Between 2005 and 2010, one in six injuries to workers in the food and beverage industry were connected to working with food-processing equipment. The total claims for these injuries were $16.3 million. Seventy-two of these injuries resulted in amputation at a cost of $4.3 million. Also, employers paid $384,004 in penalties for not complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) regarding food-processing equipment and worker safety. These numbers show that injuries can have very serious consequences for workers and can be very costly to employers.
How hazardous is working with food-processing equipment?
Workers who use equipment to make food and beverage products do many tasks. They maintain, clean and re-configure equipment, change settings on equipment, and add and remove products from equipment. These tasks put them at a high risk of getting injuries like fractures and amputations. Most injuries can be prevented by using proper safeguards on equipment, following proper lockout procedures, and providing supervision and training of workers.
Here are some examples of injuries that happened because there weren't proper safeguards on the equipment:
- A worker was putting dough into the hopper of a ribbon blender that was running. The worker's left arm was amputated by the blades of the blender.
- A new worker reached inside a meat grinder to clear a piece of meat while the grinder was turned on. The worker's hand was caught between two parts of the machine and four fingers were amputated.
- A worker was placing dough in the hopper of a toploading dough mixer while it was running. The blades of the mixer amputated one of the worker's arms.
In these cases, workers had easy access to moving parts in the equipment, and the moving parts caused life-changing injuries.
How do I control the hazards?
The first step in controlling hazards in your workplace is to do a risk assessment (see the 5 Step Risk Assessment on page 3). This will help you find ways to reduce the risk to workers from equipment and make their workplace safer. Make sure you involve all your workers and supervisors in the assessment.
How can I safeguard my equipment?
Employers must provide safeguards to protect workers from coming in contact with moving parts in equipment.
For example, all types of mixing and blending equipment have rotating parts that can cause serious injuries. Proper safeguards protect workers from the hazards of working with equipment when it is operating.
If you have a safeguard problem, you can start by contacting the manufacturer to find out if there is a solution to your problem. But it may not be possible to add the right safeguards to equipment if it is old. Or the manufacturer may not have the information you need. If so, you can seek advice from specialists on safeguarding. Regardless, you should use a risk assessment to identify solutions to your safeguarding problem. In Steps 1 and 2 of your risk assessment, remember to:
- identify the purpose of each piece of equipment
- identify the tasks done by each piece of equipment
- identify the required maintenance on each piece of equipment
How do I choose the right control measures?
Different categories of solutions, or control measures, are more effective than others. These categories are listed on the next page, starting with the most effective. You MUST choose a solution that fits with the most effective level possible. This means that you would try to find a solution that would eliminate the hazard or substitute the task or machine for one less hazardous. If this was not practical, you would try to find a solution related to engineering controls, then to awareness controls, and so on.
To identify solutions, ask yourself questions like those in each category. Use your answers to develop your plan for a safer workplace. (See "Effectiveness of controls".)
How can I lockout equipment?
Lockout means shutting down equipment for maintenance or when it is not in use to protect workers. (See Part 10 of the OHSR for more information about lockout.). Lockout for electrical equipment can be as simple as stopping the machine, disconnecting the power supply, and placing the plug end of the cord in view. This way the worker working on the machine can easily see that the machine is turned off and keep control of the plug.
For more information, visit...
On the WorkSafeBC.com home page, click on "Safety at Work." Under Industries, click on "Manufacturing." Under Prevention Resources, click on "Safeguarding."
WorkSafeBC has a wide range of health and safety information. For assistance and information on workplace health and safety, call toll-free within BC 1-888-621-SAFE (7233) or visit our web site at WorkSafeBC.com.