Food and Drink

Improving Housekeeping Ergonomics (Part 1)

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

Housekeeping is a manual material handling job that requires bending, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling repetitively throughout the day-- often in awkward postures.    Each housekeeping task carries certain risk factors.  When these factors occur together during the work shift there is an increased risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs).

The injury potential can be evaluated by how the force, frequency, and posture of the task multiply the risk. 

  • Force is caused by either an internal or external load.  It is determined by gravity, the load lifted, and position of the body.
    • Pressure required to push the scrub brush into the tile
    • Lifting linen, laundry, beds, or furniture
    • Pushing or pulling carts
  •  Frequency is the repetition of a task, or a motion or behavior with in a task. 
    • Bed making, cleaning showers, vacuuming, folding
    • Scrubbing, sweeping, polishing
  • Posture can change efficiency of force on the musculoskeletal system. 
    • Bending to tuck sheet corners
    • Crouching while cleaning behind toilet
    • Installing shower curtains overhead

In general, the greater the force, higher the frequency, and more awkward a posture is while performing a task -- the greater the risk of injury.  Addressing these risk multipliers, through planning and safe work practices, can improve housekeeping ergonomics, while reducing the potential for injury. 

The next Housekeeping Ergonomics blog reviews, in more depth, the relationship between these factors.

For more information on general housekeeping ergonomics use the following links:


Seven Key Slicer Errors to Avoid

Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

I never realized just how dangerous a meat slicer could be; but 20 years later I can still see the scar.  According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry, between 2000 and 2004 more than 700 workers were injured while using a meat slicer.  I guess I was ahead of my time.  While working for a small family owned restaurant I committed one, well more than one, of the seven key slicer errors, and in an instant, became a statistic.

Seven Key Slicer Errors:

  1. Operating the slicer with the blade guard removed.
  2. Leaving the slice thickness set to anything but zero when not in use.
  3. Pushing the food into the blade with your hand.
  4. Slicing pieces that are too small for the food pusher.
  5. Cleaning the slicer with the blade spinning.
  6. Cleaning the slicer with the power cord plugged in.
  7. Taking your eyes off the slicer when it is in operation.

For me it was #5 and #7.  My penance was eight stitches and nerve damage to my left pinky finger.  Not a good trade off for what little time was saved.

This is by no means a complete list. However, to avoid injury when using or cleaning the meat slicer always:

  1. Read the user manual and complete required training before operating the slicer.
  2. Inspect the equipment to ensure all safety devices and parts operate smoothly and efficiently.
  3. Pressure the product being sliced with the weight handle/food pusher Use the slicer in manual mode before selecting automatic.
  4. Follow all manufacturer and company instructions for cleaning the slicer.
  5. Set the slice thickness to zero when finished slicing and before cleaning.
  6. Turn off AND unplug slicer before cleaning.
  7. Wear cut resistant gloves when operating or cleaning.

Remember, before your start; take a MEMIC Minute for slicer safety.  Check out these links on slicer safety and PPE:


A Little Caffeine Won’t Hurt, Right?

Klatt Randy 
Posted by Randy Klatt

So, in a recent post we talked about the dangers of fatigue. If your answer to that problem is a cup of coffee, you may want to think again.  But if you’re tired or you need a kick start to your morning, will a shot of caffeine really help?

The short answer is: Maybe. But just a little and there are some side effects to consider. Caffeine is definitely a stimulant and can make people more aware and alert. That can lead to more productivity or better safety awareness.  However, the effects vary person-to-person and there are some significant limitations that we should all be aware of. 

Caffeine is a stimulant, but it is also a diuretic.  It will take fluid from the body leaving a person dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to some serious health risks. The stimulant factor isn’t always desired either, like when we are trying to fall asleep at night.  Those who might have high blood pressure generally should not consume caffeine either. Lastly, those who have made caffeine a habit to get through the day will see decreased benefit over time, and could suffer short term adverse symptoms if intake is stopped suddenly.   

A 7-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains between 80 to 130 milligrams of caffeine.  Colas and tea average about half that amount. The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide reads, “for most healthy adults, moderate amounts of caffeine, 200 to 300 milligrams a day, or about two cups of coffee poses no physical problem.”  So if you hit the drive-thru each morning and order the grande brewed coffee (16-20 oz.), you have reached the recommended daily limit for caffeine intake. 

Lastly, if you find yourself in one of these categories, you may want to eliminate caffeine entirely:

  • Have been substituting coffee in place of water and juice in your diet
  • Are pregnant or nursing a child
  • Are having trouble falling asleep
  • Have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, gastritis or ulcers

We all want to be alert and ready to take on the workplace safely, but we should be able to do so without stimulants. A better alternative is to get more sleep, avoid TV right before bedtime, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. 

For more information check out:


Labeling is good for your health

Clendenning Donna 
Posted by Donna Clendenning

Have you ever nearly taken a drink from a bottle of soda only to be yelled at by someone “DON’T DRINK THAT!” As it turns out, that someone else had used the bottle to store chemicals, it wasn’t soda at all.  Talk about shock!

I recall investigating an incident where a gentleman sat down on for lunch and unbeknownst to him drank a chemical mixture in an unlabeled container—a soda bottle. He thought it was his soda. The liquid was the same color. He was lucky—he lived.

It’s an unlikely event, but it could and does happen. Nearly every business has some type of chemical in it—some are in their original, labeled containers, others are not.

By the way, did you know that you can get hit with an OSHA violation and potentially a fine if you place chemicals in unlabeled containers? Did you know that “Hazard Communication” was OSHA’s third most frequently cited violation in 2009?

OSHA’s Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires all chemicals be evaluated and the possible effects and routes of entry be communicated to employees. OSHA also requires employers to have a written hazard communication program that includes container labeling and other forms of warnings, material safety data sheets, and employee training.

Further, chemical manufacturers must ship products with a label identifying the chemical, warnings appropriate to the chemical, and manufacturer contact information. The manufacturer must also provide Material Safety Data Sheets that explain what to do in the event of a chemical exposure.

Additionally, if an employer breaks chemicals down into different containers, OSHA requires each container be labeled either with words, pictures, or symbols describing the identity of the product, routes of entry, and bodily effects. The only exception to this rule is if the product in the secondary container is “intended only for the immediate use of the employee who performs the transfer.”

That said—does the unlabeled bottle of Windex cleaner that you transferred from a larger container need to be labeled?  Indeed it does—it will be used over time and perhaps by a variety of employees. Household products used in an occupational setting in amounts greater than at home, placed in another container, need to be labeled.  

When you transfer any chemical, liquid, solid, or anything that may be hazardous into another container—label it so that the accident above does not repeat itself!


Basic Kitchen Ergonomics

Jones Tony Posted by Anthony Jones

This post is meant as a general guide to help anyone who needs information on making commercial or institutional kitchens a safer place to work. As we, all know there is often a dramatic difference between the customer and client sections of a facility and the kitchen area.  

A significant source of injury for kitchen workers -- along with lacerations, burns, slips, trips, and falls --  are back and upper extremity muscle strains, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal injuries.

Recognizing risk factors that contribute to the development of musculoskeletal injuries and developing effective strategies to reduce them has a positive impact on reducing these injuries. The risk factors include forceful exertion, repetitive motion, awkward postures, static postures, and contact stress.

Early detection, reporting and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries is crucial to control the potential severe effects of this particular class of injury. Injuries treated in the early stages have a better chance of healing properly. Later stage musculoskeletal injuries may not heal completely but effects can be minimized if dealt with properly.

General controls for each of the identified risk factors include:

Forceful Exertions:

  • Good body mechanics can decrease muscle force needed to carry out job tasks, which reduces the risk of developing a musculoskeletal injury.
  • Teach workers to test loads before lifting and to plan routes before lifting and carrying the load. Use good lifting technique for lifting, lowering, and carrying loads.
  • Separate heavier loads into smaller load quantities, or containers. Can heavier bulk items be purchased in smaller load quantities, or containers?
  • Make use of adjunct equipment such as hoists, dollies, or conveyers to reduce the workloads. Install wheels on containers, wherever possible to allow pushing rather than lifting, carrying, or dragging. (Keep the wheels clean and in good working order)
  • Avoid reaching below mid-thigh height, and above shoulder height.
  • Place or store the heaviest items at mid height to make lifting easier, and eliminate lifting heavy items from the floor. Avoid simply placing the heavy items on the floor or bottom shelf.
  • Avoid lifting or carrying items that are slippery, too hot, or unevenly balanced.

Repetitive Motion: Repetitive motion for upper arms, elbows, forearms, and wrists can be defined as more than 10 reps per minute or for shoulders, more than 2.5 reps per minute.

  • Minimize wherever possible repetitive motion to help reduce the worker’s risk of developing a musculoskeletal injury.
  • Use mechanical or automated devices (food processors, potato peeling machines, and electrical mixers)
  • Alternate working positions to avoid overusing any single muscle or muscle group. Alternate hands used to perform simple tasks.
  • Try to combine or eliminate tasks whenever possible. Pace the work when performing repetitive motion tasks.
  • Include job rotation, stretching, frequent rest periods, and task breaks.

Awkward Postures:

  • Move the body closer to the object, or move the object closer to the worker. Do not reach beyond the point of comfort.
  • Wherever possible avoid excessive torso flexion by storing items between knee and shoulder height.
  • Always face the objects you are working on, do not twist and reach behind or to the sides of the body.
  • Work tasks should be adjusted to keep elbows as close to the body as possible.
  • If the work is too high, lower the work, or raise the worker by a platform or footstool.
  • Sit on a stool or chair rather than squatting, kneeling, or bending over while you work.
  • Use tools or hand implements designed to keep wrists straight. For example, grill flippers with bent raised handles.
  • Counter height should be a few centimeters below the worker’s elbow height.
  • Shelf height should not be higher than shoulder height of the shortest worker. If necessary, provide stepstools.
  • Place frequently used items in the most accessible locations. Place frequently used and heavier items 11 to17 inches from the workers. Place infrequently used and lighter items 21 to 25 inches from the workers.
  • Wherever possible, move trip items or obstacles out of the way.

Static Postures:

Static posture can be defined as body positions held without movement for more than 10 seconds.

  • Anti-fatigue matting can provide a softer surface to stand on. Use non-slip surfaces and anti-fatigue mats to prevent slippage. Consider where the matting will be used and purchase the appropriate style and type for the particular applications.
  • Footstools allow workers to raise a foot up, which helps shift body weight and reduces stress on the legs and lower back when standing for long periods.
  • Sit-stand stools can allow workers to alternate sitting and standing positions. Sit-stand stools are most appropriate when the worker does not have to reach too far.
  • Footwear should fit properly and have anti-slip soles. Consider the following:
    • Does the footwear have enough grip?
    • What type of flooring is in the kitchen?
    • Is the footwear durable?
    • Is there adequate ankle protection?
    • What is the kitchen temperature range?
    • What types of hazards exist and type of footwear selected? For example, what about puncture, burn protection, and crush protection?
    • Evaluate the frequency of when the footwear needs replacement. Over time the soles will deteriorate, and the mid-sole will breakdown and lose the cushioning capabilities.

Contact Stress: 

  • Add padding to sharp edges to reduce stress on the hands. For example, knife handles scissors, carts, bins, and countertops.
  • Workers should avoid leaning against sharp edges or metal surfaces. Bevel or round off sharp edges on tables, ledges, and shelves.

Plate fork and knife ergo


What Not to Serve This Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving a few days away, I thought it would be a good time to bring attention to the focal point of most meals, the scrumptious turkey and stuffing. This is not only a safety reminder for those employers whose business it is to serve Thanksgiving turkey to customers or clients, but also for the average household. In either setting, getting food poisoning makes it tough to be in a celebratory mood and results in less than popular stories told for years to come!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that annually in the U.S. 76 million people get food poisoning and the illness accounts for $1 billion in medical costs and lost work time.

So, skip dishing up food poisoning this holiday by following some basic rules of thumb that include temperature, bacteria control and cooking times.

Cooking Tips

  • Thawing. Avoid food borne bacteria by thawing turkey in refrigerator, cold water or microwave.
  • Preparation. Bacteria from raw turkey can be spread from hands to anything touched afterwards—utensils, work areas, other food. Wash hands after working with raw turkey.
  • Stuffing. Cook stuffing separately from the bird. If you choose to stuff the bird, stuff before cooking and cook stuffing until it reaches 165 degrees. 
  • Cooking. Put completely thawed turkey breast side up in an oven at no less than 325 degrees. Cooking times will vary. Cook until food thermometer reads 165 degrees when placed in breast, thigh or wing joint.


Learn more about cooking turkey: Center for Disease Control: It’s Turkey Time!

In closing, we at MEMIC hope you have a most enjoyable holiday with a savory meal done to perfection.