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With the growing demand for increased production, the time for sanitation activities has been reduced, leaving third shift maintenance workers pressed for time to get machines cleaned and the production lines ready for the morning shift. This, coupled with less supervision, harsh environmental conditions, and numerous hazards like chemical exposure, burns, slips/trips/falls, and debilitating fatigue can lead to greater risk for these individuals.

In their article, Into the Wee Hours, Sanitation and Safety Keep Working Side by Side, Georgia Tech safety and health experts Hilarie Warren and Jenny Houlroyd teamed up with Wendy White, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) food and beverage industry manager, to explain why sanitation is a critical component to keep food manufacturing companies functional and profitable. Yet, without adequate training and improved controls, there is a higher risk for both food and worker safety.

That begs the question, why is employee safety exclusively designed for operational workers and is not inclusive of sanitation crews? According to the article, “Food safety managers and quality assurance leaders can significantly contribute to the physical safety of sanitation workers by more fully exploring the inherent hazards and risks of appropriately cleaning the processing equipment.”

Read the entire article Into the Wee Hours, Sanitation and Safety Keep Working Side by Side for more in depth information on how proper pre-planning, noting the obstacles, and committing to ongoing feedback and improvement between crews and departments can help alleviate these risks. And listen to the podcast The Intersection of Food Safety and Worker Safety where our food safety gurus discuss the difficulties third-shift workers face with regard to safety and workplace culture, and the importance of internal communication between food safety and personnel safety departments.

Hilarie Warren, M.P.H., C.I.H., currently manages the OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Center at Georgia Tech. She enjoys helping companies translate regulatory requirements and move into implementation by providing opportunities for training attendees to share best practices and stories.

Jenny Houlroyd, M.S.P.H., C.I.H., has worked as an industrial hygienist with the OSHA Consultation Program for 16 years, providing onsite OSHA compliance assistance for businesses throughout the state of Georgia. She currently serves as the Manager of the Occupational Health Group for that program. This free program is designed for small- and medium-sized companies to assist employers with achieving regulatory compliance and ensuring that they provide safe and healthful working environments for employees.

Wendy White, M.Sc., is the Industry Manager for Food and Beverage at Georgia Tech’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), and helps food companies achieve compliance with regulations and customer expectations. She is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine.