How Product Inspection Technology Can Improve Worker Safety
Food manufacturers are under increasing pressure to provide safer working environments for their employees. With over 5,000 injuries each year in food and drink manufacturing reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK alone, more needs to be done.
Why are injury rates so high?
Although the number of workplace injuries in the food processing industry has halved in the last 28 years, food manufacturing is undoubtedly a high-risk sector to work in. With large-scale, complex, fast-moving equipment and production lines, operators are open to a number of hazards such as wet surfaces, falling objects, fingers traps and trips and falls.
Operating and testing machinery contributes further to hazard exposure, where workers often have to climb ladders to reach machine interfaces, or remove products on conveyor lines for quality control and testing.
Machinery accounts for a large proportion of injuries, and conveyors are involved in 30 percent of all machinery accidents in food and drink industries – more than any other class of machine. Ninety percent of such accidents occur during normal foreseeable operations such as general production activities and clearing blockages.
How can we improve worker safety on manufacturing lines?
Whilst the responsibility of employee welfare lies with the company, food processing equipment manufacturers have also have a big part to play.
For companies, the HSE recommends a safe system of work should be in place for daily and routine hygienic cleaning of equipment to ensure workers are not placed at risk of injury from unguarded moving parts. The system of work used should be formalized and workers appropriately trained.
However, it’s not just the food manufacturing companies who can provide training to operators. Equipment suppliers can also provide training on the safe use of their equipment. A good example of this is where METTLER TOLEDO delivered operator training to Bischofszell Food Limited (BINA) in Switzerland. METTLER TOLEDO developed a bespoke training plan for operators on the safe use of their metal detection systems.
When it comes to production equipment, suppliers should ensure systems are available with key safety features such as fixed guarding, lift out rollers and safety switches.
METTLR TOLEDO’s product inspection systems are all designed with safety in mind. To protect operators during production and support safe maintenance practices, attention is paid to every detail of each of their systems, including:
- Guards manufactured from clear, shatter-proof material without sharp edges
- Safety valve fitted as standard on all pneumatics
- Fully-enclosed in-feed roller assemblies with no risk of finger traps
- Safety circuits designed to comply with EN ISO 13849.
It’s not just the physical systems that support safer working practices. New metal detection technology for use in food processing is also now available to further support worker safety. Innovative technology from METTLER TOLEDO includes emulation capability that provides remote access to machine interfaces, reduced test mode resulting in fewer ladder climbs for difficult-to-access machines and automatic testing, which virtually eliminates manual intervention.
Emulation technology allows the metal detector interface to be controlled from a variety of networked devices such as a tablet or mobile phone, reducing the need to work at height if the machine is installed in an awkward location.
Reduced Test Mode reduces the frequency of metal detector testing, thereby reducing the number of ladder climbs required by an operator to conduct the test, either to drop the sample through the aperture, or to access the machine interface to run the test routines.
Automatic Test System virtually eliminates the need to work at height to conduct most routine performance monitoring tests, and removes the requirement for line operators to have to reach across installed equipment to drop the test samples through the aperture of the metal detector.
Managing health and safety is an integral priority for any company. For food manufacturers, risk assessments should be carried out and any sensible measures put in place to mitigate or control any identified risks on an ongoing basis.
When purchasing new machinery it is important to specify clearly the health, safety and hygienic design requirements for the supplier to meet and check that the equipment supplied meets your specification and the supplier has met their legal duties.
To find out more about how METTLER TOLEDO Safeline’s technology advancements support worker safety, visit www.mt.com/md-pve.
Statistics taken from the HSE website – http://www.hse.gov.uk/food and ‘A Recipe for Safety’ HSG252, 2nd edition 2015
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