Food and beverage manufacturing, ranging from bakeries and bottling plants to meat and dairy processing, has one of the highest rates of worker injuries and illnesses. Workers need to be aware of the risks and hazards in order to get the proper training and work practices to stay safe.
Heavy materials, lifting, and repetitive motions can lead to ergonomics injuries. Ergonomics training can teach you proper movements and neutral postures. Lifting and moving heavy raw ingredients and finished products can lead to strains and sprains. Practice proper lifting techniques by lifting with your legs, keeping your back straight, and your head facing forward. Use mechanical lifts, carts, and dollies when available. Separate loads into smaller, more manageable sizes.
Repetitive tasks such as moving, washing, sorting, cutting, and trimming raw materials can lead to repetitive motion injuries. Take your rest and meal breaks regularly to give your body a chance to recover from fatigue. Frequent microbreaks of 30 seconds every 20-to-30 minutes help rest and relax your muscles. Where possible, rotate your tasks to prevent overuse of muscle groups. If you stand for long periods of time, wear comfortable shoes. A foot rest allows you to change positions at your post. Anti-fatigue mats cushion your legs and joints from hard floor surfaces.
Moving machinery and conveyor systems in food and beverage facilities pose a risk of caught/crush injuries. Rotating shafts for mixers can pull you into the machine. Wear close-fitting clothing and avoid long, loose hair, and jewelry. Never reach into or around moving parts. Make sure powered equipment is turned off and use lockout/tagout before you clear a jam, service or maintain it. Slicing, chopping, and cutting machines pose a risk of cuts and amputations. Maintain this equipment properly, use blade guards, and watch where your hands are at all times when the machine is active.
Steam and hot water is used for food safety and process cleanliness and both pose a danger of burns. Label water and steam lines so you do not come into contact or work on them until they are drained. All of the water required to wash, process, and sterilize foods can accumulate on the facility floor and pose a slip hazard. Wear non-slip footwear. Keep wet floors to a minimum by installing floor drains and mopping or squeegeeing floors frequently. Non-slip floor coatings and rubber matting reduce water puddling and increase traction.
Work environments for food and beverage manufacturing can vary in temperature extremes. Steam processes can be warm and humid. Refrigerators and freezers expose workers to the cold. Working around baking ovens exposes workers to the heat. Wear layers of clothing to protect your skin and provide you protection whether you are working in the heat, cold, or in between.
Anyway you bake it, mix it, or cut it, safety is important in food and beverage manufacturing.