25 Jul 2023

Most common health and safety risks in manufacturing

Manufacturing health and safety risks

Manufacturing is considered a high-risk industry to work in as there are a variety of hazardous situations in this environment. Workers in small manufacturing firms are more than twice as likely to be killed at work, than workers in larger firms in the same sector.

Health and safety risks in manufacturing are a problem, but identifying all hazards in the workplace is the first step to preventing incidents occurring and improving overall standards.

Below is a list of the most common health and safety risks in manufacturing:

Slips, Trips and Falls

One of the leading causes of injury and death in the manufacturing sector, is slips, trips and falls. The main causes can be lack of training, poor lighting, trailing cables, overreaching, not cleaning correctly, or leaving floors wet, uneven surfaces, elevated platforms/loading docks, falling debris etc


Always keep walkways clear. Floors should be cleaned and dried properly, ensure all equipment and stock is appropriately stored, install guardrails and inspect all regularly. Train staff in working at height and have the correct permits in place if required. Report all near misses as well as actual incidents so action can be taken prior to prevent incidents occurring.

Handling of machinery

There is no law for minimum working temperatures. Your working environment should be comfortable. Average The use of heavy and specialist equipment, with many moving parts such as rollers, belts, and pulleys, can cause hazards from dust, sparks, flying particles, eye injuries, burns, crushed limbs, cuts/punctures to skin from sharp edges, scalds from water or steam, amputations, and death.

A classic example is this vape liquid manufacturing company fined as worker lost 2 fingers and thumb, while clearing a blockage.

Manufacturing company fined after worker’s fingers cut off (shponline.co.uk)


Make sure all machine safety guards are installed and regularly inspected, wear correct PPE, carry out maintenance and cleaning by fully trained operatives and record on maintenance log. Display safety warnings near all machinery and have clear operating procedure guidelines, highlighting emergency stop procedures. Turn off all equipment when not in use. Have operating machinery permits in place if relevant.


Not maintaining equipment/machinery properly, causes many different types of injury and death. Many injuries have occurred carrying our routine maintenance or cleaning procedures.

An example is where a man was drawn into a machine at a manufacturing plant and broke his arm.

Manufacturing company fined after employee breaks arm (shponline.co.uk)


Always use lockout/tag out functionality on machines, to prevent any accidental start-up of the machine when carrying out maintenance. Introduce regular maintenance/servicing of machinery, carried out by fully competent operatives. Use a maintenance checklist with a regular schedule, use inspection labels, report all in a maintenance log and diarise (with reminders) next service dates. Encourage machinery malfunctions to be reported immediately and put the machinery out of operation until fixed. See further information on the importance of proper equipment maintenance here.

Industrial Vehicles

This is another health and safety risk in manufacturing, as sites will often have industrial vehicles such as forklifts/lift trucks. These can cause many incidents and injuries to people, including falling objects from incorrect loads and accidental collision with people or objects.

On average there are 5 accidents every workday in the UK involving a forklift truck (Source: UKMHA)


Invest in specific training on these vehicles, so they are aware of blind spots and their surroundings, handling of loads etc, only fully trained and experienced operatives should use these industrial vehicles. Also train all employees of dangers these vehicles pose and what they can do to protect themselves. Carry our regular maintenance/safety checks. Ensure restricted pedestrian/vehicle traffic is clearly marked and install safety barriers. Ensure all employees wear hi-vis jackets, no obstructions in walkways and ensure it is well lit. Limit worker traffic for these areas where possible.

Electrical hazards

Exposed or damaged wiring, incorrect installation of electrical sources, over usage on individual power supplies which causes overheating and not correctly PAT testing can all cause electrical hazards, which in turn causes electrical and thermal burns, electric shocks, falls and electrocution (which is fatal).


Ensure all installation and electrical checks are carried out by certified electricians with the correct permits. Make sure electrical cables are correctly insulated/tubed, correctly marked for identification, regular PAT testing documented and keep up-to-date with labels added once testing complete.  Turn off electrical items where possible when in use. Make sure all electricity work is disconnected from live sources before being carried out. Maintain safe electrical practices, always.


All industries have fire hazards however, the manufacturing sector has additional risks due to sparks from welding, leaking fluids, flammable materials/gases, packaging etc.


Use fire control devices such as sprinklers and cooling devices on machinery. Have dedicated fire wardens that are properly trained and can competently carry out routine checks on fire alarms, fire extinguishers, carry out fire drills and make sure all fire exits have a completely clear pathway.

Hazardous materials

Dangerous chemicals can be found in the manufacturing sector from cleaning solutions, solvents, metalworking fluids, carbon monoxide or even fuel. Hazardous materials can cause serious injury if spillages/leaks occur, they are ingested, spilt on skin, or inhaled. Legionella, occupational asthma, cancer, irritation of the skin or dermatitis and breathing difficulties, just to name a few are all linked to working with hazardous materials.


Have all employees trained on the use of hazardous substances (COSHH) and have the correct permits in place, always wear the relevant PPE, make sure hazardous materials are stored and disposed of safely. Do not use any chemicals that are not clearly labelled. Display relevant signage and always follow safety instructions.


These injuries include muscular injuries, body fatigue, repetitive strain injuries, commonly occurring in hands/back and cause short or long-term pain.


Training on manual handling encourage regular breaks, try to reduce time spent on repetitive activities, complete DSE assessments and use equipment such as ergonomic chairs/desks.

Noise and Hand and Arm Vibration

Hearing damage or loss can occur from ongoing exposure to loud noises and vibration. Drilling, sawing, blasting, banging and machinery and vehicle noise, are all part of manufacturing. This can cause physical and mental health problems such as headaches, stress, fatigue, tinnitus, sleep disturbance, high blood pressure and productivity loss.

HAV occurs when vibration from a work process is transmitted to operator’s hands and arms by tooling. Regular, frequent, long term exposure can lead to Hand Arm Vibration syndrome (HAVS). HAVS can be controlled if caught early, but the condition may become permanent if the disease progresses. HAVS is dependant on level of vibration and amount of time spent using vibratory tooling.

The employer is obliged by law under ‘The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005’ to assess the risk of exposure to vibration to all employees. HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent.

Company fined after employees diagnosed with life-changing condition | HSE Media Centre


Design your workplace if possible, keeping minimum numbers of employees in noisy areas. Use noise-absorbent materials for constructing walls or sound proof areas where possible and invest in quieter machinery. Always use ear defenders working in these specific areas, carry out regular hearing tests for your employees and rotate working areas where possible. Encourage regular breaks away from noise. Carry out a noise assessment to comply with ‘The control of noise Work regulations 2005’, maybe testing with noise meters – using a competent person who will perform personal and/or static noise monitoring.

Confined spaces

Working in small spaces particularly during extreme weather conditions can be uncomfortable and lead to oxygen deprivation.


Avoid or restrict time spent working in these areas and install correct ventilation. Have regular checks throughout the day on people working in these areas. Ensure a permit-to-work system is in place to work in a confined space. This considers and records, all the hazards connected with the work being carried out in this area and the necessary precautions that need to be taken.

The Health and Safety Executive provides a very helpful calculator to assist in calculating exposures for hand-arm vibration found here hav.xlsm (live.com) and we have developed a ToolBox Talk covering Hand Arm Vibration, with useful questions and tips.

Health and safety can take a backseat when under pressure to meet deadlines, cut costs, remain competitive and continue to focus on all the other day to day elements of running a manufacturing business. With human participation it is inevitable that there will be human error, but you must do what you can to make the environment safe and reduce your liability as much as physically possible.

We have listed above the main health and safety risks for manufacturing, but each workplace has their own individual set of hazards to consider. Sentinel Safety have extensive experience working within the manufacturing industry. We can help safeguard your business and ensure you comply with the latest regulations. Whether that is highlighting and identifying gaps and offering practical solutions, developing specific health and safety reports and risk assessments for your business, or offering appropriate training.

If you would like to learn more, we would be happy to discuss your specific requirements, please email info@sentinelsafety.co.uk or call us on 01527 833834, we’re happy to help.

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