How dangerous is the manufacturing industry?

During lockdown, many factories remained open. Since the work that goes on inside them cannot be done from home, they had to keep their doors open in order to continue producing their goods.

As the manufacturing industry is one of the few to keep operational during the three national lockdowns the UK has experienced so far, it is also likely to be one of the sectors most affected by workplace injuries in 2020 – and potentially into 2021.

Manufacturing exempt from lockdown

During the first lockdown, the government issued guidance that stated: “Certain jobs require people to travel to, from and for their work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services.

“If you cannot work from home then you are allowed to travel for work purposes, but you should not do so if you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating.”

Although many factories did shut down operations, many others stayed open. In contrast, industries such as construction stopped almost entirely.

This resulted in factory workers being more left more susceptible to workplace injuries than a great deal of other employees – particularly when compared to office workers, who were largely doing their jobs from home.

Factory accidents

Within manufacturing environments, one type of accident causes the highest proportion of injuries. According to the Health and Safety Executive, suffering from a slip, trip or fall is responsible for 36% of specified injuries, while it also caused 19% of injuries lasting over seven days.

Manual handling caused the second highest total number of injuries, but the highest proportion of over seven-day injuries, at 26%.

Among the other reported injuries were:

  • Contact with machinery
  • Exposure to a harmful substance
  • Fall from height
  • Strike against a stationary object
  • Struck by a moving or falling object
  • Struck by a moving vehicle

Cost of injuries

The economic cost of injuries in the manufacturing sector is significant. According to the HSE, the total cost in 2018/19 – the latest figures available – of injuries was £658 million. Combined with work-related illness, this stood at an estimated £1.2 billion.

At a time when the economy is facing huge challenges, businesses should be doing all they can to reduce the financial costs associated with injuries.

That is to say nothing of the cost to the injured workers. Their quality of life may be seriously affected by an injury, leaving them more likely to take action against the employers that allowed the accident to happen.

It remains to be seen whether manufacturing will see higher rates of work-related injury compared to other sectors in 2020 and 2021. But with a high proportion of these employees continuing to go into the workplace, it would be unsurprising to many.

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