The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there were 4.1 cases of injury or illness per 100 full-time workers at food and beverage stores in 2019. There were also 54 fatalities, up from 42 fatalities in 2018.

Not all of these incidents involve cutting instruments, but knives, meat slicers and other sharp tools are a common source of injury.

According to 11 Alive, a supermarket Jonesboro, Georgia was fined $47,000 after a 16-year-old employee severed a finger while using a meat slicer. Valdosta Today reports that another 16-year-old in Georgia cut himself on a meat grinder, and the supermarket where he worked was charged $7,274 for violating child labor rules that say workers under the age of 18 cannot operate power-driven food machines.

Meat Slicer Safety

In a single year, 4,000 incidents involving meat slicers resulted in lost workdays, according to OSHA.

  • Grocery stores must protect workers by complying with the relevant OSHA standards for Machine Grinding (1910.212), Hand Protection (1910.138) and Control of Hazardous Energy (1910.147).
  • Workers should be given cut-resistant gloves and other appropriate protection if there is a risk that hands will come into contact with blades, and meat slicers should be equipped with appropriate guards and feeding attachments.
  • Workers should be trained on safe usage, including never using bare hands to push meat, keeping hands away from the back of the blade, and proper cleaning procedures.
  • Accidents can occur when changing food, cleaning the machine, or not using the machine. Turn the meat slicer off and unplug it, and make sure the blade is fully retracted or in the “zero” position.
  • Avoid interruptions and distractions while using the meat slicer. If you can’t give the meat slicer your full attention, stop slicing until you can.
  • Under the FLSA, workers under the age of 18 are not allowed to operate meat slicers or other hazardous powered equipment.

Knife Safety

Many people use knives every day and don’t think much about it, but that lack of concern can increase the risk of an injury. According to Porch, knife injuries resulted in more than 322,000 ER visits in a single year.

  • Poor grip an improper posture can increase the risk of an injury. Always slice away from your body and keep the blade away from your fingers.
  • Cutting should always be performed on a flat surface, and a cutting board should be used.
  • Select the proper knife for the task, and avoid using dull blades, as this can cause workers to apply too much pressure.
  • When using a knife, focus on cutting and avoid distractions.
  • If a knife drops, do NOT try to catch it.
  • Store knives in a safe place when not in use.

Download our Knife and Meat Slicer Safety Tip and regularly train and monitor your team to ensure best practices are followed. Talk to the grocery insurance team at RiskPoint Advisors to ensure you have adequate protection against this costly exposure.

Joe Scarpello Melissa Johnson
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