Workplace safety is a top concern among manufacturers. Without taking COVID-19 into account, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that occupations within the manufacturing sector account for 5% of U.S. workers, yet they represent 8% of all workplace fatalities.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has added to the safety concerns that manufacturers face. At the start of the pandemic, manufacturers scrambled to implement safety measures to minimize viral spread and comply with social distancing restrictions imposed by state and local governments. As new variants continue to emerge, manufacturers must continually review their safety protocols.
Going forward, manufacturers may need to invest in new or improved safety measures to protect workers in the new normal. Here are seven protective measures that can help improve workplace safety.
The most frequent cause of workplace injuries is misuse of tools and machinery. So, it's important to utilize equipment only for its intended purpose. Regularly cleaning and inspecting equipment reduces the possibility of a fire, explosion or injury. Employees should be trained on proper and safe equipment use.
Take a walk through your factory and warehouse. Aisles should be clear and clutter-free. When spills happen, workers should clean them immediately. Anti-slip flooring, drip pans and/or guards should be installed wherever spills can't easily be cleaned, especially for firms using liquids.
Even though your budget might be tighter than usual due to COVID-related cost-cutting measures, don't skimp on maintenance. Remember to check your workplace floor for loose boards, holes and protruding nails.
Are you in compliance with local fire codes? Be on the lookout for items blocking doorways and walkways — and remove them as soon as possible.
In addition, if you're using combustible materials, keep only the amount needed for the job and store the flammable material in a safe site off-premises. Likewise, combustible waste should be stored in metal receptacles and thrown away daily.
Nets, toe boards and toe rails should be used to safeguard workers against items falling from above. In your warehouse, heavy objects should be placed on lower shelves, and boxes should be stacked straight up and down.
Workers should be taught to lift objects properly to avoid injuries. When moving heavy objects, workers should use their legs to lift (rather than lifting the object straight up) and keep their backs straight (rather than stooping or twisting). Consider investing in dollies, forklifts and other machines to help workers hoist heavy objects.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is especially important when dealing with hazardous materials. Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, PPE such as gloves, safety hoods and shoes, earplugs, hard hats, respirators, and full body suits are mandatory in certain situations. (See "When Do You Need PPE?" below.) Workers should always wear protective gear on the factory floor to reduce the potential for injury.
A comprehensive safety risk assessment can help spotlight ways to avoid accidents. If you don't have the necessary inside resources, hire a professional to develop a risk assessment plan identifying the hazards associated with your particular operation. This will also determine risk levels, review safety and working condition of equipment, and recommend the necessary controls.
Safety should be a high priority for employees and employers alike. From the employer's perspective, creating a safe work environment is a matter of good corporate citizenship, and it can improve productivity by bolstering morale and minimizing downtime. Sidestepping key safety measures can be a costly mistake.
Costs incurred today to make your facilities safer will create goodwill and add value over the long run. Your financial advisor can help evaluate investment alternatives, conduct a comprehensive safe risk assessment and explore tax breaks for implementing safety measures at your facilities.
Generally, safety materials — including additional cleaning and disinfectant supplies purchased during the pandemic — are currently deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.
Other major improvements to make your facilities safer — such as installing security cameras, toe boards or anti-slip flooring — must generally be capitalized and depreciated over time. Fortunately, there are two significant depreciation-related tax breaks for you to consider taking advantage of:
However, the allowable deduction for a tax year can't exceed the taxpayer's aggregate net business taxable income from all sources calculated before any Sec. 179 deductions. That means Sec. 179 deductions can't create or increase a federal income tax NOL. Deductions that would create or increase an NOL are disallowed and carried forward to the following tax year.
Bonus depreciation and Sec. 179 deductions aren't mutually exclusive and can be combined. It's usually considered a tax-smart move to claim these tax breaks. Consult with your tax advisor to determine what's best for your situation.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required in the following situations:
Arc flash suits are normally required only for use by electricians working in an area with a high potential for arc flash. However, others working where there's potential for an event should wear protective clothing.
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