Feet firmly planted

The food and beverage manufacturing industry needs to ensure the safety of its employees while meeting strict health requirements, but anti-slip, anti-fatigue and anti-bacterial solutions can make safety simpler

The food and beverage processing and packing industry has the unique challenge of preventing slips and falls – a common workplace hazard – while simultaneously addressing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, per 10 000 workers, slips and falls occur at a rate of 30,9 in the food industry and 28,5 in the beverage industry.

By the World Health Organization’s estimates, between one in three and one in five people (including children) suffer from an MSD, which includes any condition that affects the joints, bones, spine and muscles. Essentially, these disorders impact on a person’s mobility.

Prolonged periods of standing, as is often required in assembly line work, can result in conditions such as swelling of the legs, sore feet, lower-limb fatigue, lower-back pain and stiffness. Employers can provide employees with a more comfortable work environment by introducing anti-fatigue solutions to combat these risks.

Although there are anti-fatigue mats that also prevent slips, some of these might not be ideal in an industry that has strict health regulations. Spilled food or drink can get trapped in the textures on anti-fatigue matting, which can present a health risk. Instead, companies can invest in industry-specific anti-slip matting and address MSDs separately.

There are several anti-slip matting solutions on the market that have anti-bacterial and water-drainage properties to assist in preventing the build-up of liquids or bacteria. Key to any matting solution in the food and beverage industry is that it should be easy to clean effectively.

The correct footwear with grip support can also assist in preventing slips. Most of the specialised footwear designed for the food and beverage industry is equipped with sole support, but there are also anti-fatigue insoles available to assist in preventing MSDs. Employees can also be encouraged to take frequent breaks or move around every so often.

To prevent employees from bringing contaminants into the factory – on or between the textures underneath this specialised footwear – manufacturers can invest in sticky mats. These peel-off disposable sheets incorporate an anti-microbial agent to protect against bacteria, mould and mildew.

As the workers walk over the sheet, all the dust or dirt is captured. When the matting becomes soiled, the top layer can be peeled off to reveal a new clean layer.

Alternatively, manufacturers can invest in boot-dip matting, which contains fluid to sanitise footwear as the workers walk through it. Some of these solutions might also include bristles to scrub off any hardened foreign matter.

Slips and falls can further be prevented by placing clearly marked signs near slippery and wet areas, as well as by cleaning up spills as soon as they occur.

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