November 17, 2022

OSHA Initiative Aims to Protect Food Processing Workers at Local Level

OSHA has entered the second month of initial outreach as part of a local emphasis program intended to protect food processing workers in Illinois and Ohio who the agency recently found to have significantly high injury rates. According to OSHA, food manufacturing injury rates in these two states “were consistently elevated” during 2019–2020 compared to overall rates for manufacturers in the private sector. OSHA says that food production workers in Ohio had a nearly 57 percent higher rate of amputations and a 16 percent higher rate of fractures, while Illinois food production workers experienced a nearly 29 percent higher rate of amputations and a 14 percent higher rate of fractures during that time.

“Between 2016 and 2020, OSHA investigated multiple fatalities, along with dozens of workers suffering amputations, fractures and crushed hands or fingers,” an agency press release explains. “Investigators often determined that the employers commonly failed to control hazardous energy or allowed workers to operate machines without adequate guarding.”

The local emphasis program (PDF), which went into effect on Oct. 3, is intended to encourage employers to address risks associated with occupational exposure to machine hazards during production activities, and off-shift sanitation, service, and maintenance tasks. Once OSHA completes three months of outreach, the agency will initiate enforcement activities such as inspections and review of production operations and working conditions at facilities covered by the program.

More than 90,000 workers are employed in food production facilities in Illinois and Ohio, OSHA says. These workers include year-round and seasonal employees who manufacture and process confectionery, animal, fruit, and vegetable-based products.

For further details, see OSHA’s press release or view the local emphasis program directive (PDF).