Slips in the food processing industry are a serious issue — one that leaves a large number of employees injured and costs the company thousands of dollars in claims and work time lost.
In Washington state alone, there are approximately 340 workers’ compensation claims each year for slip and trip injuries in the food processing industry. On average, each claim costs $4,600 while the average work-time lost for each of these injuries is 35 days.1
That’s a lot of lost work time and money spent on an easily preventable injury.
Prevent Slips in Food Processing
Slips are easily preventable in the food processing industry. Here are three ways to reduce the risk of slips in your food processing plant.
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Keep Slippery Materials Off Floors
The first step in fighting off the risk of injuries caused from slips is simple: keep slippery materials off the floor.
The floor of a food processing facility is typically exposed to all sorts of food byproducts — including fats, hot oils, blood, sugar solutions, and natural food acids — that increase the risk of accidents associated with wet or slick flooring and stairs.
If you can keep these materials off the floor, you can dramatically reduce the risk of slips. Try implementing these three tips:
- Provide properly placed waste containers
- Place catch basins and drip pans beneath processes and equipment that process or move slippery materials
- Routinely hose, sweep, mop, or squeegee floors to remove materials
Install Slip Resistant Flooring
Increasing the amount of friction between workers’ feet and the floor is the next step in preventing slips.
There are several different types of flooring material that provide a non-slip surface that can be implemented in a food processing facility. Some popular slip resistant flooring options include slip-resistant quarry tiles, painted epoxy floors with grit, slip-resistant sheet vinyl flooring, steel deck panels, metal and plastic grates, slip-resistant spray on applications, and slip-resistant floor mats.
Careful thought should be used when altering walking and working surfaces, though. Some solutions may prevent slips, but be costly and near impossible to sanitize.
When deciding which slip resistant flooring to apply, consider:
- Some of these floor surfaces may be more difficult to sanitize and may require more physically or chemically rigorous methods to keep them free of dirt, grease and microorganisms
- The permanent flooring solutions (tile, epoxy, and sheet vinyl) may be expensive up-front, but could pay back in a reduction in pay-outs from workers’ compensation claims.
- Some flooring materials may lose their slip-resistance over time due to grease build-up or breakdown of the surface grit.
Wear Slip Resistant Footwear
Another option is to require workers to wear slip resistant footwear. This increases friction between workers’ feet and the floor, helping to further reduce the risk of slips.
Some food processing companies even go as far as to co-pay or just outright purchase slip-resistant shoes and boots for their employees as a way to improve safety in their facility.
While this is a quick and easy fix, and the least expensive, it should not be used in place of proper housing and appropriate working surfaces. Here’s why:
- If shoes or boots are not kept clean, grease or other material may build up on the tread and reduce the shoes’ effectiveness.
- Slip-resistant soles may not be effective when the slip hazard is due to solid materials such as banana peels, thick layers of flour, etc.
- By only relying on slip-resistant footwear, the hazard still exists. In addition, if people (employees, contractors, or visitors) do not use the footwear, they may slip and cost the company money.
A Smart Investment
Preventing slips in your food processing facility is a smart investment that saves you lost work time and money in the long run.
Implementing the three solutions above will drastically reduce the risk of injuries caused from slips and keep your employees feeling safer and more productive. Slip resistant flooring, drip pans on equipment, slip resistant footwear, and keeping floors clean might sound like a lot, but they are small investments that make a huge impact.
1. Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program. Healthy Workplaces: Successful Strategies in the Food Processing. Washington: Washington Department of Labor and Industries, 2001. Print.