Hazardous Energy Most Cited Standard in Food Manufacturing

By Roy Maurer Jul 21, 2014

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the furious pace of food and beverage manufacturing leads to fatalities and serious injuries stemming from a failure to de-energize machinery during maintenance activities.

From 2003-13, there were 28 worker deaths and 227 serious injuries such as amputations related to hazardous energy procedures in food manufacturing, with the largest number of incidents occurring in meatpacking and poultry slaughtering and processing, according to a NIOSH analysis of national accident data.

NIOSH asserts that hazardous energy-related accidents are contributing to the food industry’s higher-than-average rate of workplace injuries and illnesses. In 2012, the injury and illness rate in food manufacturing was 5.4 per 100 workers, compared with 3.4 for private industry overall. That year, food manufacturers suffered 18,620 lost-time injuries and 41 fatalities, costing the industry an estimated $1.4 billion overall. The hazardous energy standard, known as lockout/tagout, was the most frequently cited safety violation in food manufacturing from 2012-13, with penalties totaling over $894,000.

Speed No Tradeoff for Safety

NIOSH emphasized that a robust lockout/tagout program is an important part of machine maintenance. Machine injuries related to lockout/tagout often occur when an employee services or repairs a machine but fails to de-energize the machine and lock out sources of energy.

“Smaller businesses face the challenge of remaining competitive in the food and beverage processing industry, and we know most companies are struggling to keep up with a bustling pace and narrow profit margins,” NIOSH said, adding that workers need to stay safe while maintaining their pace.

“Given the production pressures in this industry, workers may feel that managers would rather have them risk injury than stop production to properly apply lockout/tagout procedures,” NIOSH said. For example, a worker may simply try to clear a machine jam without taking the time to power down the machine and lock it in the power-down mode. Any unexpected startup of the machine can result in amputations or death. “Employers who ‘get it’ know that it is far more valuable to control hazardous energy with lockout/tagout procedures than to risk both the personal and financial loss that can result from machine-related injury,” the agency said.

Employer Takeaways

In addition to complying with federal regulations on the control of hazardous energy, NIOSH made the following specific recommendations for an effective lockout/tagout program:

  • Develop and implement a written hazardous ener­gy control program, including lockout/tagout proce­dures, employee training, and inspections before any maintenance or service work is done.
  • Be sure that workers have a clear understanding of when hazardous energy control procedures apply and training on how to properly apply the procedures.
  • Ensure that procedures on lockout/tagout are devel­oped that are specific to each machine.
  • Provide training to production workers in addition to maintenance workers in methods of energy isolation and control.
  • Ensure that workers are provided with a sufficient number of lockouts and tagouts and other hardware that may be needed.
  • Clearly label isolation devices, such as breaker panels and control valves.
  • After removing lockout/tagout devices but before starting the machine, make sure that all employees who operate or work with the machine, as well as those in the area where service or maintenance is performed, know that the devices have been removed.
  • Ensure that workers receive training in their prima­ry language.

“Companies with established lockout programs have told us that having written procedures ahead of time allows for machine maintenance and service to proceed without delay,” NIOSH said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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