As the exit of COVID-19 restrictions draws steadily nearer, the manufacturing sector can start to re-evaluate its safety strategy. For more than a year, COVID-19 compliance has dominated every aspect of production, operations and employee communication. But as the curve slowly flattens (for good, we all hope), what lies around the corner?
Without doubt, manufacturers will need to consider the implications of COVID-19 for some time, but it’s now imperative to plan beyond the pandemic. The recent spike in general workplace accidents and injuries underlines the risk of letting other safety controls fall off the radar.
Now’s the time to learn from the lessons of the pandemic and adopt a more holistic approach to health and safety. So how should you start planning? The HSE’s target areas for the manufacturing industry are a practical place to start.
Shifting focus from safety to health
Every year, the HSE sets out health and safety focus areas for each sector. These form the target list for not only their in-house assessors, but also local authority inspectors. For 2021, the priorities reveal a notable enforcement shift from core safety requirements to health-related topics.
Authorities are picking up where they left off before the pandemic with campaigns such as Work Right and Helping GB Work Well. These initiatives centre on reducing cases of specific occupational conditions such as lung disease, musculoskeletal disorders, work-related stress and mental health issues.
They also build on the UK’s solid H&S track record to encourage government, employers, workers and their representatives to take individual ownership for risk management and workplace safety. The six far-reaching themes of the Helping GB Work Well programme demonstrate a commitment to compliance well beyond COVID-19, from embracing innovation to boosting accountability.
Managing the mainstays of manufacturing compliance
While it’s important for manufacturers to recognise these relevant, high-level topics, there’s also an urgent need to get back to basics. The pressure to implement extensive COVID-19 safety programmes has forced many businesses to drop the ball on other day-to-day compliance duties.
So alongside essential coronavirus measures, manufacturers should set their sights on the sector’s top occupational risks, including:
- Workplace transport
- Vehicle/pedestrian safety
- Machinery safety
- Guarding and statutory compliance
- Work at height
- Manual handling
Our blog library is a helpful starting point, offering specific guidance and a range of articles to address key manufacturing H&S issues.
A cautious look to the future
When it comes to COVID-19 safety, we’re not out of the woods yet. Certainly, businesses will need to remain vigilant, proactive and cautious for many months to come.
However, the roadmap out of lockdown gives us reason to take a forward-looking view and create a new set of H&S goals. Following the HSE’s lead, manufacturers can begin to revisit pre-pandemic priorities and focus once again on sector fundamentals, from workplace transport to working at height.
To keep our manufacturing sites robust and compliant, it’s vital that we widen our scope of mandatory safety measures.