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Knifes at work, DID You DO a proper safety RISK ASSESSMENT on why you need a Policy?

Many workplaces use knives and blades on a regular basis. These hazards present risks of cuts and other injuries.

If you use knives within your operations, the following guide will assist you in complying with your legal duty to carry out a risk assessment and, where possible, eliminate risk.  Lacerations from tools, knives or any sharp object can occur in any industry. Lacerations may not result in a severe injury, however, if tendons or nerves are severed the trauma is far greater and the healing process becomes a lot more difficult.

Each assessment should be prioritized to deal with the biggest threats to safety first. Now, using this information, your own knowledge and that of your staff, it will be possible to decide on the safest knife for your applications and to introduce a safe system of work. In this respect, some suggestions are provided.

Next, you should insert your knife policy into your Health and Safety Policy. Again, we have suggested some suitable wording that can be used. Then, having formulated the procedure, you must now provide your staff with the relevant information and training.

Involve staff in the decision making process. Explain to them the law and the need to protect them and why you want their input and assistance in both forming and introducing a knife policy. Without the support and co-operation of staff, you will find it difficult to comply with the Law. Listen to what staff have to say (both negative and positive). Being part of the team will result in less resistance to change as it will be their decision making that has helped influence the policy. This policy could include some or all of the following:

● The banning of open bladed knives of all description.

● Not allowing staff to make or bring in their own equipment.

● Issue safer knives and let staff know that these are the only knives to be used.

● Who has responsibilities under the policy and what they are.

● The training they will receive and the safe system of work they must follow

● Where to obtain knives and replacement blades

● Who to report problems with the knives or policy to

● Who is responsible for training

Remember IT IS important.

IT IS stands for Information, Training, Instruction and Supervision. Information for all knife users – the dangers from open blades etc. and the steps taken to control the risk. Allow input from staff members about their experiences. Training for all new staff and refresher training as required to ensure staff don’t fall into bad habits and to include information again. Keep a log of training records. Instruction on the Safe System of Work and how it applies to the staff and to others their work or actions may effect. Include staff input again to ensure that the system works in practice as well as on paper. Supervision to ensure all staff follow the Safe Systems of Work and the training they have been given. This is also a useful way to highlight further training requirements.

You may need to use a knife or blade in:

·        kitchen work

·        opening packaging

·        meat processing

·        rural environments.


Current Risk Control Measures List anything that was seen to be done at the time of the assessment to counter the risks involved. This may include current systems of work or even the way staff operate to try and avoid injury. On the other hand there may currently be no system and nothing that is seen to be done. Injuries to your hands, fingers or legs may occur when they’re in the way of the blade, when the blade slips, or if an open blade is handled unexpectedly.

Reducing risk can be achieved in several different ways including changing the way a job is done, using a less dangerous knife, isolating the task or changing the time a task is carried etc. As a last resort, personal protective equipment (P.P.E.) should be considered. Reducing risk in a lot of instances does not have to cost a lot of money however, failure to eliminate or reduce risk, can cost you a lot more in the long run. The elimination of lacerations starts with employee training and best practices. Train all new staff on proper knife use, storage, and cleaning procedures. For instance, don’t leave sharp knives in a drawer, cut away from yourself when using a knife, and never try to catch a dropped knife. Sharper knives are easier and safer to use, so make sure you have a program in place to keep well maintained tools in the kitchen or other work-space. Lastly, monitor the workplace for consistent use of these best practices and take corrective action immediately.

There are a multitude of options for personal protection and innovative tools that can help reduce injury frequency. First, let’s take a look at cut resistant gloves. These gloves come in different styles and are rated for their cut resistance. There are two testing methodologies for rating cut resistance and both have recently updated their testing protocols and better defined the ratings. This will give employers a better understanding of what glove is the best choice for their workplace.

Workers who handle sharp edged objects (for example, sheets of steel or glass in the manufacturing industry) are also at risk of cuts.

The knife assessment should be as thorough as possible. It is an ongoing exercise and should be looked at regularly by those responsible to make sure that any new hazards that may have arisen have been assessed and current ones have not either increased or decreased in severity. In order to help achieve this, a no blame form of reporting accidents could be adopted. Employees are the ones at greatest risk and situations can be avoided or overcome if staff are able to report incidents without fear of being reprimanded. When carrying out a knife assessment remember the following: • What is being cut • What type of knife is being used • What do staff say • What advice or help can a Manufacturer offer me • Can I obtain a sample to test in my own environment • How can I implement a safer system of work • What training will staff require.

SAFE SYSTEM OF WORK A safe system of work would be written instructions to the employee on how to carry out a task and could include some or all of the following: • Only use the safety knife provided. • Follow the training given. • Inspect the safety knife each day before work begins for signs of damage or wear. Check the knife frequently throughout the day and ensure the blade remains sharp. • Report any damage to the person responsible and seek a replacement. • Inspect the object or packaging to be cut and ensure that it is stable and on an even surface. If the product needs to be moved you should follow the training you have been given and use lifting aids where appropriate. Examples of how to minimize risk:

·        Outsource food preparation, so that you buy in food that is already chopped or sliced etc.

·        Make sure all machines have guards attached and workers always use them when operating the equipment.

·        Redesign machines so they cannot be operated without guards in place.

·        Ensure “off” buttons/switches are readily accessible.

·        Attach a last slice device or pusher to prevent injury at the cutting section.

·        Ensure that equipment is securely fixed to the bench.

·        Avoid using knives where possible.

·        Use bull nose knives rather than pointed-end knives where possible.

·        Provide a magnetic strip for knife storage.

·        Ensure butchers’ steels for knife sharpening have hand guards.

·        Provide guarding on slicing machines, e.g. a thumb guard to cover the blade at the far end of each cut.

·        Provide knives with waterproof handles that can be sterilized.

·        Provide knives made of stainless steel or carbon.

·        Provide knives with handles that are comfortable to use.

·        Train all workers in the safe use of knives, cover topics such as:

o   keep knives well maintained and sharp

o   do not leave knives in washing up water (wash them up and return them to storage area straight after use)

o   always use a stable surface such as a cutting board and cut away from the body

o   store knives safely in a rack or knife block with blades pointing towards the back

o   never try to catch a falling knife

o   allow plenty of room so there is no chance of being bumped

o   carry knives with the blade pointing downwards

o   don’t leave knives on benches or worktops.

·        Train workers in the safe use of machinery, including what equipment is to be used for specific tasks.

·        Train workers in how to sharpen knives correctly or outsource this service.

·        Provide the correct knife for the task and food being cut.

·        Regularly inspect and have your equipment serviced to make sure it has not been damaged (this may also improve productivity by reducing downtime of equipment). Repair faulty equipment as soon as possible.

·        Ensure interlock guards are fitted to the front edge of all compactor units.

·        Under-counter compactors should have a safety switch that prevents operation until a bin or trolley is in place.

·        Guards or restrictor plates should be fitted to equipment where appropriate.

·        Make sure pressure vessels are fitted with low level cut-off devices.

·        Make sure equipment is fitted with safety valves, water level and pressure gauges where required.

·        Provide accessible first aid equipment and trained first aid officers.

·        Follow manufacturers’ instructions for cleaning equipment – arrange for rep to demonstrate.

·        Provide appropriate safety instructions and signs for equipment.

·        Develop safe systems of work and train workers about them (e.g. a ‘no jewelry’ policy).

·        Provide mesh gloves and make sure workers use them when working with knives. Be careful when using these with serrated blades.

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