EHS Management, Equipment and Machinery Safety, Injuries and Illness

Safety Hazards in Food Products Manufacturing

Of the nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2016, 19,740 occurred in the food manufacturing industry.

food product manufacturing

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Population growth puts unrelenting demands on the multibillion-dollar food manufacturing industry and its workers, but as pressure to ramp up production increases, the industry cannot afford to neglect employee safety. Beyond the direct impact of employees’ injuries, workplace accidents have additional indirect impacts. For food manufacturers, these could include costs to hire replacement workers, reduced productivity, repairs to damaged equipment, and increased workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

Food manufacturers can help keep their workers safe by:

  • Understanding the common causes of workplace accidents;
  • Starting employee safety training programs;
  • Implementing effective controls to mitigate common workplace hazards; and
  • Offering safety tips for factory workers.

Sprains and strains are the most common injuries among food manufacturing workers and are often caused by repetitive and awkward motions while processing food, such as portioning, cutting, and handling machinery, ingredients, or tools. A preshift warm-up exercise and stretching program can help.

Slips and falls can cause sprains, muscle tears, broken bones, and lacerations. Effective controls to mitigate these workplace hazards include installing nonslip flooring, keeping walking surfaces clean and free of trip hazards, and requiring workers to wear slip-resistant shoes or boots.

Food manufacturing workers can also be injured from the machinery they use to perform their jobs. Coming into contact with a sharp blade or getting a finger stuck in a machine’s pinch point can result in a potentially serious injury. In more extreme cases, workers are at risk of broken bones or even amputations. But several measures can make working with food manufacturing equipment safer.

  • Machine guarding reduces the chance workers will come in contact with the moving parts of a machine.
  • Install fixed barriers and covers, guardrails, or safety nets over open surfaces.
  • Lockout/tagout processes can prevent equipment from unexpectedly turning on or releasing stored energy while it is being serviced or undergoing maintenance and cleaning.

Employee safety training is critical to a safe work environment. Employees must know how to use the machinery safely and correctly and understand the company’s safety requirements.

Cleanliness is vital in food processing, but chemicals used in food manufacturing, cleanup, and sanitation can be harmful to workers. So, employers must educate employees about safe handling to avoid chemical burns, poisoning, or inadvertent exposure.

Dan Killins is Loss Control Program Manager for EMPLOYERS®, America’s small business insurance specialist®, which offers workers’ compensation insurance and services through Employers Insurance Company of Nevada, Employers Compensation Insurance Company, Employers Preferred Insurance Company, and Employers Assurance Company. Not all insurers do business in all jurisdictions. EMPLOYERS and America’s small business insurance specialist are registered trademarks of Employers Insurance Company of Nevada. For more information, e-mail losscontrol@employers.com.