What causes the worst injuries to food industry workers?

| August 5, 2014

Employees in the food industry are exposed to a lot of noticeable hazards like slippery floors, knives, hot water, heavy containers, cutting and slicing machines, and more. However, they also encounter hazards that, although not visible to the naked eye, are in fact life threatening. Failure to implement lockout tagout procedure that results in the sudden release of hazardous energy is one such risk that workers in the food industry face.

Unlike other industries, where the most frequently cited OSHA standard in the last year was ‘fall protection’, food industry that consists of animal slaughtering, processing and packaging of meat, dairy, fruit, vegetable, grain, seafood, beverages, and bakery products, received maximum citations for violating the ‘lockout/tagout’ standard. The sector was slapped with more than $894,000 in total penalties in 2012-2013. OSHA’s accident investigation database shows that lack of proper lockout/tagout procedures in food industry resulted in 28 fatalities and caused 227 serious injuries like amputations in the last decade (2003-2013). In 2012, the injury and illness rate in food manufacturing was 5.4 per 100 workers as compared to 3.4 per 100 workers in the overall private industry. Most accidents happened in meatpacking and poultry slaughtering and processing.

Lockout/Tagout Accidents in Poultry Processing

The food industry employs nearly 1.5 million workers [Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s photostream]

NIOSH advises industry to not trade safety for pace

Members of National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Manufacturing Sector Council, the research framework of NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), have come forward to help small food manufacturers and see that they adhere to LO/TO procedures with a blog post. According to the council, small businesses in the food and beverage processing industry are at a higher risk because they struggle with maintaining pace under bustling competition and have narrow profit margins. “If something falls off the assembly line and a machine gets jammed, a quick solution may seem like a good option. Given the production pressures in this industry, workers may feel that managers would rather have them risk injury than stop production to properly apply LO/TO procedures.” Realizing the fact that “pace equals profit in this industry”, NIOSH officials advise workers not to trade off safety for pace and follow key elements of a successful lockout/tagout program to save lives.


Category: Food Safety