Hazards in the Food Processing Industry

Journalist and activist Upton Sinclair revealed the horrors of the food processing and manufacturing industry when he wrote “The Jungle” in 1906. Sinclair’s groundbreaking book offered a behind-the-scenes look at life in Chicago’s turn-of-the-century meatpacking plants, and his unflinching reporting led to industry-wide reform and improved safety efforts throughout the United States.

Hazards in the Food Processing Industry

Yet even with technological advances and new regulations, workers in the food processing and manufacturing industry continue to face numerous health risks more than a century later. More than 19,000 food-manufacturing employees were injured on the job in 2015, and nearly 50 industry workers were killed each year between 2011 and 2015.

What are some of the common hazards workers encounter, and how can employers keep them safe on the job? Here’s a look at safety in the food processing and manufacturing industry.

Machinery Hazards

Machines used to clean, process, and package food are wrought with risks and hazards. Each year, more than 700 U.S. workers are killed in machine-related accidents, and another 2,500 are injured.

These workers face a number of hazards, including conveyors with moving or exposed parts, collapsing structures, falling objects, and compressed equipment.

For all the dangers that come with high-tech machinery, a few risks are more common than most. Those include:

  • Machine guarding: Employers must provide guards to protect workers from moving and/or exposed parts.
  • Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO): Machines and electrical equipment must be properly shut down, de-energized, and locked out during maintenance and servicing; when proper precautions aren’t taken, workers face increased risk of burns and electrocution.
  • Loud noises: They might seem like a minor inconvenience, but loud noises may prevent communication between employees, increasing the risk of injury.

LO/TO violations are routinely among OSHA’s most-common citations every year. Protect your workers and comply with federal regulations: Download Graphic Products’ free Best Practice Guide to Lockout/Tagout for detailed directions for establishing a LO/TO program, as required by OSHA. 

Safer food industry machinery

Conveyors are common in the food processing and manufacturing industries, and visual communication can protect workers from hot surfaces, exposed and moving parts, pressurized systems, and more.

The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) has developed standardized safety labels to keep workers safe around conveyors; these designs comply with standards established by ANSI and use three signal words to communicate the seriousness of a hazard:

  • Danger signs and labels communicate the most serious hazards, where death or serious injury is likely to occur if special precautions are not taken.
  • Warning signs and labels outline hazards that can result in death or serious injury—but only when the overall risk is not severe enough to warrant a “Danger” sign.
  • Caution signs describe hazards that may lead to minor or moderate injuries if not avoided.

Threats from Release of Ammonia

Workers sustained 1,280 injuries from exposure to harmful substances or environments in 2015, and many of those involved the toxic chemical anhydrous ammonia.

Throughout the United States, anhydrous ammonia is a popular refrigerant in food processing and manufacturing facilities. The substance can be found in breweries, juice and soft drink processing facilities, meat processing plants, and other food processing plants.

Despite that ubiquity, ammonia poses numerous risks to workers. Those hazards include:

  • Corrosive: Ammonia can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and lungs.
  • Flammable: Ammonia can be lethal at concentrations of roughly 15% to 28% by volume in air.
  • Explosive: If released in enclosed spaces with a source of ignition present, ammonia can cause life-threatening explosions.

Protecting food workers from ammonia

For a safer environment, U.S.-based food processing and manufacturing plants must label all pipes that transport ammonia in accordance with International Institute for Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) Bulletin No. 114, the accepted standard for labelling ammonia refrigeration systems.

factory

Each year, more than 700 U.S. workers are killed in machine-related accidents, and another 2,500 are injured.

 

The standard requires employers to label system components, such as compressors, pumps, and receivers, and maintains that every ammonia pipe marker include the following five components:

  • Piping Abbreviation
  • Physical State
  • Pipe Contents
  • Pressure Level
  • Flow Direction

Each component label must include a component identifier and indicate the pressure level, as well.

Slip, Trip, and Fall Dangers

Slip, trip, and fall hazards are among the most common causes of injury in both the food manufacturing industry and U.S. workplaces in general. In 2015 alone, more than 4,500 workers were injured in slips, trips, and falls, and 800 workers were killed in slip, trip, and fall accidents.

Given the high volume of liquids used in food manufacturing and processing, workers are regularly exposed to wet and unsafe surfaces. Workers can easily slip in puddles of water, trip over uneven surfaces, or fall when trying to access a platform.

OSHA’s standard for walking-working surfaces, 29 CFR 1910.22, requires the following for ensuring clean working areas:

Workroom floors must be clean and dry (whenever possible), and employers must mitigate hazards caused by inclement weather, loose boards, spills, and more.

Employers must provide drainage and dry standing places (such as floor mats) when wet processes are used in commercial food processing plants and other facilities.

All walking-working surfaces must be inspected and maintained in safe, working condition.

Reducing slips, trips, and falls in the processing plant

Floor marking and wayfinding tape is one of the easiest, most efficient solutions for mitigating slip, trip, and fall hazards.

Here is how floor tapes help workers stay upright, safe, and mobile:

  • Tread Tape: Basic tread tape helps workers “grip” the surface, even when wet, preventing slips and falls.
  • Tread Plates: When working on uneven or loose surfaces, bolted-down tread plates help improve traction in a variety of conditions—and on a variety of surfaces.
  • Tread Caution Steps: Yellow-and-black textured plates keep workers safe on steps, entryways, ledges, and more.

Text: Matt Wastradowski, Graphic Products

Related reading: 8 Ways to Identify and Eliminate Noise Hazards in the Workplace

HSE | 15.1.2018

Latest articles

Research report: Predictive Maintenance 4.0

A growing number of companies want to use big data analytics in their predictive maintenance and are also investing in the resources needed for this. Of the companies already using this technology, no less than 95 percent say that they have already achieved concrete results. This is the conclusion of a follow-up study conducted by PwC and Mainnovation among 268 companies in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Asset Management | 17.1.2019

12 Helpful Tips for Doing IT Service Desk

Over the years, the evolution of technology and the adaptability of the people to it, has been increasing drastically. This process has brought about a boom in the service sector, making the IT subunit of it, the most successful.

Cmms | 27.12.2018

It’s About “Time”

At Bentley Systems, we have been talking to our users, especially owners, and it has become clear that despite our collective best efforts, there is a gap in the market.  Owners need easy access to real-time, accurate, engineering information and they need tools that make it simple to keep engineering data up-to-date, especially those engaged in brownfield and revamp projects.  It takes too much time and effort to gather and verify the information they need to make decisions effectively. And for older plants that do not have 3D models, there is simply no visual way to verify and check information easily.

Partner Articles | 10.12.2018

How to Choose an Air Compressor, According to Science

Buying an air compressor, for the first time, can be challenging in many ways. There is a lot going on behind this power tool that offers faster and more efficient performance. Before we get to know about the details of an air compressor then, let’s understand how it works. How do air compressors work?

Applications | 10.12.2018

8 Ways to Identify and Eliminate Noise Hazards in the Workplace

Occupational noise hazards are one of the most common workplace safety concerns. Our hearing is sensitive and it does not take much to temporarily impair or permanently damage it. 

HSE | 10.12.2018

Bacterial Bandages, Natural Dyes and Recycled Fibres: Aalto Brings Materials Revolution to Slush

New materials play an important role in sustainable development and combatting climate change. New uses for old materials can also be a major industrial opportunity: for example, the value of biomass from forests in Finland can be doubled if used for manufacturing products of higher added value.

R&D | 4.12.2018

Maintenance: A Necessary and Important Function in the Future

Euromaintenance 2016 will take place in Athens at the end of May. It is the ideal moment to reflect on maintenance in a European context. Euromaintenance is known as the summit for all involved in maintenance across Europe, it’s the place to be. The conference, with the support of the EFNMS, is the only commercially independent conference covering the topics we deal with in the maintenance world.

EFNMS | 20.5.2016