Meatpacking equipment involves knives and other sharp instruments that can be dangerous if not handled properly. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state OSHAs have a variety of rules in place to protect workers from the hazards of meat-cutting equipment. Local health departments may also have their own meat-cutting safety regulations in place as well.
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Meatpacking equipment falls into one of two categories: machine operated and hand held. In most instances, both types of equipment involve sharp blades. Any meat-cutting safety measures must include ways to prevent the worker from coming in contact with the sharp edges.
Any rules of operation that apply to meat-cutting equipment must come with the full understanding that safety equipment only works when it’s in place. The work environment must be clean and free of any hazards that might inadvertently cause a worker to fall into meat-cutting equipment while it’s in operation. Lockout and tag-out procedures for electrical equipment must be in place as well. This means a designated individual must lock or disassemble the cutting equipment so that it doesn't start unexpectedly and that it doesn't operate without the safety guards in place. A tag warning of potential dangers should also be on the machine when it's not in operation. Even nonelectrical meat-cutting equipment such as knives must have special handling. It’s important that each individual knife handle be ergonomically correct in order to give the butcher a better grip on the knife. There should be a designated space for knives when they’re not in use.
Meat-cutting equipment must have guards securely in place to protect the meat cutter’s hands. OSHA requires that guards have openings no larger than 1/2 inch. It’s also important that the guard should not be a hazard itself with sharp edges or inconvenient, awkward positioning.
Personal Protective Equipment
Meat cutters should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. This includes hard hats and protective eyewear. Wire mesh or leather aprons can help protect butcher’s legs and torsos as they break down animal carcases into smaller pieces. Wire mesh gloves can also protect meat cutter’s hands as they trim the meat with knives. When using machinery to cut the meat, the butcher should take the gloves off; otherwise the gloves might tangle in the moving machinery.
People work more efficiently when they know their work environment is safe. Meat-cutting equipment with the proper safety equipment allows fewer accidents to happen. Obeying meat-cutting safety guidelines means less down time for employees, which results in increased productivity and in turn improves the profit margin.
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