Which came first, the safe work practices or the healthy egg and poultry worker? Either way you crack it, attention to safety is the answer.
California produces billions of eggs per year. Many of these eggs come from mechanized poultry and egg farms where automated systems feed, water, remove waste, and collect eggs. While the eggs go from hen to market without a human touch, egg and poultry workers must treat safety with a hands-on approach.
Working around animals and their wastes can expose you to zoonotic diseases, transmissible from animals to humans. To help prevent exposure:
- Learn about the potential diseases that could affect pullets and hen flocks so you can monitor them for signs and symptoms.
- Remove sick animals and dispose of dead animals promptly.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as coveralls, gloves, and hair coverings.
- Work in well ventilated and filtered areas.
- Wear an approved respirator if there is exposure to dusts and airborne contaminants from the animals or their wastes.
Sanitation in egg production facilities uses lots of water and mild detergents for cleaning equipment, totes, trays, conveyors, etc. Make sure that you:
- Watch for wet areas, as these could be slip hazards. Post signs and wear sturdy boots with non-slip soles.
- Make use of goggles to protect your eyes from water and detergent splashes.
- Practice good hygiene when handling animals, their wastes, and any contaminated equipment and always throw away disposable PPE properly
- Exit work areas and wash your hands before you eat, drink, smoke, or touch your face or eyes. Wash and/or decontaminate your reusable PPE before you wear it again.
Brood and layer houses can be up to 500 feet long and contain 150,000 birds each. With pumps, conveyors, and augers moving water, food, droppings, and eggs, there is a lot of moving equipment in each hen house. Ensure that you:
- Maintain guards on all moving parts to prevent being accidentally caught, crushed, or pinched.
- Keep hair, jewelry, and clothing tied back securely.
- Never reach into moving equipment to clear a jam.
- Properly lockout/tagout equipment before maintenance, repair, or clearing jams.
In egg production areas, eggs are washed in warm water and detergent before they go to the computerized quality check and sizing system. Some eggs move to the packaging lines while other eggs are fed toward the breakers. These breakers can crack and separate between 18,000 to 500,000 eggs per hour, a very fast rate of movement. Lockout/tagout procedures must be written and followed for all equipment to prevent accidental shock, injury, amputation, or death. In addition, pay attention to painted lines on walking areas to keep clear of moving equipment. Caged areas can also provide protections against accidentally getting hit by robotic stacking arms.
Protect yourself against burns as there are also heated processes in egg production. Eggshell disinfection, pasteurization, and even egg boilers can use water heated between 120 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicken manure and even the cracked and crushed eggshells are dried and sold as byproducts. Guard heated surfaces to prevent burns and wear protective gloves when working in these areas. Avoid breathing the dusts or off-gassed ammonia from the chicken manure and eggshell dust by wearing an approved respirator and keeping these work areas ventilated.
Mechanized poultry and egg farms can contain many hazards. Work safely around animals, utilize the proper PPE, make use of guards on machinery, and follow lockout/tagout procedures to help prevent injury.