February 27, 2020

OSHA Bulletin Highlights Grease Trap Hazards

A new safety and health bulletin (PDF) published by OSHA draws attention to threats posed to workers by large-capacity grease traps, which are often used by businesses such as restaurants and food-processing facilities to prevent oils and other wastes from entering the sewer system. Hotels, grocery stores, and bakeries may also use grease traps. OSHA’s bulletin highlights the risks of tripping over, falling into, and even drowning inside these structures, which are often located outside in areas frequented by workers. The agency stresses the need for employers to ensure that grease traps are properly covered and secured in order to prevent employee injuries.

OSHA’s walking-working standards require employers to protect workers from tripping over, stepping into, or falling through any hole less than four feet above a lower level by using covers or guardrails. Covers must be secured to prevent being accidental displacement, and they must be able to support at least twice the maximum intended load. Finally, covers and other walking-working surfaces must be inspected regularly and maintained in a safe condition. OSHA stresses that grease trap covers designed for residential use should not be used for commercial purposes.

In some cases, grease traps are large enough for a worker to physically enter and may be considered permit-required confined spaces. Employers must inform workers of the hazards of these confined spaces and prevent unauthorized entry.

OSHA’s bulletin follows the tragic death of three-year-old Bryce Raynor, who was killed last year in Rochester, N.Y., when he fell into a restaurant grease trap with an unsecured lid.