A Food Industry Professional’s Basic Guide to OSHA Standards

In the food industry, having a clean facility is a major step toward ensuring both food safety and worker safety. It’s also required for avoiding citations and fines due to lack of compliance.
To help you get a better handle on the rules you’re required to follow, here is a brief guide to OSHA standards applicable to the food industry.

General Industry Requirements

OSHA 1910 is a general standard under which most industries fall. In the broader food industry, the only sector that has its own separate standard is agriculture, which is covered by OSHA 1928.

OSHA 1910 is a comprehensive and complex standard. Here is a short list of the subsections that address housekeeping, food facilities, and combustible dust.

1910.22: Housekeeping

OSHA 1910.22 is a general housekeeping standard applicable to almost all permanent places of employment.

Section (a) specifies three housekeeping requirements:

  • All places where people work must be clean, orderly, and sanitary.
  • Workroom floors must be clean and, if possible, dry.
  • To facilitate cleaning, floors and workspaces must be kept free of hazards.

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1910.263: Bakery equipment

This standard specifies requirements for the design, installation, operation, and maintenance of bakery equipment.

The bakery sector is especially susceptible to risk because of the combustible dusts that are present. OSHA’s list of combustible agricultural dusts includes several types of flour:

  • Oat flour
  • Potato flour
  • Rice flour
  • Rye flour
  • Wheat flour

Other common bakery ingredients, like sugar, spices, and cornstarch, are also on the list.

OSHA 1910.263 provides several strategies for reducing the risk associated with flour dusts and other potentially hazardous ingredients. For example, flour storage bins must be dust-tight and measures must be taken to eliminate static electricity.

1910.272: Grain handling facilities

Grain handling is considered a “high hazard industry.” From a housekeeping perspective, the primary cause for concern in grain handling facilities is fugitive grain dust, which is highly combustible. OSHA notes that “grain dust explosions are often severe, involving loss of life and substantial property damage.”

To prevent these explosions, OSHA requires grain dust to be carefully controlled. Specifically, this standard requires the following:

  • Employers must have a documented housekeeping program that includes the frequency and methods of cleaning.
  • Priority housekeeping areas — i.e., those at the greatest risk — must be identified. Within these areas, dust accumulation may not exceed ⅛ inch.
  • The housekeeping program must include procedures for cleaning up grain and product spills.

Additional requirements include implementing a preventative maintenance program for equipment, minimizing ignition sources, and properly locating dust collection systems.

1910.307: Hazardous (classified) locations

Any area where there is a fire or explosion risk because of the presence of combustible dusts or other flammable substances is considered a hazardous, or classified, location.

Most food facilities are Class II, Division 1 locations, which means combustible dusts are in the air during normal operating conditions in concentrations high enough to produce explosive or ignitable mixtures.

OSHA 1910.307 specifies the types of equipment that are approved for use in various hazardous locations.

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Additional food industry-specific resources

In addition to these standards, OSHA publishes several industry-specific pages. Below are the pages that target different sectors of the food industry.

Meat packing

Meat packing is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. Injury and illness rates in meat packing are two and a half times greater than the national average. And serious injuries that require work restrictions or time off occur three times more often in meat packing than in other industries. This page provides resources on how to implement an effective safety program in meat packing facilities.

Poultry processing

This page provides resources for combatting the most common hazards in poultry processing plants, including high noise levels, dangerous equipment, slippery floors, activities that lead to musculoskeletal disorders, and hazardous chemicals such as ammonia.

Food processing: Flavorings-related lung disease

In 2000, lung problems began to appear in workers at plants that produce certain flavorings, like butter for popcorn. This page outlines the research that has been done to date about this health risk.

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