Industry leaders identify top health and safety risks in food manufacturing
Ontario is home to North America’s third-largest food manufacturing sector, with meat processing and bakery production leading the way. Yearly sales total more than $34 billion, making it a critical part of Canada’s food supply chain. It recently became the latest industry to undergo an in-depth risk assessment and root cause analysis facilitated by Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS). Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development (MLITSD) established this methodology as a way to engage industry stakeholders to better understand the top risks to workers’ health and safety and solutions and controls to reduce risk to lost-time injuries. The MLITSD’s methodology focuses on leading indicators, rather than lagging indicators, and leverages the knowledge and insights of front-line workers and managers. This approach has been successfully applied in the transportation, mining, and construction sectors.
Input from Industry Experts
For food processing, WSPS facilitated the risk assessment workshop this past October. Industry experts from across the sector were invited to participate—an even split of workers and employers - representing companies of various sizes and focus, from unionized and non-unionized environments.
Industry associations attended as observers, including Food and Beverage Ontario and Meat and Poultry Ontario. “As the professional organization for food and beverage processors across Ontario, we welcome this initiative to identify hazards and their causes. It’s a valuable opportunity to play a vital role in accident prevention and the reduction of harm across our sector,” said Chris Conway, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario. “We’ll help to reduce injury and illness any way we can.”
“Companies were enthusiastic about participating and put a lot of thought into the pre-workshop activities,” said Hamish Morgan, Manager of Consulting Services with WSPS. To prepare, each participant identified health and safety hazards in the sector. Collectively, 60 hazardous events were identified in all.”
“We gathered feedback from a diverse group of people from food manufacturing. For example, I have a background in the commercial baking industry, as well as meat manufacturing. We had others who are also involved in meat processing but use different manufacturing methods because they work mainly with raw meat, which means they have different hazards,” said Michael Pesce, an employee of FGF Brands Inc., a commercial baker. “We were able to look at different hazards through the lens of the people who do those jobs everyday.”
The group reviewed each of the 60 hazardous events in detail together. “There was some ambiguity with some of the risks, but we were able to consolidate similar risks and narrow our list,” noted Rizwan Arshad from MARS Pet Care. “It was enlightening. I learned a little bit from everyone in that room”.
Rating by Likelihood and Severity
To determine level of risk, each hazardous event was rated in terms of likelihood and severity of harm. “Representatives of MLITSD and industry associations participated in the discussions; however, only the worker and employer representatives voted in the risk evaluation,” explained Hamish. The votes were recorded anonymously and validated on a one-on-one basis.
What emerged was a top ten list, with inadequate lockout and tag out—which occurs when energy from equipment is not effectively isolated and blocked from being released while maintenance or other work is performed—in the number one spot. Other risk events included in the top ten list are bypassing or having inadequate safeguarding on equipment; being struck by or caught in mobile equipment (e.g., lift trucks, electric rider pallet trucks); and slips, trips and falls. Loading/unloading trailers and material handling also made the list, along with issues related to temporary workers and their unfamiliarity with the workplace.
The second phase of this approach—the root cause analysis workshop—will take place in February. The goal will be to uncover the specific factors that contribute to inadequate lockout and tag out. Industry experts will identify and recommend the types of controls needed to address the root causes. These recommendations, in part, will form the basis of resources and training developed for the industry, which will create safer working conditions for all involved. “I have four kids who are going to hit the workforce soon. I feel good that I’m helping to make improvements that may have an impact on their experience,” said Rizwan. “We’re doing this because we want to leave the industry better than it is now.”