How to Solve The Safety Challenge at Rendering Plants

12/19/2019

Category : Industrial Safety



In 2013,Tyson Foods was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $3.95 million, create a new risk-management program and provide $300,000 for emergency response equipment in communities where it operates.


The penalty was ordered for, “various violations of the regulations,” related to anhydrous ammonia, a gas that's commonly used in refrigeration but can cause burning, choking and even death at high exposure at facilities in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Tyson disputed many of the government's charges but agreed to pay the fine.

Balancing Productivity with Safety

Ever since Upton Sinclair wrote in his 20th Century novel, The Jungle, about the horrors of the Chicago stockyards and meat packing plants, the public’s awareness about rendering worker conditions and social issues has increased steadily. Today however, more than 100 years later, rendering worker safety dangers persist.


Ammonia, as well as hydrogen sulfide, methane, and other hazardous gases are among the dangerous gases found in poultry, pork and beef processing plants. Exposure to these harmful substances is a growing concern in a dangerous industry faced with increasing pressures of global competition.




Operations are challenged with: balancing increased output and operational efficiency with safety-risk to workers and the surrounding community. Wireless gas detection technology is a plausible solution to monitor harmful substances and ultimately protect workers and citizens near such facilities, while avoiding costly fines and liability.


Why Rendering Has Safety Challenges

Beef, pork and poultry from animals are raised on industrial farms.Their growth and development are controlled. Once animals are ready for “harvest,” they enter a butchering or slaughtering operation. From there, the meat is gathered from the animals and goes to a meat packing operation.


However, that which does not become meat – the bi-product of the operation, which includes animal parts, feathers, bones, blood and other biomass is all salvaged and used to produce other products. In fact, nearly 96% of an animal is processed into some marketable product.


For example, poultry is harvested for its meat. From its remains, bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, are all created for use as animal feed. Some blood, feathers, and carcass parts are used for other things such as antibiotics, insulin, fertilizer, alternative fuels, pet food, and other products. This latter operation of using the bi-products from slaughter is referred to as the rendering operation.


The various operations of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), may be co-located on one facility, or may be separated sometimes nearby the initial livestock farm, and other times further away. In addition, some rendering operations may serve other livestock farms other than their own, purchasing the bi-products from others and turning that investment into value-added products.


Rendering Toxic Gas and Safety Risk

Meat and poultry operations have come onto the radar of regulatory bodies such as OSHA and the EPA. Workplace safety and nearby community advocacy has driven this attention. There are various components of poultry, beef and pork operations that pose dangers to both workers and community.


The rendering industry, long known for its at-risk working environment, has had a higher workplace injury record than an average industrial facility.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 5.7 injuries occur for every 100 workers , in the meat and poultry packing and processing industry.The national average for occupational injuries, in general, is about three per every 100 workers.


Contemporary industrial livestock and meat and poultry processing operations face growing global competitive pressure. These operations continually seek innovative and strategic ways to improve their productivity to meet this challenge. Subsequently, an increase in its operational tempo means there are more harmful gases around.


No alt text provided for this image


Such gases are found in enclosed spaces within the plant, in and near manure pits and other containment, along the production line where blood, feathers and bone are being removed and ground into other products, and in the ambient air in and around plant operations and facilities.


For example, poultry is harvested for its meat.From its remains, bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, are all created for use as animal feed. Some blood, feathers, and carcass parts are used for other things such as antibiotics, insulin, fertilizer, alternative fuels, pet food, and other products. This latter operation of using the bi-products from slaughter is referred to as the rendering operation.


The various operations of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), may be co-located on one facility, or may be separated sometimes nearby the initial livestock farm, and other times further away. In addition, some rendering operations may serve other livestock farms other than their own, purchasing the bi-products from others and turning that investment into value-added products.


Harmful Substances and Health Risks

Operations pose health risks from dangerous substances found at various points within different segments of operations. Operational risks are presented at different points in production from farming livestock, to producing finished inventories of meat, bone meal, blood meal and fertilizers.


Manure and urine is funneled from animal areas to pits or lagoons where it is contained. However, gases such as methane and hydrogen sulfide are produced at these pits. These pits and lagoons are open to the environment, and also produce odors to nearby residents – sometimes miles away, Community odor complaints prompt investigations, hearings and legislative proposals to regulate such odors.


Slaughtering operations are cooled with air-conditioning and refrigeration plants, sometimes with ammonia as a refrigerant, which can leak and pose a significant safety risk, injury and downtime to plant workers in rendering operations.


No alt text provided for this image



In October of 2014, 18 workers at a Tyson’s poultry plant in Arkansas were sent to the hospital from exposure to high levels of ammonia. Reports of the incident specifically stated that ammonia levels were not detected inside the plant. After a subsequent investigation, the facility's air conditioning system was thought to be the root cause of the increased ambient ammonia levels inside the facility.


Not all facilities are as fortunate to have workers found ill and hospitalized. In 2009, an ammonia leak at a Lumber Bridge, NC, poultry processing plant killed a worker from exposure. Numerous other workers were hospitalized and the plant was shut down for two days.

The Danger of H2S

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is produced naturally by the decay of organic compounds as well as emissions from waste lagoons. In high concentrations it is lethal and is also combustible.


H2S causes numerous symptoms including eye, nose, and throat irritation and produce a foul odor or smell that can radiate for miles beyond a facility's boundaries. At low concentrations, it can cause dizziness and irritation of eye and respiratory tract. At high concentrations, may result in death within minutes. Hydrogen sulfide may be produced from manure lagoons or from other areas of plant processes where reclaimed animal parts and waste products are reclaimed for further production.


In 2009,Tyson Foods Inc. was ordered by a U.S. District Court in Arkansas to pay $500,000 for "willfully violating worker safety regulations that led to a worker’s death in its River Valley Animal Foods (RVAF) plant in Texarkana, Arkansas.The plant utilized high-pressure steam processors called hydrolyzers to convert the poultry feather into feather meal. Decomposition of poultry feathers produces hydrogen sulfide gas. A maintenance employee who worked near the hydrolyzers - which required frequent adjustment and replacement, was killed and two others were treated from exposure to this gas.


 No alt text provided for this image


In another incident in February of 2012, an employee of a Smithfield hog processing plant in Clinton, NC, died while draining wastewater sludge into a tanker truck.The cause of his death was suffocation from hydrogen sulfide fumes.


In addition to hydrogen sulfide, methane gas is also known to be present in meatpacking and rendering operations and has been known to cause significant injury.


Methane is more likely to be found at the top of un-ventilated areas such as closed manure pits, rather than open-air lagoons. In addition to lagoons, it may be found in tanks and vessels that are part of process operations. Victims of this gas may be unaware of exposure because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.The National Defense Resource Council cites  EPA estimates that 13 percent of the total U.S. methane emissions are from livestock manure. Emissions from methane, the Agency said, are on the rise in hog and dairy operations - particularly where the lagoon waste is reclaimed as liquid manure.

Industry Solution:Wireless Gas Detection

A viable solution to the problem of hazardous substances and their risk of exposure, is a wireless gas detection and monitoring configuration.


That’s precisely the viewpoint of the Director of Rendering Operations at a Delaware-based rendering facility.From his perspective, wireless gas detection and monitoring provides a seamless and expedited solution.


Hardwired installations can be disruptive, labor intensive and difficult to change once installed. With wireless gas detection, implementation time is quick with minimal labor. Elimination of the hardwired connection from sensing points means less cost time, and lost productivity.


The sensing points in a wireless system are flexible; they can be moved and changed depending on where high-risk focal points of gas exposure occur.


This allows more control of where and how gas monitors are focused – specifically on the source and presence of harmful gases. A hardwired configuration would not offer as much flexibility, or the option of moving sensor heads to where problem-substances are suspected. 


Data can be aggregated and monitored from a remote location with any Internet connection. Advanced enterprise-wide wireless gas detection solutions can track, archive monitor and exposure data. Organizations can analyze such data to develop appropriate response and communication plans and mitigates future risk.Remote monitoring can provide operations with a competitive advantage: Consistent safety tracking and measurement – that can lead to increased worker/plant productivity and increased revenue.


Wireless gas detection and monitoring should be a key ingredient in operation of today's meat and poultry operations – from its livestock and poultry farms to waste facilities and rendering operations. Most importantly, wireless technology combined with the Internet of Things, is both a solution to the problem of balancing safety with productivity, it can also be a strategic advantage for operations.

Embracing Wireless Gas Detection in the Poultry and Meat Industry

Wireless gas-monitoring technology has a longstanding reputation to mitigate safety risk in many different industries. Wireless gas detection can be used plant-wide, is proven to increase real-time safety, and is ideal for poultry, pork and beef industry operations.


Workers and the community are at the bedrock of an industrial facility; wireless gas detection and monitoring preserves trust and mitigates risk for stakeholders. Wireless monitoring pays huge dividends and prevents risks all along the process chain in today's competitive and advanced global meat and poultry operations.





No one has commented yet.
Comments are closed for this entry.