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A Wrench in the Gear: Lockout/tagout in the food industry

Categories: Manufacturing

The food manufacturing industry includes animal slaughtering as well as the processing and packaging of meat, dairy, fruit, vegetable, grain, seafood, beverages, and bakery products. The industry employs nearly 1.5 million workers.1 Work in food manufacturing is typically fast-paced and workers can face exposure to hazards such as slips trips and falls, musculoskeletal disorders, and machine-related injuries.2

Although there has been improvement in recent years, workers in food manufacturing have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than workers in private industry as a whole. For example, in 2012, the injury and illness rate in food manufacturing was 5.4 per 100 workers compared with 3.4 per 100 workers for private industry overall.3 That same year, food manufacturers suffered 18,620 lost-time injuries and 41 fatalities. The estimated cost for those lost-time injuries was over $1.4 billion (direct and indirect costs, at an average $76,000 each).4

Many of the machine-related injuries are related to failure to use lockout/tagout (LO/TO) procedures. An examination of OSHA’s Accident Investigation database (using SIC codes 201-207) showed that from 2003-2013, 28 fatalities and 227 serious injuries (such as amputations) were related to lockout procedures in food manufacturing.5 The largest number of incidents occurred in meatpacking and poultry slaughtering and processing.5  In fact, violation of the lockout/tagout standard (1910.147) was the most frequently cited infraction of an OSHA standard during 2012‒2013 in food manufacturing with penalties totaling over $894,000.6

The NIOSH NORA Manufacturing Sector Council members want to help small food manufacturers with LO/TO, and through this blog we are seeking  input from our stakeholders to enhance our understanding of the issues surrounding LO/TO in the food and beverage processing industry.

The Pace Challenge

A robust lockout/tagout program that protects the safety and health of workers is an important part of machine maintenance. Machine injuries related to lockout/tagout often occur when an employee services or repairs a machine or tries to clear a jam but fails to de-energize the machine and lock out sources of energy.

Smaller businesses face the challenge of remaining competitive in the food and beverage processing industry, and we know most companies are struggling to keep up with a bustling pace and narrow profit margins.

Pace equals profit in this industry, but workers need to stay safe while maintaining their pace. The efficient work that keeps businesses viable and competitive requires well maintained machines and equipment.

Pace does not have to be a tradeoff for safety; optimal levels of both can be achieved. If something falls off the assembly line and a machine gets jammed, a quick solution may seem like a good option. Given the production pressures in this industry, workers may feel that managers would rather have them risk injury than stop production to properly apply LO/TO procedures.  A worker may simply try to clear the jam without taking the time to lock out sources of hazardous energy.  But when energy sources are not locked out, any unexpected startup of a machine or other equipment can result in amputations or death. Employers who ‘get it’ know that it is far more valuable to control hazardous energy with LO/TO procedures than to risk both the personal and financial loss that can result from machine-related injury. An injury, death, or even a fine from a violation can quickly nullify gains from increased work speed.

Save a life: Block that energy!  

Follow OSHA requirements regarding de-energizing machines and locking out sources of energy.7 Some elements of a successful LO/TO program include:

  • Written procedures
  • Documentation of each source of energy
  • Locking and tagging devices
  • Verification of energy isolation
  • Proper locks at proper places (isolation points)
  • Training (including skills demonstration) in the primary language(s) of employees.
  • Auditing of work process

NIOSH recommends that any hazardous energy control program include both lockout and tagout procedures to ensure maximum protection. The NIOSH recommendations for lockout and tagout are described in the following documents:

Using Lockout and Tagout Procedures to Prevent Injury and Death during Machine Maintenance

Preventing Worker Deaths from Uncontrolled Release of Electrical, Mechanical, and Other Types of Hazardous Energy

Companies with established lockout programs have told us that having written procedures ahead of time allows for machine maintenance and service to proceed without delay. Share with us the type of lockout/tagout program you have in your business. What resources were used to implement the program that could help small business improve their practices? What works well about it? What has made it difficult to maintain the program? Sharing your experiences with LO/TO will help NIOSH and our partners better understand the issues so that we can provide the best guidance and resources to help save lives.

Jim Harris, Ph.D., P.E. ; Susan Afanuh, MA; Frank Renshaw, Ph.D., CIH, CSP; David L. Parker, MD, MPH; Theodore Braun, MBA; Thomas Cunningham, PhD

Dr. Harris is a Research Safety Engineer in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.

Ms. Afanuh is  a Technical Information Specialist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division

Dr.  Renshaw  is the managing member  at Bayberry EHS Consulting, LLC and the National Occupational  Research Agenda (NORA) Manufacturing Sector Council Co-Chair.

David L. Parker, is a Senior Researcher at Park-Nicollet Health Systems and a member of the NORAManufacturing Sector Council.

Mr. Braun is an Adjunct Professor at the Keene State College and  a member of the NORA Manufacturing Sector Council.

Dr. Cunningham is a behavioral scientist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division.


  1. BLS [2014]. Industries at a glance. Food manufacturing: NAICS code 311. 
  2. Safety+Health [2013]. Industry spotlight: food manufacturing. Safety+Health April:52.
  3. BLS [2013]. Employer-related workplace injuries and illnesses – 2012.
  4. Harris S [2014]. It’s safer to eat the product than it is to work in many food manufacturing facilities.
  5. OSHA [2014a]. Fatality and catastrophe investigation summaries.
  6. OSHA [2014b]. Frequently cited OSHA standards. NAICS Code 311: food manufacturing.
  7. OSHA standards require the use of either lockout or tagout. OSHA requirements can be found at  OSHA provides a sample lockout procedure at recommends that any hazardous control program include lockout and tagout to ensure maximum protection. Also note that some State plans may have more stringent requirements than those found in 29 CFR 1910.147.

Other NIOSH Resources

The NIOSH Fatality and Assessment Control Evaluation (FACE) program investigates fatalities, identifies contributing factors, and makes recommendations for prevention. NIOSH FACE reports related to machines and manufacturing are listed here, and State FACE reports related to machines and manufacturing are listed here.

NIOSH developed a set of safety checklists for vocational schools; one checklist is available for LO/TO programs: School safety checklist: Control of Hazardous Energy

Other Resources

OSHA Safety and Health Topics: Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)

ElCosh Electrical Hazard Checklist (also available in Spanish)

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. July 8, 2014 at 6:48 am ET  -   Joaquin Reese

    Health Safety should be prioritized by the manufacturers.


    Baking Food and BBQ

    Link to this comment

  2. July 8, 2014 at 11:15 am ET  -   Alex

    Health Safety is paramount in manufacturing.

    Link to this comment

  3. July 16, 2014 at 11:25 pm ET  -   Leeman

    Working in any manufacturing warehouse is dangerous when you don’t follow lock-out and tag-out procedures because it’s so easy to get injured. I have seen many people try to rush a repair but fail to de-energize the power source and get injured.

    Link to this comment

  4. July 18, 2014 at 4:34 am ET  -   Robert

    Safety must come first


    Link to this comment

  5. July 18, 2014 at 6:13 am ET  -   Pregnancy Miracle

    Before the work we’d better figure out how to lockout/tagout procedures. And also training to work safely.

    Link to this comment

  6. July 19, 2014 at 2:41 am ET  -   remass

    Major thanks for the blog.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

    Link to this comment

  7. July 21, 2014 at 1:49 am ET  -   mikas

    Thanks for such a knowledgeable post.

    Link to this comment

  8. July 22, 2014 at 3:14 am ET  -   rypaci

    I seriously appreciate your information. this post is helpful.
    thanks for this idea

    Link to this comment

  9. August 6, 2014 at 3:31 pm ET  -   Mark Stein

    The FDA and OSHA must do a better job. I understand that resources are limited. It’s now just a matter of priorities. Thanks for a very informative blog post.

    Link to this comment

  10. August 13, 2014 at 2:54 am ET  -   Wounded warrior

    This is crazy these guys are obviously slacking. The government really needs to work harder to keep people more safe. The last thing we need is more wounded people collecting disability

    Link to this comment

  11. August 27, 2014 at 5:56 am ET  -   Anonymous

    I seriously appreciate your information.., Thanks for sharing such a useful info….

    Link to this comment

  12. August 28, 2014 at 8:13 am ET  -   James Know

    Really concise information here, thanks for the read.

    Link to this comment

  13. August 29, 2014 at 5:32 am ET  -   Tom Salem

    Simple truth : Machines need maintenance for the safety of the workers and owner’s peace of mind.

    production company

    Link to this comment

  14. August 31, 2014 at 1:56 pm ET  -   Safe Sheild

    Excellent contents! It is really critical. Many people try to rush a repair but fail to de-energize the power source and get injured. Thanks for sharing it. I support it.

    Link to this comment

  15. September 1, 2014 at 8:10 am ET  -   Ciara

    This issue is worth a lot of concern, as number of food manufacturing units is huge. Injuries in such units are very probable requiring special attention. If you are owner of one such unit, then conduct survey to find the resin behind occurrence o f such incidences.

    Link to this comment

  16. September 2, 2014 at 3:01 am ET  -   Manuel Marcelino

    For any manufacturer industry first priority is Safety. Some times less precaution mad big health issues. So we have to follow all government safety procedure for better result because every worker is important for us.

    Link to this comment

  17. September 3, 2014 at 7:39 am ET  -   Business Website Design

    Great post. Thanks for sharing such nice blog
    Thanks again

    Link to this comment

  18. September 9, 2014 at 5:58 am ET  -   pretty angel

    thanks for the blog.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

    Link to this comment

  19. September 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm ET  -   farid

    prioritizing safety

    Link to this comment

  20. September 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm ET  -   ibrahim

    Really this post is useful for peoples,

    Link to this comment

  21. September 11, 2014 at 9:19 am ET  -   heated towel rails

    Great post, i appreciate the effort and knowledge you are sharing with this post. Yes i agreed with your thought for any industry or manufacturing company, employee safety is most required.

    And in term of this safety precaution as you said, machine maintenance is required. Time to time check up your machine, keep maintenance for all instrument used into your company.

    Link to this comment

  22. September 13, 2014 at 4:59 am ET  -   harafi

    nice tips

    Link to this comment

  23. September 15, 2014 at 5:58 am ET  -   c.b.

    Interesting read and very informative article.
    It offers stimulating ideas for further discussion. Worth sharing…

    Link to this comment

  24. September 16, 2014 at 4:24 am ET  -   Creative Corporate Gifts

    Great post about this. I am sure many visitors will find this very useful.

    Link to this comment

  25. September 20, 2014 at 5:10 am ET  -   teguh satria

    Construction, infrastructure and manufacturing must be properly addressed

    Link to this comment

  26. September 22, 2014 at 4:18 am ET  -   manchester magician

    Health and safety is extremely lax in some workplaces. It needs to be dealt with with a very high priority. I have come across some dodgy practices in themworkplace in my time.

    Link to this comment

  27. September 22, 2014 at 7:19 am ET  -   Robert Sam

    This Post Really Helpfull For Every One You Explain Every Thing Very Beautifully Thanks For Share

    Link to this comment

  28. September 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm ET  -   Furqan

    Very Nice Article

    Link to this comment

  29. September 24, 2014 at 3:28 am ET  -   Noah Matthew

    Great post. But you can learn more about the issues regarding electrical safety, and how to meet the requirements of key electrical safety standards.

    Link to this comment

  30. September 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm ET  -

    Great post, i appreciate the effort and knowledge you are sharing with this post. Yes i agreed with your thought for any industry or manufacturing company, employee safety is most required.

    And in term of this safety precaution as you said, machine maintenance is required. Time to time check up your machine, keep maintenance for all instrument used into your company.

    Link to this comment

  31. September 28, 2014 at 2:40 am ET  -   Michael

    Really this is very critical issue and to be taken care off properly. Good piece on info shared here. Thanks to the author for sharing.

    Link to this comment

  32. September 28, 2014 at 6:34 am ET  -   Masur

    Health and safety is extremely lax in some workplaces.

    Link to this comment

  33. September 29, 2014 at 11:37 am ET  -

    Great post, i appreciate the effort and knowledge you are sharing with this post. Yes i agreed with your thought for any industry or manufacturing company, employee safety is most required.

    Link to this comment

  34. September 30, 2014 at 2:03 am ET  -   Tom Salem

    Awareness and proper training of workers will eliminate accidents on the job. Frequent reminders and signage at strategic spot within the workplace would help too.

    Link to this comment

  35. September 30, 2014 at 7:53 pm ET  -

    Augers are notorious for this with farming equipment, it’s no wonder meat packing is the most common as they use similar technology – plus factories usually push the employees too fast – time pressures over safety concerns

    Link to this comment

  36. October 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm ET  -   www.stopsnoringmouthpiecereview

    Great article. I agree, it is so important to have written procedures. And as others have said, health and safety really needs to be taken more seriously in some industries.

    Link to this comment

  37. October 3, 2014 at 12:48 am ET  -   Bali Tour

    Good article, i agree with the opinion, we should not reliable with the machine cause machine didn’t have brain and sometime can failure. What should we do is combine machine and human works and organizing all activity in places works so will happen something we didn’t want.

    Link to this comment

  38. October 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm ET  -   Jun Li

    I think we need more education and guides to prevent fatal injuries in the future


    Link to this comment

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