Building a Culture of Safety: The Role of Industrial Manipulators in Accident Prevention

It only takes a few minutes of browsing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website to see that the data on worker injuries in manufacturing settings is concerning. From those numbers, it’s clear that injuries and fatalities are a significant problem — for the employees involved, of course, and their employers.

Some of the many types of occupational injuries the agency tracks include:

  • Sprains, strains, and tears
  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations
  • Bruises and contusions

Workers can get hurt in many ways in busy manufacturing environments. Injuries are most often caused by accidents, such as:

  • Falls
  • Being struck by objects
  • Overexertion when lifting or lowering items

Fortunately, manufacturers can take steps to protect their workers from painful, often debilitating, sometimes fatal incidents. One of the most impactful actions is implementing industrial manipulators, like lift-assist devices and material handling systems. Customized solutions can significantly reduce worker injury risks while simultaneously increasing productivity.

Let’s look at how industrial manipulators enable safer manufacturing work environments.

Why Injuries Occur in Manufacturing Settings

We know workplace injuries are common occurrences, but why is that true? If you picture yourself in that setting, it’s easy to imagine several ways you could get hurt. For example, let’s say your job entails manually lifting and moving heavy boxes. It’s late in your shift, and your physical energy level is dropping rapidly. Something catches your eye, and in a moment of distraction, you drop the box you’re holding onto your foot, breaking a bone.

Scenarios for spraining muscles or straining tendons and ligaments are also easy to envision. At a particular workstation, you must repeatedly move heavy objects from the floor to a conveyor belt at chest height. In one instance, you fail to use good lifting techniques, and in mid-motion, something in your lower back “pops,” and you experience a painful and persistent injury.

Or maybe you’re tasked with carrying oddly shaped, hard-to-handle components from one point to another and slip on a damp spot on the floor and fall, hitting your head and suffering a concussion. And then there are repetitive-use injuries from performing a manual operation over and over.

The list of injury risks is long, so despite the best efforts of employees to work cautiously, people will inevitably make mistakes and pay a physical price when required to do certain tasks manually. The good news is that you can reduce your company’s injury rate by letting industrial manipulators handle difficult actions and movements.

How Industrial Manipulators Reduce Safety Risks

Industrial manipulators are sophisticated systems designed to perform a wide range of tasks, including lifting and moving materials and many others. They have sensors, actuators, and control systems that enable them to execute precise movements and manipulate objects with varying degrees of complexity. Their versatility makes them indispensable in diverse industries and manufacturing settings, including automotive, electronics, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and food & beverage, to name just a few.

Some of the many ways industrial manipulators make workplaces safer and protect employees include:

  • Handling hazardous tasks. Industrial manipulators excel at taking over duties that pose significant risks to human workers. These tasks often involve exposure to hazardous materials, extreme temperatures, repetitive motions, or heavy lifting. By relegating these tasks to manipulators, companies can significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries, safeguarding their workforce.
  • Improving precision and consistency. Human error is a leading cause of workplace accidents. Industrial manipulators operate within defined parameters with high accuracy and consistency. Workers may provide input on how a movement is to occur. However, much of the action (the force used in gripping an item securely) is dictated by the device, minimizing the risk of mistakes or loss of control that could lead to accidents. This reliability is particularly crucial in tasks that require intricate maneuvers or where even minor errors can have catastrophic consequences.
  • Addressing ergonomic issues. Repetitive strain injuries and musculoskeletal disorders are common among workers engaged in physically demanding tasks. Industrial manipulators alleviate this burden by taking over functions that involve awkward postures, repetitive motions, or excessive force. This reduces the risk of injuries and enhances worker job satisfaction and overall well-being.
  • Enabling remote operation and monitoring. Many industrial manipulators can be operated remotely, allowing workers to control them from a safe distance. This is especially beneficial in hazardous environments where human presence is undesirable or unsafe. Additionally, manipulators equipped with sensors and cameras can provide real-time operations monitoring, enabling early detection of anomalies or potential hazards.
  • Leveraging worker/solution collaboration. Industrial manipulators are designed to work alongside humans, sharing the workspace and collaborating on tasks. They’re often equipped with advanced safety features, such as force-limiting sensors and collision detection mechanisms, that ensure safe interactions with workers and other systems.

Completing Tasks Safely Versus Embracing a Safety Culture

It’s essential to understand the difference between completing tasks safely and maintaining a safety culture. No doubt it’s true that workers can complete all the actions in your manufacturing plant safely. If you ask someone to lift or move an item while you observe them, chances are they’ll do so without incident. But that one-time success doesn’t necessarily translate to long-term injury-free operations.

Sustainably lowering your injury risk and rate requires that employees continually view safety as their top priority. As a manufacturing company owner or decision-maker, you promote that attitude by empowering team members to work safely with the help of industrial manipulators.

Integrating these systems into the workplace is a catalyst for cultural transformation. By demonstrating a commitment to worker safety, companies can foster a culture where safety is emphasized and practiced at all levels. You can support this perspective shift in several ways, including:

  • Training and education. It is crucial to provide comprehensive training to workers on the safe operation and interaction with manipulators. This includes understanding safety protocols, emergency procedures, and the manipulator’s capabilities and limitations.
  • Open communication. The most effective organizations maintain open communication between workers and management regarding safety concerns. Workers should feel empowered to report potential hazards or suggest improvements to safety protocols.
  • Continuous improvement. Regularly reviewing and updating safety protocols based on data and worker feedback can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that safety measures remain effective.

Additional Benefits of a Safety Culture in Manufacturing

The primary advantage of implementing industrial manipulators to improve safety at your manufacturing facility is — plain and simple — your people. Preventing accidents, overuse injuries, etc., protects them, their livelihood, and, by extension, their families.

However, manufacturers who reduce injury risks enjoy other benefits as well. For example, companies with a reputation for prioritizing safety are viewed favorably by customers, investors, and the public. This can lead to increased brand value and market share. These companies also have an edge in attracting and retaining excellent employees. People want to work for employers that prioritize their safety and well-being. In today’s challenging business climate, this advantage can directly affect your success.

Finally, safety-conscious companies can reduce their operating costs in several ways. That includes avoiding lost productivity costs, legal fees, and urgent (rather than carefully considered) accident risk mitigation steps.

Tailored Industrial Manipulator Solutions for Significant Safety Improvements

You can maximize the safety benefits (and other benefits) of the industrial manipulators you implement by working with experts who take the time to understand your challenges and develop customized solutions. That’s our approach at Dalmec and why companies come back to us repeatedly to collaborate on new systems as their businesses grow and evolve.

Lift assist devices, material handling systems, and other industrial manipulators can be beneficial “right out of the box.” However, a solution that considers your facility’s unique characteristics and your company’s products and workforce can provide the most impressive results and return on investment, whether the measure is safety, productivity, or something else.

Plus, when you work with Dalmec, you can be confident that you’ll benefit from the latest industrial manipulator innovations. From cutting-edge sensors to enhanced software and operating systems, we’re always looking for ways to make work easier, safer, and more profitable for manufacturers.

Final Thoughts

The risk of injury is always looming in manufacturing settings, and with it, the potential physical and financial costs. From sprains and strains to lacerations and broken bones, even the most careful employees can get hurt.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait passively for the next injury report and worry about how an incident will affect the worker and your company. You can be proactive and greatly reduce the chances of workers suffering injuries by letting industrial manipulators handle challenging tasks. In doing so, you also improve your reputation with employees and industry contacts and enjoy more peace of mind.

Whether you’re eager to implement systems as soon as possible or simply want to learn about the fundamentals of these devices and systems for when the time is right for your company, we’re happy to talk with you. Contact Dalmec today to discuss your needs and how industrial manipulators can help you meet them!

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