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Safety Remains Key to Manufacturing’s Recruitment and Retention Efforts

Brett Hoopingarner
By Brett Hoopingarner Sentry Insurance

Manufacturing job openings remain above pre-pandemic levels according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the labor market has cooled some, manufacturers are losing skilled workers to retirement and often have to replace them with inexperienced workers.

Simply put, attracting and retaining a quality workforce is a top challenge.

Now imagine: What if your existing employees were injured? Your business would be short-staffed.

In 2022, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses—up 7.5% from 2021. To add more risk, employees with less than one year of experience account for 28% of all injuries.

Today’s landscape highlights why a safe workplace is now even more important for managing costs and staying fully staffed.

Here’s how to get back to the basics of safety.

Understand Common Injuries

Before you can prevent injuries, you need to know how—and why—they happen.

Common work-related injuries can disrupt operations and place undue stress on your remaining employees. The causes of these injuries often include:

  • Overexertion
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Equipment accidents
  • Being caught in or between objects
  • Repetitive motion
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Develop a Culture of Safety

A safer workplace starts with your people, and your habits. Here are the qualities to focus on.

Begin with a self-audit: Whether you implement a comprehensive safety program or use a more informal approach, performing a self-audit has several benefits:

  • It gives you a clear picture of your program’s strengths and weaknesses
  • It enables your management team to make adjustments
  • It provides a benchmark to measure progress

During a self-audit, take the opportunity to learn from your employees as you develop or adjust your plan. If you make updates, help employees understand new protocols and their responsibilities.

Thoroughly vet new hires: Conduct background checks for all candidates, but before you implement a background check program, consult with your legal and human resources professionals regarding the correct way to do so for your business. Review each candidate’s previous employment, and references, and where it’s applicable to the job position, review their driving records. Don’t rush the hiring process. Invest time upfront to avoid longer, costlier issues in the future.

Prioritize safety during onboarding: Have experienced team members provide hands-on instruction for equipment, tools, and procedures. Go beyond rules and regulations to instill a culture of safety. Ensure new hires know safety is a top priority.

Emphasize daily safety habits: Remind staff about safe protocols. Have supervisors lead morning meetings and shift changes with quick safety talks. Continual reinforcement from supervisors and your experienced workers helps keep safety top of mind.

Conduct regular safety inspections: If your team spots an issue, don’t wait. Remove the hazard or repair it as soon as possible. In the meantime, communicate the issue to your employees.

Report and review incidents: Document all incidents, even minor ones. Report and review accidents to help identify potential patterns, including dangerous tasks or recurring problems. It may help you identify future maintenance improvements.

Conduct effective safety meetings: When you’re inundated with work, it’s easy to overlook safety. Schedule brief monthly meetings with employees to review policies and discuss trending issues. Encourage discussions about potential improvements and concerns. Upward feedback keeps workers engaged within their role.

Communicate often: Realize the power of continuous communication to reinforce messages. Regular reminders through emails, texts, and newsletters helps keep safety at the forefront.

Celebrate safety successes: Positive reinforcement plays a pivotal role in promoting workplace safety. Recognize individuals and teams for their safety leadership. Reward safe behaviors. When you infuse positive feedback, you reinforce that you value your employees.

Collaborate to Prevent Injuries

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Your insurer wants to help you minimize risk. Tap into their expertise. They may have safety consultants who can provide recommendations.

No matter what you do: take action.

In a competitive market for skilled talent, investing in safety can pay off. When you create a safer workplace, you help protect your existing employees and your bottom line. It’s a reflection of your business—and its commitment.

Give your business a competitive edge. Talk to your insurer and local experts to make safety a top priority in 2024.

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