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Key health and safety tips for meat processing

These health and safety tips provide general information on ways to manage the most common hazards and risks in your industry. By following this guidance you will be going a long way to effectively managing health and safety in your workplace. However, every workplace is different and you must not take this information as being all that you need to do.

Cold rooms
Hazardous substances
Labour hire
Machinery and equipment
Manual tasks
Infectious diseases
Personal Protective Equipment
Safe Working at Heights
Scalds and burns
Slips, trips and falls

Activities/instructions More information

  • Make your work and workplace safe by:
    • finding what is unsafe or unhealthy in your workplace
    • deciding what is highest risk and needs to be fixed first, and how to go about fixing it
    • taking action to fix the unsafe or unhealthy workplace problems
    • checking the problems are fixed and won’t happen again
    • having a site-specific health and safety induction
    • having specific training to do work safely
    • using safety gear.

    Remember, everyone is responsible for workplace health and safety.

Access and housekeeping
Activities/instructions More information

  • Keep work areas clear and tidy including areas around production machinery.
  • Keep air hoses and power cords away from thoroughfares or taped down.
  • Stack or remove buckets and pallets when not in use.
  • Clean up spills and other materials from walkways using a cleaning chemical that can remove blood, fat and ice.
  • Mark walkways and exclusion zones around work areas.
  • Provide enough storage to keep materials and waste out of work areas.
  • Have safe systems for the delivery and storage of materials, collection and removal of waste (e.g. floor level waste chutes for trimmings and offal)
  • Inspect delivery and storage areas regularly for hazards.
  • Provide appropriate lighting for the task being done.
Cold rooms
Activities/instructions More information

  • To avoid hands and fingers losing feeling due to cold, make sure that the handling of frozen meat is limited in time. Try and rotate workers so no one person is in the cold room for a long time.
  • Wear warm, protective clothing. The clothing layer closest to the skin should be able to absorb sweat, while the outside layer should be waterproof.
  • Some people are more sensitive to cold than others and that needs to be considered.
  • Make sure that all light switches inside cold rooms cannot be turned off from the outside.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Use licensed electricians for electrical work.
  • Make sure all socket outlets are protected by a safety switch.
  • Use portable safety switches if the equipment is not protected by a fixed safety switch.
  • Isolate and lock out machinery when performing maintenance activities.
  • Install emergency stop buttons on equipment that needs to be stopped quickly in an emergency.
  • Do not use double adaptors or piggyback plugs.
  • Keep electrical equipment away from water and other liquids (e.g. when cleaning with water, place waterproof covering over electrical motors, switches, control boxes).
  • Have an inspection and maintenance plan in place.
  • Have a system for reporting and tagging out faulty electrical equipment.
  • Secure and protect extension leads from damage.
  • Ensure testing and tagging is current.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Where rostering is used:
    • make sure the roster provides for a continuous seven to eight hours sleep in each 24 hours, and at least 50 hours sleep for every seven days
    • limit number of consecutive night shifts to four
    • use forward shift rotation.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make areas safe for pedestrians using exclusion zones, speed limiting, and traffic management systems.
  • Make work areas safe for the use of forklift trucks:
    • fit raised edges on loading docks
    • install warning signs or barricades
    • impose speed limits
    • provide adequate lighting
    • fit secure ramps to access work areas.
  • Make sure all forklift operators hold a certificate of competency or are an authorised trainee.
  • Train all operators on forklift truck operation and maintenance before operating the forklift.
  • Conduct a thorough inspection of the forklift truck and attachments such as lift and tilt systems, steering, brakes, controls, tyres, warning devices, load arms, brake fluid, hydraulic oil before starting each shift.
  • Have safety procedures for fuel handling and storage, and battery changing and charging.
  • Have a method for determining the weights of loads being handled.
  • Make sure the forklift’s load is safe and secure on tynes before moving.
Hazardous substances/chemicals
Activities/instructions More information

  • Eliminate or substitute the substance for a less harmful product.
  • Provide adequate ventilation.
  • Enclose the process or use splash guards.
  • Use low pressure flow.
  • Conduct written risk assessments to identify hazardous substances and control the risks.
  • Obtain and make available Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and the risk assessments for substances classified as hazardous.
  • Store hazardous substances safely and securely store when not in use.
  • Train workers in the safe use of hazardous substances (e.g. sodium hypochlorite and other cleaning agents) and the required PPE.
  • Label all hazardous substances including safety and risk phrases.
  • Do not store hazardous substances in food and/or drink containers (e.g. drink bottles).
  • Store flammable and combustible liquids away from ignition sources.
  • Locate eye washes and showers in immediate vicinity of chemical storage area.
Infectious diseases
Activities/instructions More information

  • Implement an occupational immunisation program if workers are at risk of acquiring a vaccine-preventable disease(s).
  • Make sure that controls for infectious diseases such as Q- Fever, Zoonosis and salmonella are in place.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure that workers are trained in basic knife safety (e.g. how to hold, how to cut, how to store).
  • Ensure that workers know how to use knives around other workers.
  • Make sure that workers are trained in the use of knives where there is no other option when cutting or slicing towards their body.
  • Store unused knives back in sheaths-never leave lying on tables.
  • Make sure that workers are able to choose the right knife for the job.
  • Make sure that knives are machine sharpened.
  • Maintain a good working distance between other workers who are using knives.
  • Cut at waist height.
  • More information about the safe use of knives
Labour hire
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure that labour hire workers are inducted into the workplace and in safe work procedures, even if they are experienced.
  • Make sure controls are put in place for 457 visa workers and any other non-English speaking background workers who may not be able to speak or read English to a high standard.

Machinery and equipment
Activities/instructions More information

  • Use tools in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions (e.g. whizzard trimmers, air knives, hock cutters and splitting saws).
  • Redirect the exhaust from tools to reduce the exposure of the hands to cold air.
  • Display operating instructions and safety information near machinery and equipment.
  • Keep machine guarding in place and do not remove, disable or disengage when operating.
  • Switch off, isolate and unplug machinery when cleaning or maintenance work is being performed.
  • Dispose of or repair immediately any worn, broken or damaged parts.
  • Remove any damaged or faulty equipment from work area where practical and/or isolate, lock out and tag to prevent use.
  • Make sure machinery and equipment is in good working order and implement a system for reporting faults.
  • Use the right equipment for the job.
  • Train operators.
Manual tasks
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure everyone receives clear instructions and trained to safely perform the task.
  • Use tools which produce the least vibration or have vibration-isolated handles.
  • For work involving hard physical effort:
    • organise work to reduce the physical force needed
    • use mechanical and assistive equipment/devices (e.g. head removal using a mechanical aid to support the weight of the head)
    • train workers in safe use of equipment/devices
    • use trolleys to keep loads at heights that don’t need workers to bend (e.g. trolleys for handling tubs of offal or by-product)
    • use mechanical lifting devices for heavy weights in trolley bins containing viscera from the kill floor.
  • For work involving awkward or static working positions:
    • work in a position that minimises the need to twist, slouch or bend with arms in close to body
    • adjust work spaces to allow for different working heights for different sized workers (e.g. when pelting mutton, use rails which can hold the beast in place and at the height of workers, also use mechanical aides such as pelting arms)
    • when loading chillers and pushing the sides of product, use overhead gravity rails which are set at very small gradients to reduce physical exertion
    • use low-resistant hooks to reduce push forces
    • use mechanical aides such as vacuum lifters for packaged products.
  • For work that is highly repetitive and/or involves tasks of long duration:
    • use mechanical aides like meat tensioning equipment to assist in tasks such as boning
    • try using aides that allow workers to work in a more comfortable and upright posture, such as height adjustable work stations
    • make sure that during the packing process, workstations are level and within easy reach of workers
    • use mechanised wrapping equipment where possible to reduce repetitive handling (e.g. wrapping pallets)
    • place counterbalances on heavy equipment to reduce weight of tools and continual gripping
    • avoid handles with ridges and contours of tools (e.g. knives) as they can increase the discomfort level for users
    • use job rotation where possible.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Eliminate or replace noisy equipment.
  • Position noisy equipment away from other work areas.
  • Replace chemicals that can increase the risk of hearing loss.
  • Provide soundproof enclosures for operators and quiet rest areas.
  • Keep people out of noisy work areas if their job does not require them to be there.
  • Maintain equipment regularly and fit guards and covers.
  • Use job rotation.
  • Supply, train in and enforce the use of personal hearing protectors.
  • Signpost hearing protection areas.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Activities/instructions More information

  • Wear PPE only as a last resort, if the risk cannot be controlled in other ways.
  • Select appropriate PPE for the work to be performed (e.g. steel capped boots, high visibility vests, respirators and masks).
  • Use PPE in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Properly store and maintain PPE.
  • Signpost PPE areas and have the correct PPE stored properly within that area.
  • Ensure all workers wear PPE if supplied and instructed in its proper use.
  • Have a system in place to check regularly for wear and damage to PPE.
Safe Working at Heights
Activities/instructions More information

Working from platforms at any height can result in serious risk of injury, depending on the specific circumstances involved in the tasks. Therefore all tasks (including cleaning and maintenance) that require persons to work from these platforms must be adequately assessed and appropriate risk control measures need to be implemented using the hierarchy of controls.

Factors to consider when assessing the risk of a fall include:

  • height of the platform
  • size of the platform
  • distance between the carcass and the leading edge of the platform
  • cleaning and maintenance of the platforms, including the risk of working with hot water.
Scalds and burns
Activities/instructions More information

  • When cleaning with hot water, wear spats outside gumboots, long PVC aprons that cover down past the tops of boots and waterproof pants.
  • Make sure hoses used to spray hot water with are rated to withstand high temperatures and pressure.
Slips, trips and falls
Activities/instructions More information

  • Install slip resistant flooring surfaces or apply treatments, such as sand-blasting, to existing flooring.
  • Repair and maintain equipment regularly to prevent leaks.
  • Paint the edges of large pieces of equipment to make them more visible.
  • Fit barriers and railings to mezzanine floors to prevent falls and falling objects.
  • Replace steps with ramps.
  • Wear non-slip and appropriate footwear.

Last updated 30 November 2011