In this week’s article, we will discuss how you can use the Hierarchy of Controls to facilitate your thinking and develop sound safety measures/controls to minimise the risk that your facility will have a coronavirus outbreak.

The hierarchy of controls is a best practice system for mitigating risk, the top of the pyramid are the most effective solutions with each step down offering a slightly less effective control mechanism.

So, where possible look to implement the top two – elimination and substitution.

However, after many years in the food and beverage industry we know some hazards can’t be completely removed & there’s no alternative.

Because of the threat coronavirus poses in close contact, high touch production areas, SKG has put together a list of effective controls that you can follow and implement in your food processing production areas.

The list of controls below are colour coordinated with the hierarchy of controls and therefore are in order of most – least effective.

SKG’s Coronavirus Production Area Controls:

Practice Social Distancing in Production Areas

Why?

To limit exposure to prevent interpersonal transmission or the virus between people.

How?

Maintain 1.5m distance from other people as much as possible. Avoid touching frequently touch surfaces such as handrails, turnstiles, screens, elevator buttons, bathroom surfaces, use touchless payment where possible. Wash your hands and use hand sanitiser.

Additional Suggestions: It’s common to see facilities to use tape on the floor as a distance regulator/guide to help people stay 1.5 metres apart. Using portable screens is also an effective solution to shield people who may work in close proximity. Using P2 or KN95 face masks is also strongly advised as air is normally circulated through food production facilities.

Limit Employees Movement

Limit the amount that employees move to other workstations.

Why?

To prevent the interpersonal transmission of the virus between employees by limiting interpersonal interaction.

How?

Having employees remain within their workstations, having QA or management personnel communicate via non-physical communication methods (remotely).

Frequent Hand Washing & Sanitising

Why?

To maintain good personal hygiene.

How?

Place handwashing stations (preferably touch-free systems) at the entrance to production areas and in locations that people may work long periods of time on high touch areas. Encourage people to use these upon entrance and also before any touching of the face.

Increased Airflow

Why?

To limit the number of airborne particles being exchanged when working in production areas, and to create an environment inhospitable to the virus. Production workers often work close to one another for prolonged periods of time.

How?

Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. Limit air recirculation frequency increase cleaning / replacement frequency of air filters (socks), and by lowering or raising the ambient workplace temperature. Recirculating air is a common issue responsible for fast spread of coronavirus droplets in meat processing facilities, avoid this as best you can. Take steps to minimise air from fans blowing from one worker directly at another worker.

Physical Barriers at Workstations

Why?

To prevent the contamination of the workplace, and to prevent the interpersonal transmission of the virus between employees. Production workers often have prolonged closeness to co-workers (8-12 hours) and continued contact with potentially infectious individuals increases the risk of illness. Production workers may be exposed to contaminated shared surfaces such as objects, tools, workstations and equipment.

How?

Establish physical barriers between employees so that social distancing guidelines are upheld in situations where 1.5m between employees is not practicable.

Modify Workstation Alignment

Why?

To maintain 1.5m between employees in all directions – social distancing in the workplace.

How?

Modify the alignment of workstations, including along production lines so that workers are 1.5m apart in all directions, ideally so that workers don’t face one another. Signage / markings can be used to remind workers to maintain their location at their station away from each other.

Self-Monitor Health

As long as an employee doesn’t have a temperature or display symptoms of illness, they should self-monitor throughout the day under the supervision of their OHS program.

Why?

To monitor and employee health and condition to ensure there are no sick people / people becoming sick on site.

How?

Measuring and logging temperature and condition at intervals throughout the day.

Limit Sharing of PPE

Employees should not share PPE or work equipment that are near the mouth or nose.

Why?

To prevent the interpersonal transmission of the virus between employees.

How?

Use of individual PPE and work equipment.

Static Work Areas

Work area groups should be as static as possible.

Why?

To limit the number of people that work on any workstation, and to limit the amount of movement between workstations.

How?

Break up work processes so that employees don’t need to move to and from workstations. Consider grouping workers, this can increase the effectiveness of altering the plant’s normal shift schedules by making sure that groups of workers are always assigned to the same shifts with the same co-workers. Cohorting may reduce the spread of illness in the workplace by minimising the number of different individuals who come into close contact with each other over the course of a week, potentially reducing the number of workers outside of the cohort exposure to the virus.

Water systems cleaned & sanitised frequently

Ensure that all water systems and features (especially communal water fountains) are cleaned and sanitised frequently.

Why?

To limit exposure to prevent the interpersonal transmission of the virus between people.

How?

Frequently clean and disinfect communal water fountains and setup drink bottle filling stations.

Face Masks

Face masks that limit the ingress and egress of fine particles should be worn in production areas.

Why?

To limit the number of airborne particles being exchanged when working in production areas where social distancing is not possible.

How?

Face masks should be put on before entering production areas, worn at all times when in production areas, and should be discarded when outside of production areas.

Disposable PPE Stations

Have disposable PPE stations accessible inside production areas.

Conclusion:

To wrap up, not all of the above controls have to be used, or for that matter can be used in all types of factories. However, implementing as many as possible will dramatically reduce the chance of coronavirus spreading in your production area.

Hope you found value in this article, please like, comment and share if you did.

Stay safe – The SKG Team

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