The food processing industry is large and complex, and in most cases requires state or federal safety criteria to be observed during each phase of the food processing workflow. These criteria are often defined by a specific set of rules and regulations depending upon the processes in play.
For safety managers to be able to ensure that proper safety protocol is being followed at all times in their facilities, OSHA, the FDA and other local and federal agencies have created comprehensive guidelines for them to follow during these processes.
Many of those guidelines require, for example, something as simple as posting visual signs and reminders to workers that they must always wash their hands before proceeding any further in the food processing workflow.
Or, there may be a safety label requirement on a particular machine that poses a certain type of threat or danger to the operator if a specific protocol is not followed, such as keeping hands out of range of moving machine parts.
Different Processing Plants Have Different Needs
Is your food processing plant outsourcing the cooking process to a commercial kitchen or do you have the capabilities of a full-blown food processing facility, handling everything on-site? Or, are you possibly working together with a co-packer who handles a certain portion of the final phase of food processing for you?
Answering these types of questions will help define the Visual Safety Workplace campaign that your facility needs to, or could, launch.
The labeling that is generated by your safety department must be easily understood by the workers who will be reading or viewing them.
To avoid inconsistencies or misunderstandings which could lead to accidents, it is therefore advisable that you adhere to standards already created regarding format or size, color used, lettering styles and any other well-defined standards that have been developed for the food processing industry.
Despite the range of machinery being used, such as filling or packing machines, conveyors, heating chambers or the various processing techniques being used, labels and safety protocol does not have to be overwhelming.
While the facility manager may be required to know the necessary best practices in labeling processed foods that are acidic in nature (such as tomatoes), or the steps required for initial cleaning or processing of food products, all the way to those steps used in the final stage, for freezing the food products, such as ammonia refrigerants, we will only be concerning ourselves with the safety factor for humans – not the processing workflow itself.
What Is a Visually Safe Workplace?
First, the visual workplace describes the use of visual communication elements such as pipe marking, floor marking, signs and labels and other highly visible, visual indicators. Various colors, combinations of color fields and icons or type-based only signage are used to “signal” or warn of possible danger, the need for caution, or other safety concerns.
These visual elements are used to let a worker or visitor entering the plant or your facility immediately know about and recognize any possible dangers that might be lurking in the immediate vicinity that might not be visible at first glance.
Such indicators might also warn of a “possible” danger scenario, such as forklift traffic entering the same area used for foot traffic, or danger from moving machinery when it is turned on or set in motion while humans are in its immediate vicinity.
Whether you already have a few safety signs and labels in place or are just starting a new auditing sweep through your facility to identify weak areas that need more safety signs and labels, it is important you to acquire a comprehensive understanding of just how much can be done to ensure and increase the safety of your workers.