The Daily Grind Turns Tragic without LOTO

Just a few months ago, a California worker suffered a serious injury at a meat processing plant in San Luis Obispo. The employee (a temp worker provided to Vitco Meats by Volt Workforce Solutions) was pulled into a meat grinder while trying to clear a jam in the equipment. When he reached inside to remove beef stuck in the hopper, the machine’s paddles began to rotate, pulling his hand and arm into the grinder. The worker suffered a crushed hand and broken arm. If the machinery had continued to rotate, the outcome would likely have been fatal within seconds.

How Did This Accident Happen?

The equipment was not powered down prior to the attempted cleaning. According to the Cal/OSHA investigation, Vitco Meats did not have protocols in place to ensure that workers disengaged and locked out the machinery before servicing. Employees were apparently untrained in this important safety procedure, and the equipment itself was not equipped with an appropriate interlock device for LOTO.

Consequences Hit Both Co-Employers

The meat processing plant and the employment agency were both found to be at fault by Cal/OSHA for this incident. Vitco Meats was issued with nine citations and penalties totaling almost $64,000. Volt Workforce Solutions has also been cited for serious, regulatory, and general citations for a total of $10,600 in fines. In the eyes of OSHA, the temp staffing agency failed to ensure that their client (Vitco) had an appropriate illness and injury program and safety training in place.

Injury Prevention Requires Attention to All the Details

Lockout procedures are designed to ensure that equipment is completely powered down, moving parts are blocked, stored energy is released, and the equipment can’t be turned back on until it is safe to do so. According to a statement issued by California’s Department of Industrial Relations regarding the meat grinder accident, “Failure to develop and follow lockout / tagout procedures before working on machinery is one of the major causes of serious injury and death in California.”

When cleaning or servicing a piece of equipment has the potential to expose a worker to moving parts or any form of hazardous energy, LOTO should be part of the standard routine. Contact DKF Solutions at dpatzer@dkfsolutions.com to review your LOTO procedures and ensure that all your workers (including temporary staff) are following appropriate safety procedures.

DKF Solutions Group has also developed a mobile app to make creating equipment-specific LOTO procedures easy and affordable. Take a look for at the video below for an overview of the SMART Procedures app. Go to smartprocedures.dkfsolutions.com to sign up for a free trial.