Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Amid talks of turkeys, stuffing and pumpkin pie, it's also important to discuss common hazards workers in the food processing industry encounter. While you might not normally think about just how your frozen turkey ended up in the supermarket, there are many hazards these employees face each day.
Hazards in the food processing industry
Employees in the meat or food processing industries face numerous health and safety hazards on the job. Some of these many risks include ergonomic, slip, fall, chemical and amputation hazards. For more detail on the top five hazards in safety manufacturing check out our popular blog post on this topic.
Additionally, stressful, fast-paced work environments lead to accidents of varying degrees of severity.To protect their workers from harm, employers are required to establish engineering controls for dangerous equipment, safety and emergency response programs. They also must make proper personal protective equipment (PPE) readily available for any employee who will be working in a dangerous area or operating heavy machinery and train their employees on the applicable PPE.
Employers should also provide appropriate training to their employees in the food processing industry. Common training for food processing industry workers, in addition to PPE, includes understanding the hazards of extreme temperatures (hot and cold); incident investigation; and material handling.
Employers endangering their workers at food processing facilities
"Employees in food processing industry face health and safety hazards ."
Despite the dangers facing food processing workers, employers around the country still fail to adequately protect them from select hazards and harm. For example, earlier this year, OSHA officials issued four serious and one other-than-serious safety violations to one of the nation's leading suppliers of frozen specialty foods. The company faced more than $172,000 in proposed penalties following incidents where two workers at one of its facilities suffered amputations, while a third experienced lacerations and burns.
"Three women's lives were dramatically altered because their employer failed to protect them from hazardous operating machinery parts," said Judy Freeman, OSHA area director in Wichita. "Each year, thousands of workers like these suffer amputation and other injuries that are preventable when basic safety guards are in place and proper procedures are followed. [The company] needs to protect [its] workers, and [it] need to do it now."
Later this year, OSHA officials found several safety and health deficiencies during an investigation at a Massachusetts facility for the country's fourth-largest food service distributor. The company faced six serious and two repeated violations, amounting to $72,000 in fines. These hazards include an inadequate emergency response plan, failed ammonia sensor alarms and an ammonia leak.
"The leak was relatively small but the consequences could have been enormous," Kenneth Shedden, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, explained. "Exposure to even as little as 300 parts per million of anhydrous ammonia is immediately dangerous to life and health. An uncontrolled release can be lethal and catastrophic."
IndustrySafe can help employees manage the risks and hazards associated with food safety with our hazard and job safety analysis modules; exposure and chemical risks with our Industrial Hygiene monitoring software; and provide applicable employee training for food safety processing with our training content. Contact us to learn more our safety management software.