Animal processing facilities combine the hazards of working with live animals along with moving machinery and cutting tools. If you work in an animal processing plant, get training on animal handling and the equipment and processes you will be using.
Animals can be unpredictable, so keep your distance during transport and entry to the processing plant. Keep animals calm. Contact with stressed animals can lead to kicks, bites, and scratches. Wear steel-toed shoes with slip-resistant soles to protect your feet. Sturdy work gloves protect your hands.
Stunning of animals can be accomplished by an electric stun gun, electric wires, a pneumatic gun or hammer; or by herding into a pit with a carbon dioxide-rich environment. Get training on the stunning methods used at your facility. Avoid contact with the stunning equipment and do not enter the animal wells. Animals should be fully stunned before you start to process them.
Moving conveyors, sharp carcass hooks, and automatic cutting implements can cause catching and crush injuries. Properly guard and avoid contact with moving equipment. Use lockout/tagout procedures whenever you repair, maintain, or clear jams from automated equipment. Safety interlock devices on automatic and cutting equipment prevent accidental contact.
Water keeps work areas clean and sanitary for the workers and the products, but wet walking surfaces can lead to slips, trips, and falls. Wear shoes with slip-resistant soles. Use floor drains and squeegees to remove standing water. Make sure the area is well-lit so you can see where you are working and walking. Use properly insulated and grounded equipment with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
Sharp cutting tools are used to “stick,” eviscerate, and skin animals, to clean bones, and create cuts of meat. Some cutting is accomplished by hand and some by automated equipment. Maintain all cutting tools properly and keep them sharp to prevent accidental cuts and punctures. Consider gauntlets and wear mesh gloves to protect against slips and cuts.
Contact with live animals and carcasses can transmit pathogens such as avian flu and E. coli. Maintain a sanitary work environment and decontaminate surfaces. Wear gloves and wash your hands often during the work day. Consider splash goggles and face shields, depending on your work assignment. Use wet methods to clean up in order to cut down on dust, dirt, and feces inhalation. Working in an area with good ventilation and respiratory protection, if necessary, can protect your lungs.
Temperature extremes range from hot to cold in animal processing. Scalding water for treating carcasses can burn you. Cold storage and processing lines can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Wear layers of clothing that you can adjust. Wear gloves and a cap to prevent frostbite. Aprons, gauntlets, and gloves can protect you from burns. Cold storage equipment should have a light source and an emergency exit door that opens from the inside.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.