Mats for Food Processing Factory FloorsAn Industry Specific Buyer's Guide
The food processing industry is responsible for turning raw ingredients into products for human consumption. The labor force was comprised of 135,951 people in 2017 and 148,370 people in 2018 and animal slaughtering and processing employ the largest share of food processing workers.
The food processing industry is vital to supplying food to businesses and homes around the world. Like many manufacturing facilities, occupational hazards are part of daily operations. However, limiting those hazards will keep workers safe and protect your business’s revenue. The first step to keep your labor force safe and the supply chain running smoothly is to understand the common risks found in the food processing industry.
Types of Hazards in a Food Processing Plant
Workers in the food processing industry face a multitude of hazards despite technological advances and strict safety regulations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 19,000 food manufacturing employees were injured on the job in 2015. Here’s a look at some of the hazards workers face on a daily basis:
- Machinery: Workers use machines to clean, process, and package food. Between 1992 and 2010, there were a total of 14,625 work-related deaths caused by machines. Some common hazards workers face when operating a machine include conveyors with moving or exposed parts, collapsing structures, falling objects, and compressor equipment.
- Lockout/tagout (LO/TO): Lockout violations are among OSHA’s most-common citations every year. Workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be seriously injured or killed if hazardous energy is not properly controlled.
- High Noise Levels: Loud noises from machinery make communication between employees difficult, increasing the risk of injury.
- Ammonia Exposure: In 2018, exposure to harmful substances or environments resulted in 40,130 nonfatal injuries and illnesses. Ammonia is a common refrigerant used in food processing and manufacturing facilities. According to the CDC, high levels of ammonia can irritate and burn the skin, mouth, throat, lungs, and eyes.
- Biological Hazards: Workers in meat, especially poultry, processing plants may be exposed to biological hazards associated with handling live animals or exposure to dust and feces.
- Repetitive Stress Injuries: Processing work involves repetitive motion which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders and muscle strain.
- Slip, Trip, and Fall Dangers: This is among the most common causes of injury in both the food processing industry and U.S. workplaces in general. There is a large volume of liquids used in food manufacturing and processing which regularly exposes workers to wet and unsafe surfaces.
Reducing Slips, Trips, and Falls
Although slip, trip, and fall accidents are among the most common types of workplace injuries, it’s also easy to mitigate. OHSA standard (29 CFR 1910.22) sets forth the standard for walking surfaces in a workplace. Some of the guidelines include:
- The floor of each workroom is maintained in a clean and, to the extent feasible, in a dry condition.
- The employer must provide, and ensure each employee uses, a safe means of access and egress to and from walking-working surfaces.
- Walking-working surfaces are inspected, regularly and as necessary, and maintained in a safe condition.
An inexpensive and reliable way to satisfy these requirements is by using food factory flooring mats. These mats are available in a variety of options to address all types of potential hazards. Here is how floor mats can help your facility comply with OSHA’s standards:
- Entrance mats remove dirt and moisture from shoes as employees enter the building, reducing slips and falls in walkways and break rooms.
- Drainage mats allow water or grease to pass through the surface of the mat, keeping the surface dry and non-slippery.
- Workstation mats provide a non-slip and comfortable surface for workers who stand for long periods of time.
Improving Performance with Anti-Fatigue Mats
Prolong standing on hard surfaces leads to fatigue and causes pain in the muscles of the legs, back, and neck. In the food processing industry, the majority of workers spend long periods of time on their feet.
Using anti-fatigue mats can help keep your employees healthy and comfortable. These mats provide a cushioned surface that helps reduce standing fatigue and a non-slip surface that minimizes slip-and-fall accidents. When used properly, anti-fatigue mats provide an overall healthier work environment and increases worker productivity.
Despite all the hazards associated with the food processing industry, there are simple preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risks. Proper planning and using the right safety equipment can greatly lessen the chances of an accident and protect your bottom line.
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