Despite new regulations by federal and state safety authorities, along with technological advances, thousands of food manufacturing employees suffer on-the-job injuries every year. An unacceptable number of victims do not survive.
If you are an employee in a food processing plant in the Bettendorf, Iowa area, you likely face many hazards during every shift you work. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires your employer to protect you and your co-workers from recognized hazards, it might be smart to take note of potential risks and take your own precautions.
Falls resulting from slips and trips
Falls can cause severe injuries, even if they occur at the same level. They represent the most significant percentage of injuries over all U.S. industries. Slips and trips are prevalent because of the substantial use of liquids in food manufacturing. The following are common hazards:
- Walking surfaces: Continuous housekeeping is essential to ensure that all walking surfaces are dry and free of randomly placed objects and debris.
- Workstations: Standing places must have proper drainage and mats in areas where wet processes take place.
- Workroom floors: Clean and dry floors include mitigating weather-related hazards, spills, loose boards and other dangers.
The use of textured, non-slip tape, tread plates, and yellow-and-black textured plates provides stability in wet and slippery areas.
Equipment and machinery hazards
Machine-related accidents cause thousands of injuries each year. Some are catastrophic and result in amputations, and some are even fatal. Cleaning, processing and packaging machines pose hazards that include the following:
- Excessive noise: This often-ignored danger could prevent clear communication, increasing the risk of injuries.
- Machine guarding: All equipment must have safe guards to prevent contact with exposed, moving machine parts.
- Lockout/Tagout devices and procedures: Not only must LOTO devices be present on all machines, but all workers must receive training in their proper use to de-energize equipment during maintenance and cleaning procedures.
You and your co-workers will be smart to take special care around conveyors and to watch out for falling objects, collapsing structures and compressed equipment.
Anhydrous ammonia threat
Anhydrous ammonia is a toxic chemical refrigerant in food manufacturing and processing plants. Safety authorities require employers to label all components of an ammonia system, including pumps, compressors and receivers. Despite the widespread use of ammonia in refrigeration, it poses the following risks:
- Explosive: In small or confined areas where ignition sources are present, deadly explosions can occur.
- Flammable: Even at concentrations of 15 to 28 percent by volume in air, anhydrous ammonia can be deadly.
- Corrosive: Ammonia and its fumes can harm your lungs, eyes and skin.
While your precautions may be effective at keeping you out of harm's way, it is good to know your rights in the event of an on-the-job injury. You must report any injury to your employer as soon as possible, and after receiving the necessary medical care, you can seek the support and guidance of an experienced Iowa workers' compensation attorney.
A lawyer can explain your rights and navigate the complicated claims process on your behalf. Your benefits will likely include coverage of all your medical expenses along with a financial package to make up for lost wages.