Food & Beverage Industry Safety Practices

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Working within the Food and Beverage industry poses many risks to workers and can result in fatalities that are often avoidable. Here at Rockall, we have a range of equipment available to help prevent incidents and protect your workers from injury.

The main risks during work within the Food and Beverage Industry involve exposure to harmful levels of Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen and Ammonia. All of these gases are used for the production and storage of food and beverages, but can prove fatal for workers in high doses:

Carbon Dioxide

CO2 is classed as a ‘substance hazardous to health’ under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). It is a toxic gas that is used extensively in the food and beverage industry, but poses a huge risk.

Workers within this industry are exposed to a number of potentially hazardous situations if proper precautions aren’t carried out. Despite high awareness of the dangers of CO2, workers are still injured, sometimes fatally, in completely avoidable incidents.

As little as 0.5% volume of CO2 can be hazardous to a person, while just 7% can lead to death within 5 minutes. At room temperature and atmospheric pressure, CO2 is completely odourless and colourless, which means that anyone exposed to the gas is unlikely to realise there is any danger.

CO2 is much heavier than air, meaning that it tends to sink to the floor and form invisible pockets. It often collects in small spaces which adds further hazard to confined space working in areas such as cellars. Workers exposed to high levels of CO2 can be asphyxiated from lack of oxygen, due to the displacement of gases in the atmosphere.

However, there are methods available to prevent these incidents. Monitoring levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is vital for keeping workers safe. Providing workers with personal CO2 detectors allows each person to monitor their own exposure, which is a more reliable method of ensuring safety. These detectors should be worn within the breathing zone, i.e on the breast pocket or the collar, for maximum safety.

It is recommended that CO2 detectors with Infrared sensors are used as they offer a faster response time and can save precious seconds in an emergency situation. IR sensors also operate better in lower temperatures, which is often found in cellars, refrigeration plants etc. It is also advisable to choose a monitor with a simple one-button operation that is easier to train workers on.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is commonly used in beer production to create stable bubbles, particularly in stouts, pale ales and porters. This creates a less acidic beer which tastes creamier than those using carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is also used to pressurise drinks in PET bottles to provide support during bulk transportation. PET bottles will usually be too flimsy to carry a heavy weight, but the use of nitrogen ‘blanket’ can enable safe transportation.

While nitrogen itself is not a toxic gas, high levels in the atmosphere will displace the oxygen content which can be hazardous to workers. The atmosphere usually consists of 21% oxygen, and even a small drop in O2 content can cause a number of health issues including dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, loss of consciousness and ultimately death. Even a small nitrogen leak can be fatal to workers, as the expansion rate is so high.

Similarly to CO2, Nitrogen is colourless and odourless which can make it difficult to identify when a leak has occurred. Providing workers with the correct equipment is important for ensuring safety. Workers are advised to monitor the levels of O2 in the atmosphere, rather than monitoring nitrogen levels. This ensures that workers are aware of any low oxygen levels immediately and react accordingly.

As with CO2 monitors, it is advisable that these oxygen detectors are worn within the breathing zone for the most accurate use.

Ammonia

Many industrial food and beverage facilities will use Ammonia to refrigerate their goods, but not all companies have the correct protocols in place. Ammonia refrigeration is one of the most energy efficient and cost-effective ways of storing and processing food and beverage products.

However, Ammonia leaks can cause fatalities when a worker is exposed to large doses due to its toxic and flammable properties. As with CO2, Ammonia is a colourless gas that is difficult to detect from sight alone. It does have a very distinct odour though, which can help an employee identify a leak should they smell it. An NH3 monitor is highly advised to ensure the safety of your workers.

It is vital that workers are prepared in case of an emergency event by use of the correct equipment. By law, employers must fit vapour gas detectors in refrigeration rooms, but there are no such requirements for personal protective equipment to be supplied. However, workers do have the right to a safe working environment and the addition of necessary safety equipment can prevent fatalities.

Providing a worker with a full-face respirator can prevent them from inhaling any harmful vapours when handling the chemical. Alternatively, a full SCBA will provide the user with a safe supply of breathable air in case of high exposure during a leak. It is vital that employees are trained to use the equipment correctly before undertaking any work.

By equipping workers with the correct equipment, fatal incidences can be prevented. A thorough assessment of the environment can ensure that you have the right gear to keep your workers safe from CO2 or Ammonia exposure.

Take a look at our full range of gas monitors, respirators and SCBA to find the right equipment for your employees.

If you need more information or you have any enquiries, please contact us on 0845 3300 447 or email our team at info@rockallsafety.co.uk.

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