At Signsmart, we like to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the industries hazchem signs and dangerous goods labels are used in. We find that this allows us to provide better, more qualified advice about your signage requirements.
Earlier this week, we stumbled upon 2 articles in particular relating to food service, production, and of course, hazardous chemicals and dangerous substances.
Hazchem safety is an underappreciated part of food-related businesses
However, your responsibilities extend beyond the kitchen – the food industry also needs to think about safety around hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods. And that means thinking about whether or not you need hazchem signs and dangerous goods labels.
Yep, you heard us right!
Why food service businesses need to think about hazchem
Restaurants and cafes need to meet a bevy of strict laws and standards when it comes to kitchen cleanliness and food handling. Not only could a breach of these laws result in your establishment receiving a hefty fine, but you could also be subject to a major lawsuit!
A lesser known consideration that comes with operating in the food service industry is safety around hazardous chemicals and substances.
In particular, we’re talking about cleaning agents.
Late last month, a food and catering business pled guilty to breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
In this particular case, two workers were cleaning using a highly corrosive cleaning agent that was so powerful, it burnt through the soles of their shoes and left one of them with a chemical burn on their foot that required a skin graft.
To make matters worse, neither of the workers had been formally trained on how to safely use these products, and therefore failed to properly dilute the product. Nor were either of the workers provided with suitable footwear.
The result? One badly burnt foot and a $50,000 fine.
Could hazchem signs and dangerous goods signs have helped?
While we can’t say for sure, there’s a very good chance they could have!
Looking at the facts of the case, it’s clear that:
- The business had a procedure and training regime in place
- There were safety data sheets on site
- Protective gloves and boots were available
The problem? None of these were provided or properly enforced by management. Making it worse, both employees were newcomers, and had only been trained on basic tasks.
Hazchem signs and dangerous goods labels could have helped prevent this.
The power of signs lies in their ability to immediately alert new employees (like the ones in the case) to the danger posed by undiluted product.
The mere presence of a hazchem sign means serious business, and it’s possible that this could have alerted them to the risks they were facing and made them ask for help.
(Corrosives fall under class 8 of Australia’s hazchem scheme – learn about the other hazchem classes here.)
Another way workplace safety signage could have helped is through mandatory signs.
Like the name suggests, these types of signs mandate procedures and PPE. If one of these signs were hung immediately outside where cleaning chemicals were stored, both staff would have been alerted that they needed thick gloves and overshoes.
Realising that they weren’t properly equipped, both staff members could have sought out management, thereby avoiding injury.
Hazchem in food manufacturing
In a recent article published on foodmanufacture.co.uk, chemical safety company DipHex announced the release of products catered to cleaning up spills of dangerous chemicals at food manufacturing facilities.
Just like restaurants and cafes, food manufacturing businesses need to take great care to ensure their products are free of unwanted microorganisms and contaminants. Even a small contamination can be highly dangerous, and result in a costly recall.
As such, it’s no surprise that many food manufacturing businesses keep powerful cleaning chemicals on-site to clean their machinery between production runs.
Sterilising and disinfecting the insides of heavy-duty food manufacturing machinery (which see a lot of food products run through them) requires heavy-duty chemical soaps, detergents, sanitisers and disinfectants.
Needless to say, many of these cleaning agents can be quite potent, and need to be thoroughly cleaned out of machinery before production can resume.
For workers in food manufacturing however, the biggest risk that comes with these cleaning agents is the risk of spills and leaks.
How would we use signage to reduce the risk?
Just like in the restaurant example, cleaning products need to be handled with care, and often require PPE to be donned. As with the restaurant case study, hazchem signs and mandatory signs can be used to remind staff to follow procedure and protect themselves.
However, it’s also important that your food manufacturing business takes steps to protect workers against the dangers posed by a spill.
Many hazardous chemicals can’t be cleaned up the normal way. For example, certain chemicals require a special neutralising agent to be mixed in first. This ensures that the substance won’t do further damage when disposed of.
In many cases, sand might be used to ensure that nothing is used. Sand mixes in with the chemical, making it easier to catch every spilled drop.
And workplace signs are essential in communicating this.
At Signsmart, we can create custom safety signs outlining the unique disposal procedures inherent to your cleaning chemicals.
We can also add this information to your emergency information panels as well under the “specialist advice” field, saving time in the event of a spill.
Finally, we can provide first-aid signs that help locate showers, sinks and first-aid kits in the event that an injury.
Smarter signage for food-related industries
As you can see, it isn’t just factories and labs that need to worry about hazardous chemicals – so too do many businesses in food service and manufacturing!
Unfortunately, this is a safety requirement that often gets overlooked in many of these businesses. Their attention will be focused on maintaining machinery, or cleaning surfaces.
Hopefully this article has alerted you to the importance of proper signage at your business!
Don’t have the right signage? Need a new sign, and fast?
The Signsmart name is built on fast turnaround and speedy delivery – in many cases, we’ve been able to get signs to customers by the following day, ensuring that they aren’t out of compliance for long.