When ‘safety’ is mentioned alongside with ‘food processing’, the first thought that comes to mind is food safety standards. While that is of paramount importance, it is equally critical to maintain workplace safety in food processing plants.
Slips, trips or falls are especially dangerous when such incidents happen in a food processing plant, when your colleagues are dealing with intense heat or working with sharp and dangerous machineries. Research shows that slip, trip and fall injuries are more prevalent in food and drink industries than in most other industries, comprising of 35 percent of major injuries in this sector, costing employers over US$750 million annually.
Some slips and trips incidents may result in disabling and fatality. For example, the Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Statistics Report 2011 issued by the WSH Council and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) highlighted that 43 percent of workplace fatalities involved slips, trips and falls from heights.
As the pace of economic progress picks up across the Asia Pacific region, many countries are implementing stricter rules and regulations pertaining to workplace safety.
Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA) 2006 requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work, which includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks.
Such rules and regulations serve to bring about a safer work environment for everyone, and employers who do not meet the additional stipulations on fall protection and safety may be heavily penalised.
In many food-processing plants, cooking oil, grease or washing detergents pose a considerable risk when spillage occurs. Your facility should have proper and accessible sorbents to remove such hazardous substances, and you should consult professional suppliers on the right types of sorbents to deal with specific substances, and to deploy in specific locations.
On the other hand, some surfaces are inherently slippery regardless of the presence of oil, grease or water. In such instances, you should install anti-skid floor tapes to improve the traction to prevent slips and falls.
A good number of slips, trips and falls happen on the stairs, which is why it makes good sense to install anti-skid stair nosing products on the steps as well.
The second process in preventing slips, trips and falls is to create a visual workplace. Most regulations and safety standards require employees to display clear and concise messages using accident prevention signs and tags to warn users to keep clear of dangerous areas, such as signage and barricade tapes to inform users of the risk in that area.
Safety signage should always use simple words and visuals, be printed in high visibility colours and placed in prominent and brightly lit locations.
Consult An ExpertAlways start by checking with your local regulatory authority on the regulations pertaining to food processing plant safety. To determine if your facility has proper signage and warning devices, you should develop your comprehensive checklists with qualified company personnel.
You can also consult a third party expert who may well be able to identify additional safety signage and labelling needs that you would not have considered.
In many countries where skilled labour is difficult to procure, it is even more important to ensure the safety of your staff. The Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association (SFMA) noted that the tightening foreign worker policies will put a huge stress on the availability of food industry workers.
Implementing workplace safety is a small price to pay to ensure that your food processing plant is prepared for safety regulatory audits and, above all else, provides for a safe working environment for your employees.
10 Simple TipsHere are 10 ways you can prevent slips, trips and falls in a workplace.
- Assess your slips, trips and falls needs
Take a look at your past slips/trip/fall incidents by type and location to uncover trends, commonalities and causes.
- Mark aisles and passageways
Use heavy-duty, highly visible warning tape and floor tape to mark any uneven floor surfaces, and mark proper locations for tools and equipment storage areas to keep them from becoming obstacles in aisles and walkways.
- Provide traction on slippery surfaces
Keep floors clean and dry where possible. To prevent injuries, make sure your stairs and landing areas are marked with anti-skid floor tape that withstands grease and oil.
- Improve safety on stairs
To improve safety on stairs, make sure your stairs are marked with antiskid cleats. All treads be reasonably slip-resistant and the stair nosings should be of non-slip finish.
- Mark emergency evacuation routes
Exits must be clearly visible and be marked be a sign reading ‘exit’. Use glow-in-the-dark exit signs, anti-skid tapes and mark emergency evacuation routes.
- Post safety signage and labelling
Identify areas where there is a general need for instructions and suggestions to maintain safety. For example, install ‘Caution-Slippery Floor’ signs to warn of wet surfaces, or ‘Watch your step’ signs to indicate uneven floors.
- Warn of temporary hazards
Short-term hazards due to maintenance and housekeeping should be marked with cautionary floor stands, barricade tape and warning posts and chains.
- Inspect scaffolds and ladders
Inspect your scaffolds and ladders frequently for damage, faults and wear, and use scaffolding tags and inspection tags to mark inspection dates.
- Control and clean oil/grease/detergent and spills
Be sure your facility is stocked with the proper amount of absorbent pads. Monitor and change absorbent mats in a timely matter as they become saturated.
- Train your employees
Educate employees on why slips, trips and falls occur and teach them how to look for hazards.