Many brands are now increasing their use of contract manufacturers, investing more in new product development, and adopting technologies to automate what have been historically manual processes. While it's always essential to maintain productivity in a business, safety compliance should never be compromised, especially when working at heights. Taking shortcuts to meet daily production targets can lead to accidents, endangering employees, and product lines.
Surprisingly, with all the technical advances in food and beverage production accidents from ladders and step ladders are responsible for at least 40% of work-at-height accidents in the food industry. Slips, trips, and falls account for 25 percent of all non-fatal accidents in the food and beverage industry, most of which are the result of slippery surfaces and improper maintenance.
Depending on the operation, food and beverage production can be a complex multistage process within specialized environments that are frequently multilevel where some tasks are regularly performed at heights. Even in facilities where most work is conducted at ground level, at every stage of the process, there is an inherent risk or danger of something going wrong, including equipment failure requiring scaling heights or squeezing into a confined space.
Safety doesn’t happen by accident.
Processing facilities employ a range of fall protection systems to ensure the safety of workers performing work-at-height tasks. These safety programs include stainless and galvanized passive and controlled access systems, as well as elevated platform and mezzanine pallet systems. These systems are specifically designed to address the unique safety needs of busy processing and logistics operations.
To reduce risks and address hazards in a facility, it's important to evaluate any work routines that are performed more than 4 feet above another level. You can find OSHA assessment handbooks, guides, and checklists that can assist in identifying risks and hazards. However, without personal experience in the procedures and methods used in addressing risks and hazards, and without a good working knowledge of ANSI Z359 understanding how exactly you can best protect employees and operations may be elusive.
This article explores some of the more common fall safety solutions deployed within food and beverage operations.
1. Safety Railing & Guardrail
Safety railing and guardrail systems are physical barriers strategically placed to prevent falls. These systems create a protective boundary, reducing the risk of accidents in elevated areas.
Safety railing in food & beverage facilities provides a crucial layer of defense, offering a simple yet effective solution. By establishing clear perimeters, safety railings enhance worker safety, minimizing the likelihood of accidental falls. Examples include secure guardrails, along mezzanines and elevated walkways, ensuring a solid protective barrier without hindering workflow.
2. Safety Gates
Safety gates serve as controlled access points, preventing unauthorized entry to hazardous areas. Their primary purpose is to restrict access while allowing the smooth flow of materials and personnel. Various safety gate types cater to specific food and bev applications, from swing gates for pedestrian zones to sliding gates for loading docks. Their benefits include enhanced security and optimized workflow. Well-placed gates ensure controlled access without compromising operational efficiency.
3. Safety Barriers
Safety Barriers play a crucial role in enhancing food and bev operational safety by physically separating workers from potential hazards. These barriers act as a visual and physical deterrent to prevent accidental collisions.
Various types of safety barriers, such as guardrails and bollards, are tailored to specific applications, effectively safeguarding personnel and equipment in food and bev facilities.
4. Pallet/Mezzanine Gates
Pallet/mezzanine gates are designed to secure openings on elevated surfaces, such as mezzanines and loading docks, preventing falls while allowing efficient material handling.
These gates enhance fall protection by acting as a barrier when openings are not in use, minimizing the risk of accidents during loading and unloading operations in food and bev. Look for sturdy construction, ease of operation, and compliance with safety standards for such devices, ensuring reliable protection without impeding operational flow.
5. Single Point Anchors
Single point anchors hold significant value in fall protection by providing a secure attachment point for lifelines. Their importance lies in their ability to provide a secure localized tie off point directly over a hazard. Applications of single point anchors in food and beverage operations are diverse and their simple design can be deceiving. Ensuring the reliability and effectiveness of single point anchors requires structural analysis, professional installation and OSHA/ANSI certification.