Coping with OSHA
OSHA compliance is essential for bakeries, but can be complicated.
Running a bakery means dealing with government regulations. In an effort to help navigate this web, I have written a series of primers on regulations that wholesale bakery operations commonly confront. Remember, this is not a comprehensive guide; it’s just a quick reference that can trigger more considerations and help ensure standards can be met.

This month, we discuss Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) compliance — a phrase that often strikes fear into the hearts of bakery plant operators.

Lockout/tagout (LOTO) is among the Top 10 violations most frequently cited by OSHA not only because it is one of the most frequently misunderstood standards but also because of its title, which is designated as 29 CFR 1910.147, “The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout).” Far too often, LOTO control aspects are overshadowed by the procedures themselves. The standard addresses control of all hazardous energies — electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal and other energy sources — and is written specifically to protect employees during service and maintenance.

The standard requires that employers identify and document all energy sources for their equipment; ­develop, implement and enforce an energy control program; ensure new and “overhauled equipment” is capable of being locked out; ensure the LOTO devices identify the individual user; and provide and document training of all employees covered by the standard.

If you’re wondering whether this standard should be taken seriously, consider that each violation, if found to present the potential for serious consequence to a ­worker, can carry a fine of up to $7,000.

In addition to the general regulations, of which the “control of hazardous energy” is a part, there are a few industry-specific regulations that are frequently overlooked or misunderstood. OSHA defines bakery equipment requirements in 29 CFR 1910.263, which is in the Subpart R listing of “Special Industries.” The items in this subpart are applicable to all bakeries and are not restricted by size or product. Therefore, the following items are required of all bakeries.

General Machine Guarding, 29 CFR 1910.263(c)

… (2) All gears shall be completely enclosed regardless of location.

… (3) Sprockets and V-belt drives located within reach from platforms or passageways or located within 8 ft, 6 in. from the floor shall be completely enclosed.

Horizontal Mixers, 29 CFR 1910.263(e)1

… (v) All mixers with power and manual dumping arrangements shall be equipped with safety devices which shall: (a) Engage both hands of the operator when the agitator is in motion under power and while the bowl is opened more than one-fifth of its total opening. (b) Prevent the agitator from being started while the bowl is more than one-fifth open without engaging both hands of the operator.

Vertical Mixers, 29 CFR 1910.263(e)(2)(i)

Although this standard does not require a mixing bowl cover, an OSHA Enforcement memorandum issued Feb. 26, 1999, regarding “Vertical Food Mixers,” established that the need for a cover exists if the worker(s) activities are in proximity to the hazard (rotating part) and considers how a worker “performs operations (e.g., adding ingredients, scraping the bowl, checking dough for consistency).”

The memorandum went on to state, “Safeguarding a worker from potential exposure to the machinery hazard(s) of a mixer must be provided by a barrier guard or a safeguarding device. When safeguarding by barrier guard or a device is not feasible, safeguarding by maintaining a safe distance may be used. An employer who adopts a work practice of ‘safe distance’ protection must be prepared to demonstrate an effective work practice to OSHA. An employer can meet this obligation by establishing and having employees follow a work practice which includes exposure prevention procedures, training and enforcement … Work practices, however, are not to be used in lieu of necessary machine guarding when guarding is feasible.”

Ovens, 29 CFR 1910.263(l)

… (1)(vii) Ovens shall be located so that possible fire or explosion will not expose groups of persons to possible injury. For this reason, ovens shall not adjoin lockers, lunch or sales rooms, main passageways or exits.

… (9)(ii) All safety devices on ovens shall be inspected at intervals of not less than twice a month by an especially appointed, properly instructed bakery employee and not less than once a year by representatives of the oven manufacturers.

A 1989 letter of clarification written by OSHA’s Directorate of Compliance Programs (DCP) stated that OSHA interprets “Safety Devices” as fail-safe devices and as components of safety control systems installed to ensure that explosions or explosive conditions do not develop within an oven. Safety devices are installed to automatically shut down the oven in a safe manner in the event of an occurrence of a hazardous condition.

In 1998, DCP also stated that for annual oven inspections, OSHA considers “representatives of the oven manufacturer” to be qualified persons who are knowledgeable of the various safety considerations and of the safe operational characteristics of the equipment. They may or may not be employees of the oven manufacturer. This position was reaffirmed by OSHA in 2001.

Keep in mind that OSHA compliance is a major issue that cannot be fully addressed in this primer series. If you feel I’ve missed something vital here or have suggestions as we look forward to Food Safety Modernization Act compliance in the next primer, please reach out to me. As I mentioned in the previous column, this is important for us all.