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Workers injured due to lack of lockout/tagout procedures

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is reviewing problems associated with the food industry's lockout/tagout procedures. As many business owners in Minnesota may know, having a comprehensive safety plan in place when machines are serviced may save a company a great deal of money. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's lockout/tagout standard was the most commonly cited violation in 2012 and 2013 with more than $894,000 in fines.

NIOSH posted that the underutilization of lockout/tagout procedures in the food industry accounts for many workplace accidents. In the decade from 2003 to 2013, there were 28 deaths attributable to these procedural failures. In 2012, the food manufacturing industry experienced 41 fatal accidents and 18,620 injuries for which workers were absent from work, leading to an overall cost of about $1.4 billion.

While the pace of worker activity often determines profit in the food industry, safety while performing duties is important. Locking out energy sources when equipment is serviced and maintained may prevent accidents. An adequate training plan is also essential, and NIOSH stresses the need to follow OSHA's provisions on how to accomplish this. Having a plan in effect, identifying electrical sources and locking and tagging devices are procedures that allow workers to service and maintain equipment as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety.

When workplace injuries happen, workers may find themselves struggling financially if they lost time from work. Workers' compensation insurance benefits should cover an injured worker's medical expenses and possibly a portion of his or her lost wages. However, if the employer deviated from standard safety procedures, the worker may consider filing a personal injury claim. In that case, the worker would likely have to waive workers' compensation benefits and attempt to prove employer negligence.

Source: EHS Today, "Lockout/Tagout Programs Falling Short in Food Industry", Josh Cable, July 10, 2014

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