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Protecting employees and stopping contamination factor into PPE selections.

In the food manufacturing industry, workers are at a surprising risk of exposure to harsh and toxic chemicals—and at risk of contaminating the foods they produce. We take a look at the protective clothing that can keep workers and food safe.

In all likelihood, if you don’t work in the food manufacturing industry, you might not immediately think of chemical exposure as a major hazard.

“From anhydrous ammonia used in cooling systems to disinfectants used to clean equipment, there are many hazardous chemicals found in food plants,” points out a Food Industry Executive article. “Workers who may come into contact with these chemicals must be informed, use proper work practices and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.”

In fact, it’s enough of a risk that citations involving the safe management of highly hazardous chemicals (CFR 1910.119) ranked No. 8 on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Top 10 violations list for the food manufacturing industry last year—and third (at more than $730,000) in total fines.

What’s more, OSHA citations for improper PPE use (CFR 1910.132) ranked No. 10 and accounted for another $103,000 in fines.

Food Manufacturing PPE: Balancing Worker and Food Protection

In food manufacturing, PPE must play a unique balancing act. Not only must manufacturers protect their workers, they must also protect the food. Protective clothing and its use are critical factors in reducing harm to the worker and contamination of the food product.

“Protective clothing can become a risk to your food product through both microbiological contamination and physical contamination,” notes an HACCP Mentor post. “Because of this, your risk assessment (or hazard analysis) should document associated hazards at each step in your process where this type of clothing may come into contact with food product.”

Workers in this industry use a wide array of protective clothing, including suits, overalls, smocks, jackets, aprons, sleeves and hair covers. Gloves—both those resistant to cuts and chemicals as well as disposable—are also critical. And, if the potential for toxic fumes is a risk, respirators also may be required.

For clothing, the specific materials can be critical in food processing and manufacturing. For instance, DuPont recommends protective clothing made from its Tyvek fabric. These materials “are designed to help prevent contamination from dust particles, bacteria, spores and parasites carried on regular clothing or the human body,” according to the company.

As with all PPE, there is an effort to drive up PPE best practices and wear by employees by making clothing for workers comfortable. If the clothing workers must wear is not comfortable, they also might be sidetracked from doing their jobs properly, and that can affect performance.

Dan Bowen, northeast regional sales manager for DuPont’s Personal Protection group, says that is another good reason to use a Tyvek suit because it not only provides barrier protection from particles, but it’s breathable for comfort. (Better MRO talked with Bowen at last year’s ASSP Safety show.)

Learn what makes the Tyvek fabric unique in this quick video:


Fit is equally important for safety, says safety consultant Abby Ferri.

“PPE needs to conform to each employee’s body dimensions to be effective, otherwise it can be a safety hazard itself,” she explains in an article in Refrigerated & Frozen Foods magazine. “PPE that’s too loose can get caught in machinery and cause injury while PPE that’s too tight can be

 Compare clothing and PPE using our safety products selector. You can filter by industry, including food manufacturing.

PPE Factors to Consider to Avoid Contamination in Food Manufacturing

To identify where a facility needs to factor in contamination risk relative to PPE in food manufacturing, it’s critical to perform regular hazard analyses. Assessments help identify both the risks to workers in a particular facility as well as the contamination risks to the food products.

Find out more about the benefits of hazard analyses in “Why You Need to Perform Workplace Hazard Assessments.”

The HACCP Mentor post identifies seven items across three contamination categories as the types of things a safety team will want to look for when conducting hazard analyses.

Potential physical contamination risks:

  • Damaged or torn plastic gloves.
  • Loose threads falling from clothing or aprons.
  • Head coverings not effectively restraining hair.

Potential microbiological contamination risks:

  • Gloves not changed between raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Boots not cleaned between low-risk and high-risk production areas.
  • Overalls not removed prior to visiting the restrooms.

Potential metal contamination risks:

  • Damaged metal mesh gloves.

How does your food manufacturing facility strike the ideal balance between worker safety and food safety?

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The protective clothing demand is rising due to an increase in manufacturing and other industrial units around the world that require specific protection equipment for worker's security. 

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Good day

 

Hope you are well, i have to quote on food safe clothing for a mine that produces cooking oil and soya products. i need help on what ppe does food safe mines use please. Thank you.

Yolande

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