Work and hazards in manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is very diverse and covers the production of textiles, clothing and footwear, heavy machinery, chemicals and electronics. It employs about 12% of all employees in Australia and about 9% of employed young people work in the manufacturing industry.

The industry has a high proportion of small employers and self employed workers. The use of sub-contractors is very widespread in the industry.

There are many jobs that young workers can do in the manufacturing industry. These include:

  • upholsterer
  • machine operator
  • plant operator
  • textiles designer
  • instrument fitter
  • locksmith.

The most common hazards in the manufacturing industry are:

  • lifting and pushing - eg. handling heavy or awkward shaped objects
  • slips, trips, falls - eg. slipping on a greasy floor or falling from a storage rack
  • using hand tools such as drills and power saws
  • noise from machinery such as stamping machines, presses and mixers
  • chemicals - eg. using solvents, cleaning chemicals and acids.

The chance that these hazards will result in an injury for young workers is higher when they are combined with risk factors such as:

  • lack of supervision
  • inexperience
  • lack of training
  • being uninformed about their rights
  • feeling invulnerable - that nothing can hurt you.

When hazards are combined with risk factors (these are called dangerous combinations) the chance of injury, and the possible seriousness of the injury, increases.

Dangerous combinations in manufacturing - an example

Jane works in a factory that makes parts for heaters. She is a machine operator. The machine stops frequently because the parts jam in the feed in tray. Jane has to clear the machine regularly but she hasn't had any training about how to do this safely and, to save time, she usually clears the jammed product without shutting off the machine. This doesn't worry her as she feels confident that she can quickly clear the machine without any risk to herself.

Not having training and believing she can remove the jammed product without risk to herself greatly increases her risk of injury.

Want to know more?

Check out at some of the resources about the manufacturing industry in the Resource centre.