Compiled by the author, adapted from Eurostat[5]

According to the incidence rates, the most risky sub-sectors in Germany are:

  1. Manufacture of beverages
  2. Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture; manufacture of articles of straw and plaiting materials
  3. Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products (e.g. glass, porcelain, cement, concrete)
  4. Repair and installation of machinery and equipment
  5. Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment (e.g. metal structures, tanks, treatment and coating)
  6. Printing and reproduction of recorded media;

Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products

For the UK, we have an incidence rate for the manufacturing sector of 1.01 - equivalent to 28 fatalities. Eurostat published figures for the following sub-sectors (NACE division level) in 2010:

Table 4: Manufacture sub-sectors and fatal accidents

Manufacture sub-sectors (NACE division level) (UK) 2010

Numbers, Incidence

Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture; manufacture of articles of straw and plaiting materials 5

7.38

Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products 4

3.62

Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment 6

2.50

Source: Compiled by the author, adapted from Eurostat[5]

Gender

The following table shows the difference in fatal accidents in the sector, according to gender.

Table 5: Fatal accidents in the manufacturing sector by gender'

Industrial sector Fatal accidents per 100,000 workers, (incidence rate) Change

[ % ]

1995 2005 2007
Manufacturing 4.2 2.6 2.2 -38
Males

Females

5.0

0.6

3.5

0.4

2.9

0.3

-30

-33

Source: Adapted from ESAW[4] and Eurostat[6]

The comparatively low incidence rate among females can be attributed to women working in lower risk workplaces such as offices.


Company size

The following table shows the relationship between fatal accidents in the sector and the company size.

Table 6: Breakdown of fatal accidents in the manufacturing sector, according to company size

Total Zero (self-employed) From 1 to 9 workers From 10 to 49 workers From 50 to 249 workers From 250 to 499 workers 500 workers or more
2008 841 11 138 223 209 47 89
2009 699 16 140 164 188 51 54
2010 701 14 110 215 157 56 93

Source: Eurostat[7]

The highest numbers of fatal accidents can be observed in micro enterprises and SMEs, i.e. small and medium sized enterprises employing between 1 and 249 workers.


Non-fatal accidents

The following table shows the number and trends of non-fatal accidents in the sector (in comparison to other sectors).

Table 7: Non-fatal accidents EU-27 (and in comparison with Croatia and UK) (year, number and incidence)

2000

(EU-15)

2008 2010 Change [%] Position
Number**

Incidence*

Number

Incidence

Number

Incidence

2008-2010
All sectors (NACE section level) 4,815,629 3,975,600

1,845.94

3,319,478

1,583.15

-16.50

-14.23

Construction (NACE section F) 845,841

7,548

653,525

3,962.87

461,092

2,968.29

-29.44

-25.10

2

1

Transportation and storage (H) 449,487

5,512

322,480

3,136.02

287,589

2,770.32

-10.82

-11.66

4

3

Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (E) 54,499

3,619.27

54,492

3,438.16

-0.02

-5.00

10

2

Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (G) 542,168

2,524

514,457

1,776.49

439,092

1,417.43

-14.65

-20.21

3

7

Manufacturing (NACE section C) 1,328,898

4,421

982,520

2,842.51

726,158

2,247.46

-26.09

-20.93

1

5

Manufacturing Croatia 3,639

1,415.79

Manufacturing UK 81,555

1,723

27,148.92

993.47

32,140

1,158.59

+18.38

+16.62

(*) Cases per 100,000 workers (**) More than three days lost; lost days not specified for the other columns

Source: Compiled by the author, adapted from Eurostat[8] [9] [10]

Similar to the data for fatal accidents, the number of non-fatal accidents is quite high (highest among all sectors), but the incidence rate is relatively low (ranked fifth among all sectors). However, a closer look at the sub-sectors reveals a more diverse picture. See the following table (incidents rates are not available):

Table 8: Non-fatal accidents in manufacturing sub-sectors (EU-27) (year, number)

Manufacture sub-sectors (NACE division level) (EU-27) 2008

Number

2010

Number

Changes

[%]

Position
Manufacture of food products 138.810 110.975 -20.05 2
Manufacture of beverages 15.908 10.407 -34.58 18
Manufacture of tobacco products 915 452 -50.60 24
Manufacture of textiles 17.307 13.814 -20.18 17
Manufacture of wearing apparel 8.753 6.492 -25.83 21
Manufacture of leather and related products 9.637 8.234 -14.56 20
Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture; manufacture of articles of straw and plaiting materials 46.474 33.616 -27.67 8
Manufacture of paper and paper products 21.431 16.267 -24.09 13
Printing and reproduction of recorded media 20.169 19.626 -2.69 16
Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products 1.184 714 -39.69 23
Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products 22.776 18.745 -17.70 14
Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations 5.666 5.578 -1.55 22
Manufacture of rubber and plastic products 53.010 38.539 27.30 6
Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products 62.187 44.205 -28.91 4
Manufacture of basic metals 54.511 37.963 -30.36 5
Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment 186.411 128.803 -30.90 1
Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products 20.392 17.055 -16.36 15
Manufacture of electrical equipment 26.172 21.630 -17.35 12
Manufacture of machinery and equipment NEC 104.019 73.444 -29.39 3
Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers 50.070 36.553 -27.00 7
Manufacture of other transport equipment 26.651 14.971 -43.82 11
Manufacture of furniture 44.715 33.918 -24.15 9
Other manufacturing 13.555 15.434 +13.86 19
Repair and installation of machinery and equipment 31.745 18.726 -41.01 10

Source: Compiled by the author, adapted from Eurostat[8]

The riskiest sub-sectors (EU-27), as measured by the total number of accidents (incidence rates are not available), are:

  1. Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment (e.g. metal structures, tanks, treatment and coating)
  2. Manufacture of food products
  3. Manufacture of machinery and equipment NEC (e.g. pumps, gears, furnaces, cranes, machinery for agriculture, mining, metallurgy, textile production)
  4. Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products (e.g. glass, porcelain, cement, concrete)
  5. Manufacture of basic metals
  6. Manufacture of rubber and plastic products
  7. Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers


Gender

The following table shows the difference in non-fatal accidents in the sector, according to gender.

Table 9: Non-fatal accidents in the manufacturing sector by gender

Industrial sector Non-fatal accidents per 100,000 workers, incidence rate Change 1995-2005

[ % ]

1995 2005
Manufacturing 4,962 3,505 -29.4
Males

Females

6,067

2,183

4,156

1,827

-31.5

-16.3

Source: Adapted from ESAW[4]

Similar to the data for fatal accidents, the comparatively low incidence rate among females can be attributed to the women working in lower risk workplaces, such as offices.

Company size

The following table shows the relationship between non-fatal accidents in the sector and the company size.

Table 10: Breakdown of non-fatal accidents (more than 3 days lost) in the manufacturing sector, according to company size

Total Zero (self-employed) From 1 to 9 workers From 10 to 49 workers From 50 to 249 workers From 250 to 499 workers 500 workers or more
2008 982.520 8.575 116.932 245.567 299.752 100.380 149.096
2009 754.057 7.886 96.521 185.323 228.165 74.570 101.193
2010 726.158 6.941 88.978 176.393 216.276 73.535 109.374

Source: Eurostat[7]

The highest numbers are found in SMEs, i.e. small and medium sized enterprises employing between 10 and 249 workers.

Evaluation regarding accidents

The sector has made continuous progress in reducing the number and incidence rate of accidents. It has also benefited from the outsourcing of especially risky work (e.g. maintenance, electroplating), as well as labour leasing, service contracts, and the fact that ever more people report to work despite being sick. Moreover, workers and the trade unions have welcomed the determination shown by many employers to achieve ‘zero accidents’ (especially pushed by US capital), which has contributed greatly to the continuous downward trend.

The situation in smaller companies is worse, due to their limited capacity to deal with more complex OSH issues.


Occupational health

Whereas accident statistics show a downward trend, there was a clear increase from 1999 to 2007 in the proportion of people with work-related health problems, according to the LFS (Labour Force Survey) ad hoc modules[3] (see the following table).

Table 11: Reported work-related health problems by sector

1999 1999 2007 Change Position
Standardised prevalence* rate (per 100,000 workers) of work-related health problems Prevalence rate in % Persons reporting one or more work-related health problems in the past 12 months [%]
Total - all NACE activities 5,372 5.37 12.8 138.36 9
Agriculture, hunting and forestry 4,751 4.75 16.5 247.37 1
Fishing 3,680 3.68 13.6 269.57 5
Mining and quarrying 3,790 3.79 13.9 266.75 4
Manufacturing 4,627 4.63 11.8 154.86 11
Electricity, gas and water supply 3,946 3.95 11.3 186.08 14
Construction 5,005 5.01 12.3 145.51 10
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods 4,493 4.49 11.2 149.44 16
Hotels and restaurants 3,689 3.69 10.3 179.13 17
Transport, storage and communication 5,521 5.52 13.2 139.13 8
Financial intermediation 3,775 3.78 11.3 198.94 15
Real estate, renting and business activities 5,028 5.03 11.7 132.60 13
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security 5,008 5.01 13.8 175.45 6
Education 6,908 6.91 13.5 95.37 7
Health and social work 8,638 8.64 16.1 86.34 2
Other community, social and personal service activities 5,640 5.64 11.8 109.22 12
Activities of households 2,908 2.91 14.4 394.85 3
Extra-territorial organizations and bodies 4,558 4.56 7.3 60.09 18

(*) Prevalence describes the proportion of a studied group found to have a condition/disease as compared to the number of people studied. This is contrasted with incidence, which is a measure of new cases arising over a given period.

Source: Established by the author, based on Eurostat[11] [12]

The number of workers reporting a work-related health problem in the manufacturing sector more than doubled between 1999 and 2007. However, comparing the positions of the sectors (last column in table 11), manufacturing keeps a position in the middle.

Health problems in the manufacturing sector (as reported in 1999) are shown in the following table:

Table 12: Types of health problem reported in the manufacturing sector

1999

Standardised incidence rate

Musculo-skeletal disorders 2,456
Pulmonary disorders 338
Stress, depression, anxiety 723
Other not elsewhere mentioned 926
Total 4,627

Source: Established by the author, based on Eurostat[11] [12]

The Labour Force Survey 2007 found 47.9% of manufacturing workers reported exposure to factors that adversely affect physical well-being;[13] 23.3% reported exposure to factors that adversely affect mental well-being.[14]

In 2003, Bofetta and colleagues note that only a limited number of clearly defined individual factors are established occupational carcinogens. However, there is considerable evidence of the increased risks associated with particular industries and occupations, although often no specific agents can be identified as aetiological factors. This concerns many sub-sectors of the manufacturing sector[15]:

Table 13: Occupations or industries that have been evaluated by IARC as definitely (group 1), probably (group 2A), or possibly (group 2B) entailing excess risk of cancer.

Occupation or industry Suspected substance(s)
Aluminium production Pitch volatiles; aromatic amines
Arsenical insecticides production and packaging Arsenic compounds
Auramine manufacture 2-Naphthylamine; auramine; other chemicals; pigments
Battery manufacture Cadmium and cadmium compounds
Beer brewers Alcohol consumption
Beryllium refining and machining; production of beryllium-containing products Beryllium and beryllium compounds
Boot and shoe manufacture and repair Leather dust; benzene and other solvents
Butchers and meat workers Viruses, PAH
Carpentry and joinery Wood dust
Ceramic and pottery workers Crystalline silica
Coal gasification Coal tar; coal-tar fumes; PAHs
Coke production Coal-tar fumes
Electroplating Chromium (VI) compounds

Cadmium and cadmium compounds

Epichlorohydrin production Epichlorohydrin
Ethylene oxide production Ethylene oxide
Flame retardant and plasticizer use Polychlorinated biphenyls
Furniture and cabinet making Wood dust
Glass workers (art glass, container and pressed ware) Arsenic and other metal oxides, silica, PAH
Hematite mining, underground with radon exposure Radon daughters; silica
Iron and steel founding PAHs; silica; metal fumes; formaldehyde
Isopropanol manufacture, strong-acid process Diisopropyl sulphate; isopropyl oils; sulphuric acid
Magenta manufacture Magenta; ortho-toluidine; 4,4´-methylene bis(2-methylaniline); ortho-nitrotoluene
Mechanics, welders, etc. in motor vehicle manufacturing PAH, welding fumes, engine exhaust
Painters Not identified
Petroleum refining PAHs
Pickling operations Inorganic acid mists containing sulphuric acid
Printing processes Solvents; inks; oil mist
Production of art glass, glass containers and pressed ware Lead; arsenic; antimony oxides; silica; asbestos; other metal oxides; PAHs
Pulp and papermill workers Not identified
Rubber industry Aromatic amines; solvents
Synthetic latex production, tyre curing, calender operatives (smoothening or glazing of paper or cloth), reclaim, cable makers Aromatic amines
Textile manufacturing industry Textile dust in manufacturing process; dyes and solvents in dyeing and printing operations

Source: Established by the authors, adapted from[15] [16]

During a 2009 presentation, Takala and Schneider from EU-OSHA stated that approx. 167,000 work-related deaths occur annually in the EU-27, a figure based on Finnish and EU-OSHA research as well as ILO estimates,[17] and including accidents and violence (5%). Of the more than 160,000 deaths, almost 74,000 can be attributed to dangerous substances. Whereby about half of these can, in turn, be attributed to asbestos. Especially in shipyards, asbestos use was very common and, because of the long latency period, the number of workers developing (and dying of) e.g. malignant mesothelioma is still growing.

Recognized occupational diseases

A 2004 publication by Eurostat showed that in 2001 the manufacturing sector had the most recognized occupational diseases of all sectors (EU-12 extrapolated to EU-15), accounting for 20,266 cases. Mining and quarrying was 2nd, with 8,387 cases, and construction 3rd, with 6,518 cases).[18]

Evaluation regarding occupational health

While the sector has made progress in reducing accidents, work-related diseases are still increasing, especially musculoskeletal diseases and psychosocial problems. Greater coordinated efforts by all stakeholders are required to reverse this trend.

Legal requirements

Directive 1989/391/EEC - the “framework directive” - is the 'basic law' on occupational safety and health in the EU. Under this general directive, several so-called ‘daughter directives’ were adopted, some of which address the situation in specific sectors. There is no specific directive for the manufacturing sector, but several of these daughter directives are relevant. such as directives on minimum safety and health requirements for: the workplace, the use of work equipment, the use of PPE, the handling of loads, the protection from exposure to carcinogens and mutagens, explosive atmospheres, noise, vibration, etc.


Hazards and risks

In general, workers in this sector have to handle tools and equipment, operate machines, and/or work in complex plants. Therefore, the biggest hazards come from human-machine interaction, noise, agents used or generated during the work (cooling lubricants, paints, solvents, welding fumes, dust, DME), untidy workplaces (slips, trips and falls), repetitive/strenuous working positions, lifting heavy loads, and psychosocial stress.

ILO descriptions

The International Labour Organization has analysed the working conditions in several manufacturing subsectors, such as the food industry, the paper and pulp industry, chemical processing, electrical appliances, printing, metal processing, and the textile goods industry.[19]

In the Iron and steel industry, by way of example, ILO have identified a range of problems, such as: ergonomics (e.g. for furnace bricklayers), noise, vibration, heat exposure, radioactive nuclides (included in scrap as measuring devices), dust and fumes, silica, heavy metals, acid mists, sulphur compounds, oil mists, PAHs (polycyclic hydrocarbons), various other chemicals (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, benzene, etc.), and high stress levels.


Working conditions survey

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) carried out a secondary statistical analysis of the data from the fourth European Working Conditions Surveys (EWCS), which looked at sector working conditions in the 27 Member States.[20] Eurofound published the following profiles, which present sub-sectors of manufacturing:

  • Chemicals, rubber and mineral products
  • Clothes, textiles and leather
  • Electrical, medical and optical equipment
  • Food, beverages and tobacco
  • Furniture and recycling
  • Manufacture of cars and other transport vehicles
  • Metal products and machinery
  • Printing and publishing
  • Wood and paper manufacturing

The results are presented in the following table.

Table 14: Fourth European Working Conditions Surveys (EWCS) scores on reporting of unfavourable conditions - statistically significant differences from average

Exposure to ambient risks Work process Higher job demands/ work intensity Lower levels of skilled work Lower levels of satisfaction Long working hours Ergonomic risks Working non-standard hours MSD Absenteeism
Vibrations, noise, high/low tempera-tures, smoke, fumes, powder dust, vapours, handling chemicals Ability to choose or change the order of tasks, methods of work and speed or rate of work Working at high speed and to tight deadlines Use of quality standards, solving unforeseen problems, job complexity and learning new things ... with their working conditions More than 48 weekly working hours Tiring or painful positions,

carrying or moving heavy loads, standing or walking, repetitive hand or arm move-ments

Night and evening work, Sunday/ Saturday work and

more than 10 working hours a day

Work-related musculo-skeletal problems Absence due to health problems
Chemicals, rubber and mineral products XX XX
Clothes, textiles and leather XX X X X X
Electrical, medical and optical equipment X X
Food, beverages and tobacco XX X X XX X
Furniture and recycling XX XX X
Manufacture of cars and other transport vehicles XX XX XX XX
Metal products and machinery XX X XX X X XX
Printing and publishing XX
Wood and paper manufacturing XX XX XX XX XX
8 6 4 3 2 2 3 1 2 2

Source: Established by the author, based on Eurofound[21]

Workers of almost all nine sub-sectors covered by the survey mention the exposure to ambient risks, while workers from six complain about the levels of control over the work process.


Prevention and control measures

After the hazards have been identified, the next step is to determine who will be exposed to these hazards and to what extent. This will then lead to the identification of the necessary prevention and control measures, including reassessing the effectiveness of existing measures. The selection of measures has to follow a certain hierarchy to ensure that the most effective measures (e.g. avoidance and substitution) are considered first, and the least effective (e.g. personal protective equipment) are seen as the last resort. It is advisable to involve the workers into this risk assessment process, as they have sound knowledge about the conditions and risks at their own workplaces.

The avoidance of risks can include using: drilling or milling processes and tools that do not need cooling lubricants, electrically powered vehicles instead of petrol or gas machines, lifting equipment, etc.

Substitution of hazardous chemicals or processes by less hazardous ones include: the use of water based paints, aqueous cleaning processes, TIG welding,

The application of engineering controls include: enclosures for machines, local exhausts, etc.

The application of organisational controls includes: separation of vehicles from pedestrian traffic, controls for the storage and safe handling of raw materials, products, by-products and waste, restricted access to specific areas for experienced workers only, application of ergonomic principles to design of equipment, machine controls and tools, work organisation, job structure and content, and application of health monitoring.

The use of personal protection equipment (PPE) when prevention and control measures do not suffice, e.g. shields, gloves, safety glasses and goggles, hearing protectors, respirators, and foot and body protection.

Training and instruction should accompany all types of measures, to ensure that workers know the new methods and processes, and have practiced them.


Safe behaviour =

Unfortunately, the manipulation of engineering controls is not uncommon: The German Social Accident Insurance DGUV established that approx. 37% of all safety appliances for metal processing machines in Germany are bypassed.[22] In most cases, the reason is the time factor, i.e. workers feel disrupted in their work process, or they feel under time pressure. As a result, the behaviour of workers has come into focus, and some institutions have complemented hierarchical systems with a further level of ‘behavioural oriented measures’, i.e. measures to foster safer behaviour. These measures include peer-observation and peer-discussion; they require such conditions as ‘example setting’ by superiors, the establishing of a no-blame culture among managers and supervisors, and appreciating proposals by fast and diligent feed-back.[23]

Outlook

Efforts to reduce the number of accidents have proved successful, but need to be continued and supplemented by measures to improve safe behaviour.

Much remains to be done on occupational health. The technological developments which have reduced the lifting of heavy loads have not brought about the expected decrease in the number of back disorder incidents. In an article published in 2009 [18], Hartmann and Spallek argue that physical work can have a clear positive effect on physical health. They recommend that demands that are too high / low be avoided - the aim should be for an individual optimum. General preventive measures are not enough; individual measures that match individual workplaces are needed. Concepts along these lines have been developed, e.g. “Moving with Awareness” (for cleaners) and “ERGO-PHYS”. See also: Strategies to tackle musculoskeletal disorders at work

It is high time that psychosocial health problems were considered in risk assessments in companies and organisations. More campaigns are needed to raise awareness, involving social partners and authorities. See also: Occupational safety and health risk assessment methodologies, Interventions to prevent and manage psychosocial risks and work-related stress.


References

  1. Business Directory (no date). Manufacturing sector definition. Retrieved 17 October 2013, from: [1]
  2. Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia (2013). Manufacturing. Retrieved 20 October 2013, from: [2]
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Links for further reading

ILO - International Labour Organization (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, ILO, Geneve, 2003. Available at: [22]

European Technology Platform on Industrial Safety (2013). What is ETPIS. Retrieved 12 December 2013, from: [23]

Business Europe (2013). Alliance for a competitive European Industry. Retrieved 12 December 2013, from: [24]