Cuts, lacerations, and punctures are common injuries in the meat packing and butchering industry. Knives, slicers, grinders, and sharp bones are all potential hazards that can be minimized with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), inspections, and safe work practices.
Cuts are usually clean openings in the skin while lacerations have jagged edges. Punctures create shallow or deep holes in the skin. Cuts and lacerations often have free flowing blood while puncture wounds often close on their own, reducing bleeding. For shallow puncture wounds, remove the object if it is small and easy to do so. If the puncture is deep or the object is large, leave it in place for medical treatment and removal. Know first aid for cuts and punctures. Keep first aid kits handy and well stocked.
Prepare for safety with PPE
Personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent cuts and punctures starts with sturdy work shoes to protect the top of your feet from dropped sharps. Aprons can protect your upper legs and torso from accidental body cuts and slices while you work. Gauntlets can protect your arms. Wear mesh butchers gloves while you make cuts. Protective latex or nitrile gloves can be worn over and under the mesh gloves to help them stay sanitary and last longer as long as they don’t reduce your grip on your work.
Safe knife use
Knife safety requires that you choose the correct blade for the job. Boning, butchering, sticking, and breaking knives all have different uses, so get training in the correct tool for the job. Keep your knives properly sharpened so they can slice through meats and not slip accidentally. Inspect, maintain and replace your knives, blades, and other sharp tools as needed.
Always cut away from your body. Use a cutting board or other surface, never try to cut or filet an item in your hand. Use a meat holder fork or prong to stabilize the meat as you cut it. Carry a knife or sharp with the blade down and pointed away from you. If you drop your knife, never try to catch it while it falls. Let it drop. Don’t place knives or other sharp objects in your pockets, belt, or pants/belt loops.
Sheath and store your knives properly. Don’t store knives and sharp tools loose in a drawer. Place knives and sharp tools at the back of your work surface; don’t keep them near the edge where they can be knocked off. If you place knives in a sink, place them into a designated wash basin. Never reach into a soapy sink with your bare hands if you cannot see under the water. Enclosed baskets can be used to store knives and mesh gloves for washing and sterilization.
Slicers and grinders
Meat grinders and slicers can cause severe injuries, amputations, and even death if they are not used properly. Get training in safe work practices for this equipment. Conduct periodic inspections and maintenance as needed to keep the equipment operating properly. Make sure all guards and safety devices are in place. Use lockout/blockout procedures for maintenance and to clear jams.
When using a slicer or grinder, always know where your hands are. Ensure the slicer or grinder is at the correct setting before you turn it on. Use food pushers, never your hands, to process food through grinders and slicers. Keep your fingers and hands away from the moving parts and blades at all times. Never reach across the blade or grinder so you are not pulled into the moving machinery. Tie back hair, remove dangling jewelry, and wear form-fitting clothing to prevent getting pulled into the equipment.
Properly maintained equipment, safe work practices, and safety training can help prevent cuts, lacerations, and punctures in the workplace.