When it comes to new year’s resolutions for food processing plants, topping the list should be taking steps to create a safer plant.
According to the California Department of Labor Statistics and Research, workers in food-processing plants have a higher likelihood of being hurt on the job than workers in many other industries.1 Reaching across a conveyor, lifting heavy loads, twisting and bending at a work station, performing repetitive tasks, and working in awkward positions – all tasks commonly found in processing plants – are leading risk factors for injury.
Hidden Injury Factors
At this point, you might be thinking that your plant is already safe – and likely, you have implemented certain safety measures to avoid the risk of employee injuries. But no matter how safe you think your plant might be, there are always hidden factors that can contribute to an employee injury. Some of these hidden factors include:
- Equipment that is too wide for an employee to reach across
- Work stations that are too tall or too short for employees
- Poorly designed work stations that are not next to each other and interrupt work flow
- Controls that are too high or too far away from employees
- Location and placement of equipment within the work space
- Work stations not equipment with ergonomic stands or lifts
- Work stations requiring repetitive motion or awkward body postures
- Stairs, ladders, and flooring without anti-slip coating
The list goes on and on. These hidden factors, while seemingly unimportant, can cost you big.
Safety = Savings
Creating a safe working environment for your employees not only is the ethical thing to do, it also will save you thousands, if not millions, in court and settlement fees if a worker gets injured in your plant. A single injury can cost you big in:
- Accident investigations
- OSHA logs
- Employee downtime
- Employee turnover
- Employee retraining
- Insurance premium increases
- Medical services
- Hiring a temporary replacement worker
Investing in ergonomic and safety solutions for your plant can eliminate the risk of employee injuries and save you from paying the high cost of employee injury.
Where to Start?
If you’re ready to commit to creating a safer plant for your employees, here are a few steps to consider:
1. Get an Ergonomic / Safety Consultation
The best place to start is with an ergonomic and safety consultation with an expert. This analysis should be done prior to implementing ergonomic and safety solutions, and be thorough enough to observe each workstation routine and conduct safety interviews with various employees. Learn all that should be included in an onsite ergonomic consultation.
2. Review Results and Recommendations from Consultation
A good ergonomic and safety consultation will not only point out risk factors for employee injuries, but will also present suggested solutions to improve the safety of your employees. Upon receiving the report and suggestions, your management and safety crew should take time to review the document in depth to see what steps need to be taken.
3. Prioritize Suggestions
A thorough consultation will offer more suggestions than what you could afford to implement in the short run, so it’s important that you prioritize the suggestions based on the level of injury risk that will be avoided. Start with the solution that will prevent the greatest risk of injury and work your way down. This will give you the making of an action plan.
4. Develop an Action Plan
Once the suggestions are prioritized, it’s time to develop an action plan. What suggestions will you implement? What needs to be done in order to effectively implement them? What equipment needs to be purchased? Who will be in charge of implementing the solutions? What is the time frame for implementing the solutions? How will you pay for the solutions? These questions and more should factor into your action plan.
5. Follow the Action Plan
Developing an action plan is great. You know what’s better? Following the action plan. Take the first steps and begin implementing your action plan to developing a safer plant. It may cost you now, but it will save you even more than if one of your employees were injured.
Are you ready to take the first step in creating a safer plant for your employees? Fusion Tech is a leading manufacturer of custom ergonomic and safety solutions for food processing plants.
1. Department of Industrial Relations Cal/OSHA Consultation Service Research and Education Unit. Ergonomics in Action: A Guide to Best Practices for the Food-Processing Industry. California: California Department of Industrial Relations, 2003. Print.