When considering regulatory agencies that impact the food industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) might not be one that comes to mind. Employees in the meat and food processing industries face numerous workplace health and safety hazards that are regulated by OSHA, such as slips, trips, and falls; musculoskeletal disorders; and machine-related injuries. Between October 2018 and September 2019, OSHA issued a total of 1,168 citations resulting in $7,171,513 in fines to the food manufacturing industry.
The most frequently cited standards in food manufacturing in 2019 were:
- The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)
- General requirements for all machines (machine guarding)
- Mechanical power-transmission apparatus
- Hazard communication
- Powered industrial trucks
- General requirements – electrical
- Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use
- Process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals
- Safety requirements for scaffolding
- General requirements – personal protective equipment
The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)
The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout) often tops the list as the most frequently cited standard in food manufacturing. Work in food manufacturing is typically fast-paced. When machines go down, the primary goal is to get them back up and running as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this often means employees don’t take proper steps to de-energize the equipment first.
About 1,000 workers die each year in the United States due to the unexpected operation of the equipment and/or release of stored energy. The OSHA regulation contained in 29 CFR 1910,147 sets out the requirements on how to control hazardous energy before performing maintenance, adjustments, and/or repairs to equipment or machinery. The goal is to perform the task while preventing an unexpected discharge of energy, which can cause serious injury or even death.
Elements of a successful lockout/tagout program 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