Workers in the food manufacturing industry have a higher rate of illness and injury than other private industry workers—an incidence rate of 5.4 per 100 workers, compared to an overall private industry rate of 3.4 per 100 workers, based on 2012 data. During the same year, food manufacturers suffered 41 fatalities and more than 18,000 lost-time injuries.
In a recent blog posting, NIOSH offered up a challenge to the food manufacturing industry to improve these statistics by sharing successful methods for controlling hazardous energy and not sacrificing safety for the sake of speed in production.
The food manufacturing industry is highly-competitive and the business is inherently fast-paced because the products are perishable and margins are low. For the same reasons, the industry is also highly mechanized to assist in the processing and packaging of meat, dairy, fruit, vegetable, grain, seafood, beverages, and bakery products. The industry employs nearly 1.5 million workers and in addition to hazards such as slips trips and falls, musculoskeletal disorders, workers are exposure to hazardous energy, resulting in machine-related injuries. Many of these injuries are due to the failure to properly use lockout/ tagout procedures. In fact, violation of the OSHA lockout/tagout standard (1910.147) was the most frequently cited infraction during 2012‒2013 in food manufacturing with penalties totaling nearly $1M.
Often, those injuries (and even fatalities) are caused when an employee attempts to clear a jam or even repair a machine without first de-energizing the machine and applying a sound lockout / tagout procedure. Employees—feeling the pressure not to slow down the production line—skip safety, which leads to more accidents, the posting stated. Or there simply are no written procedures in place and training is overlooked.
NIOSH is looking to hear from companies with established lockout/tagout programs to help small businesses and employees in the food and beverage processing industry—referring to it as the “Pace Challenge”. The NIOSH blog maintains “Pace equals profit in this industry, but workers need to stay safe while maintaining their pace. Pace does not have to be a tradeoff for safety; optimal levels of both can be achieved”.
The blog continues, “Employers who ‘get it’ know that it is far more valuable to control hazardous energy with LO/TO procedures than to risk both the personal and financial loss that can result from machine-related injury. An injury, death, or even a fine from a violation can quickly nullify gains from increased work speed”. NIOSH reports that companies with established lockout programs, including written procedures established ahead of time, experience less delay time for machine maintenance and service.
OSHA requirements regarding de-energizing machines and locking out sources of energy include:
- Written procedures
- Documentation of each source of energy
- Locking and tagging devices
- Verification of energy isolation
- Proper locks at proper places (isolation points)
- Training (including skills demonstration) in the primary language(s) of employees.
- Auditing of work process
Emilcott has been working with its clients to identify sources of hazardous energy and establish sound Lockout/Tagout programs for 28 years. We can also train employees in proper procedures based on the written procedures and SOPs. Please contact us if we can assist with your safety programs.