The Food Processing Plant & Visual Safety

The industry of food  processing can be inherently dangerous due to many factors; moving machinery which sometimes contain knives or cutting edges, rollers which can create pinch points, heavy bins, barrels, tubs or containers that need to be picked up, moved, shoved or emptied and cleaned, as well as the use of supportive food processing elements including refrigeration fluids such as ammonia refrigerants.

In a visual workplace, utilizing labels and signs is not always just about pointing out inherent or possible dangers. In order for a processing plant to operate efficiently, there are some signs and labels that are used to address practical issues as well.

For example, workers need to know where things such as maintenance or work tools are located, where they belong after use, what things to watch out for during their daily traversing of the manufacturing floor, and lastly how to work with each other as a team, allowing each the space they need to do their job properly.

As you can see from this simple but effective caution sign example, which would be placed wherever forklift traffic is present, a worker now knows to be vigilant in this area of the plant; both in helping to keep the aisles clear for forklift drivers to be able to pass through the area unhindered, as well as in general, keeping an eye out for their own personal safety while traversing this area.

Food processing plants are dangerous places to work in and, despite the many safety protocols and guidelines put in place by regulatory governmental agencies, accidents that could have been prevented by creating a visually safe environment still continue to happen, sometimes with the death of a worker being the unfortunate result.

According to a study conducted by Emory University that reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 to 2010, work-related injuries or illnesses were much higher in the food processing industry than those recorded in all other industries in the US. While this is troubling, it can be addressed with effectiveness and success, by use of visual safety elements such as signs, floor markings, labels, and cautionary markers.

Another meaningful reason for using visual safety indicators in a food processing plant is the fact that the plants can be very loud in nature, greatly reducing or hindering the ability for workers to communicate via speech. The cause is simple – either they cannot shout loud enough to speak over the noise, or, as per the posted safety regulations, everyone is wearing hearing protection devices.

Visual safety elements easily overcome that problem and allow workers to continue doing what they need to without a constant removal and replacing of hearing protection devices every time they need to verbally communicate with each other.

Another strong advocate for visual safety labels or signs within a food processing plant is the need for stressing and reminding workers of the absolute necessity for hygiene and cleanliness to avoid contaminants to the food which could lead to serious illness, disability, or even death in the case of botulism and/or E. coli.

Without this constant vigilance by the workers, management and leadership, the finely tuned machine of food processing as we know it, would come very quickly to a screeching halt and put the lives of countless individuals and the public at risk.

Strong visual messaging also supports workers who fulfill the same duties, day in and day out and who could eventually be lulled into a complacency or negligent attitude. This might then become the root of an accident, mishap or negligence that would eventually cause even greater harm. For that reason, we would strongly encourage safety managers at food processing plants and facilities to consider the following advice:

Create a visually compelling environment with bold, highly visible and colorfully coded signage and labeling. This should be an absolute must for both regulatory compliance as well as optimal safety.

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