Occupational Safety in the Food Industry
The food industry has one of the highest injury rates for all industries. Many food-industry accidents are related to manual handling of products, slips on wet floors, falls from height, being struck by something or injuries in operating machinery.
Manual Handling Injuries
Many injuries reported in the food industry are caused from manual handling while performing such tasks as stacking containers, pushing racks or trolley trays, cutting or deboning meat and delivering products such as kegs or crates. The majority of such injuries are back injuries. Automation in the form of conveyors or vacuum lifters can be introduced to the workplace to prevent some manual-handling injuries. Workers should seek assistance from another employee when pushing or pulling heavy racks or trays. A worker should never try to lift a heavy object by himself.
Slips on Wet Floors
Slips and falls cause serious workplace injuries in the food industry. These injuries can be as serious as a broken limb. Slips and falls can occur on wet or uneven floors or floors contaminated with food products or floors with obstructions. Slip prevention should be included in standard workplace safety policies. Slips and falls can be prevented in the food industry by using dry methods for cleaning floors, wearing slip-resistant shoes, placing lips around table edges and immediately cleaning any spilled beverage or food products.
Falls from Height
Injuries resulting from such falls are usually very serious and include broken limbs and fractured skulls. Employees can be injured falling from ladders, vehicles, platforms, roofs, stairs and warehouse racks. When employees are required to work from heights, safe access should be provided; platforms should have hand rails and steps. All employees should be taught how to safely use ladders. Injuries can also be prevented by making sure all high areas where employees must stand are dry and free from food products.
Struck by Sharp or Falling Objects
Many workplace injuries in the food industry are caused by being struck by a falling object or injuries from knives while cutting food. Accidents can occur when stacked items fall from a food rack, improper use of a knife while cutting food and being hit by a moving pallet or truck. Food items should be stored securely, making sure they do not easily fall when disturbed. Heavy items should be stored on lower workplace shelves, while lighter items should be placed higher on the shelf. Knives should be properly sharpened, stored when not in use and used with knife-resistant clothing. Routes for pallet trucks should be designated away from other workers whenever possible.
Injuries involving machinery in the food industry can occur from using conveyor belts, mixing and slicing machinery and other food-industry machinery such as wrapping and dough molding devices. Employers should make sure all employees are trained in how to safely operate all machinery. All equipment should be suitable for its intended use and meet all health and safety requirements.