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Protecting Your Workforce: Safety Tips for NZ Slaughterhouses

April 15, 2024

Freezing works in New Zealand means slaughterhouses, and these works must be kept free from contamination to secure not just the physical safety of their workers but also the consumer further down the chain. 

What we are going to do is look at general tips and the basics of keeping the workforce up to date with training and also basic requirements for everything to run smoothly; as we know…without them, the whole chain stops functioning.

We will also take an overview, or ‘in general’, of what goes into protecting slaughterhouses and freezer works staff. 

So, here’s our list of the big 10, but we’ll go a little deeper if we can in an area we’re all getting pretty familiar with now: Personal Protective Equipment. 

  1. Comprehensive Training Programs

Providing extensive training and correct safety procedures for the handling of the equipment and emergency procedures, but adapting them to the particular work conditions is a must.  Always keeping up-to-date and having direct contact with the local authorities is always a good starting point.

  1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Ensuring the staff have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), such as insulated gloves, anti-slip footwear and protective outerwear, to deal with both the cold working environment and the operational hazards is also a must.

Workers require Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves and protecting slaughterhouses from the numerous hazards that are common. 

As we touched upon earlier, here’s some more information about the type of PPE used in freezing works and why it is important :

Protective Clothing

Long sleeves and pants made from tough material provide protection against cuts, scrapes and exposure to animal fluids, as well as specialised clothing for environments that are cold (thermal and cold protective gear).

Footwear

Slip-resistant shoes or boots are important for the same reason – wet and slippery surfaces are likely to be encountered in many of these environments. The footwear should be waterproof and, if necessary, insulated to protect against cold temperatures.

Gloves

Waterproof gloves keep the hands dry but also offer protection from sharp instruments, as well as against biological hazards (bacteria and viruses in animal blood and urine).

Face Protection

Facemasks and goggles shield against splashes of toxic liquid and inhalation of aerosolised particles, including biological particles such as bacteria and viruses.

Headgear

For example, in just one example, it may be necessary for workers to wear hard hats to prevent injuries to their heads that could arise from falling objects or against equipment.

Hearing Protection

Noise is an unwanted sound, so earplugs or earmuffs are sometimes needed to protect workers in slaughterhouses or freezing works.

PPE is an important element of work protocols, especially occupational safety, aimed at providing copious protection against immediate physical hazards and dangers inherent from exposure to biological agents and harsh conditions.

All elements of the PPE should be properly fitted and tested, inspected, and maintained or replaced when needed in order to preserve their protective characteristics.

Besides fit, the PPE should also be properly used, meaning the procedure for putting them on and taking them off should be taught in addition to an understanding of the PPE limitation.

  1. Regular Maintenance and Inspections

To decrease the chances of accidents in cold storage areas, machinery, tools, and storage facilities must be regularly checked and maintained regularly.

Just think quickly and ask yourself what rules we follow.  It’s always good to have a quick re-think, and if you’re not sure, maybe run it over again. 

  1. Clear Communication Systems

Keep your communication avenues with the workers open so that a worker who sees a hazard early can report it quickly – especially in a freezer setting, where the temperature alone comes with its own challenges.

  1. Stress and Fatigue Management

Reduce the physical and mental stress of employment in slaughterhouses and freezing works by offering proper breaks, support programs and resources for addressing stress.

This is nothing new, but there is more help out there than ever before, so it’s not a bad thing to tap into it and see if there might be an outlet to help your staff more. 

  1. Stringent Hygiene and Sanitation

Maintaining standards of cleanliness, which are essential in preventing contamination and sickness, is something we all know. It is just a case of being organised, having your own systems in place and making sure it is well-managed and nothing is missed. 

Inspections are different, but we are all aware of the rules. It never hurts to implement a few cleanliness rules that will help us move towards the bigger picture. 

  1. Emergency Response Preparedness

Plan and review, from time to time, emergency plans, including evacuation procedures and specific incident handling (e.g., all clear and bad air). The tendency to not address a situation until something goes wrong does not serve anyone well. 

Having a good relationship with local regulatory authorities can sometimes really help. If you can build up a working relationship where you can run regular updates and training, it is never a bad idea. 

  1. Proactive Hazard Management

Identify Potential Issues: If you identify potential hazards that apply specifically to freezing works, such as slipping on ice or cold-related injuries, and develop strategies for their avoidance, this is a positive and proactive idea.  How you implement these is down to you, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to have internal rules too. 

  1. Prioritising Animal Welfare

Look to put in place animal welfare practices so the animals will be subject to less handling (therefore reducing the risk to them), and the workers will take fewer risks since the animals will be in a different state of mind, so it works for everyone. 

  1. Continuous Safety Culture

To foster a culture in which safety becomes a core business value, where feedback is welcomed, and procedures are again adjusted to make these slaughterhouses and freezing works a safer place to work. 

Overview

Most of the points above may sound obvious but sometimes if you miss one or two, then there can be a mounting issue, so this is more of just a ‘keep going’ article just as a reminder to keep up the good work. 

SUMMARY 

We hope this gave you a few pointers when it comes to protecting slaughterhouses and freezer workers. Suppose everything we touched upon is applied together; in that case, these strategies should allow New Zealand’s slaughterhouses and freezing works to be safe places to work, enhancing the well-being of the labour force and encouraging the production of food products of high quality.