Amputation injuries are something that we usually associate with construction, manufacturing, woodworking, and other such industries that involve the use of heavy machinery. Very few people, however, know that such injuries are also widespread in the food industry.
Power-driven machines like food slicers and meat grinders, which are commonly used in grocery stores, supermarkets, and restaurants, are dangerous to operate and can cause severe injuries if proper precautions are not taken.
The risk of sustaining cuts and amputation injuries is also very high while cleaning or repairing the machinery and while performing maintenance work.
In 2013 alone, there were 4,000 cases of accidents involving meat slicers, in which the injured workers had to take time off work.
What are Meat Slicers and Grinders?
Meat slicers are machines that are used for slicing meats and cheeses. They are powered by an electric motor. They have some components including a rotary blade, a food tray, an on/off switch, and a thickness adjustment knob. They also come with a plunger or pusher, which you can hold the meat in place while it is being sliced.
Meat grinders, particularly are those that are used in commercial operations, kitchens, food processing plants, and so on, are also powered by an electric motor. They have a food tray in which the meat to be ground is placed. There is a feed screw, which pulls the meat inside the grinder.
The meat then passes through the cutting plate and comes out through the spout. There is also an on/off switch, forward/reverse switch, and a plunger or pusher, which you can push the meat into the grinder.
How to Prevent Meat Slicer and Grinder Injuries?
Working with a meat slicer or a meat grinder is risky, and the chances of the operator sustaining cuts or even getting hurt so bad that an amputation occurs are somewhat possible. So, the employer must provide the workers with cut-resistant gloves to reduce the risk of hand injuries when the workers come into contact with the blades inadvertently.
The employers must also provide the workers with appropriately sized plungers so that the workers can push the meat into the machine without letting their hands get too close to the feed throat.
Apart from this, there are specific precautions that need to be taken while operating and cleaning meat slicers and grinders.
Preventing Meat Slicer Injuries
Meat slicer injuries tend to happen if a worker’s fingers or hands come into contact with the blade accidentally – when the slicer is in operation or when it is turned off, but the blade is still in motion. The top and bottom of the machine are dangerous, and if workers are not careful, they could sustain severe cuts or even lose a limb.
One of the best ways to reduce the risk of such injuries is to make sure that the unused portions of the rotary blade are covered with guards – both at the top as well as at the bottom of the machine. The food tray must also be installed with a feeding attachment, which lowers the possibility of someone’s fingers or hands coming into contact with the machine to a great extent.
Watch YouTube Video: How to Use Slicer. This is an educational tutorial on how to properly use a meat slicer.
Preventing Meat Grinder Injuries
The best way to reduce the risk of meat grinder injuries is to retrofit the machine with a fixed guard or tapered throat. An appropriately sized plunger or pusher should be used to feed the meat into the grinder. The grinder should only be operated after making sure that all the components – including the feeding tray and the throat – are installed. The machine also should be turned off and unplugged when it is not in operation.
How to Prevent Injuries When Cleaning and Maintaining a Meat Slicer or Grinder
Workers are vulnerable to injuries while cleaning the machine or doing maintenance work, as they remove the protective guards while doing so. Therefore, employers need to implement a lockout/tagout (LO/TO) program to prevent the machine from starting up unexpectedly when someone is working on it.
The program should include procedures to lock out or tag out the machine during cleaning and maintenance work. The procedures must be reviewed from time to time to make sure all the safety requirements are followed.
Workers should also follow the safe cleaning and maintenance practices such as:
- Avoiding the fingers and hands from coming into contact with the edge of the blade by wiping it from the center outward.
- Wiping away from the blade, rather than towards it, while cleaning the slicer table.
- Using a cleaning device with a long enough handle to maintain a safe distance between the hands and the sharp edges of the blade.
Watch YouTube Video: How to Clean a Slicer. This video demonstrates a step-by-step process on how to clean a meat slicer.
Worker Training to be Provided by the Employer
It is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that new hires are trained by experienced operators on how to use, clean, and maintain the machine safely.
The training program should teach workers:
- How to wear protective gear and follow the safety protocols.
- When to remove the safety guards (during cleaning and maintenance) and how to prevent the machine from starting up accidentally by employing the LO/TO procedures.
- What to do in case a machine has no safety guards or if they are damaged and cannot provide sufficient protection.
Meat Packing Accidents
There are severe occupational hazards associated with the meat packing industry as well. Some of the common risks include dangerous machinery, slippery floors, exposure to harmful chemicals, exposure to excessively high levels of noise, and musculoskeletal injuries.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the meat packing industry has an injury and illness rate that is two and a half times higher compared to the national average.
Given here are the safety measures that employers can take to reduce the risk of injuries to their employees:
- Implementing a comprehensive ergonomics program to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
- Implementing a hearing conservation program to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing problems.
- Implementing an LO/TO program to prevent the machinery from starting up accidentally during cleaning and maintenance work.
- Providing protective equipment to all the workers.
- Implementing administrative and engineering controls to improve worker safety and reduce the risk of accidental exposure to chemical and biological hazards.
- Proper maintenance of the floor surface to prevent workers from slipping, falling and injuring themselves.
Employer’s Responsibility to Train Workers
Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs) in California must include worker training for health and safety. Full-time workers, as well as temporary, seasonal, part-time workers and job site contractors, must be given the appropriate training.
Employees in supervisory or managerial positions should receive training to recognize the common hazards at the workplace and put procedures in place to minimize the risk of workplace injury. For more information, click here.
Sacramento Meat Grinder and Slicer Accident Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a meat grinder and slicer accident lawyer in Sacramento. Amputations are incredibly serious injuries. If you or a family member has been injured in a workplace accident involving a meat grinder or slicer, call me at 916-584-9355 for a free consultation.
I’ve helped many clients in Sacramento and throughout Northern California with personal injury and wrongful death cases for 36 years. My firm is dedicated to helping injured workers get the full compensation they deserve.
Photo by David Blaine on Flickr
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