Knives in the meat and food industries - Safe use and maintenance by lindayy


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									Knives in the meat and food industries - Safe use and maintenance                                      Page 1 of 5

   Knives in the meat and food industries - Safe
               use and maintenance

 This guidance note provides tips for workers and employers in the meat and food industries on choosing a
 knife, keeping it sharp and using it safety.

 The problem
 Many knife cut and muscle strain injuries occur in the meat and food industries. Injuries include:

     l   cuts to the non-knife hand or arm (most common).

     l   cuts to the hand holding the knife which occur when the hand slips off the handle.

     l   cuts which occur with a reverse grip and pulling back towards the body.

     l   cuts to another person, inadvertently, where people are too close together when working.

     l   sprains or strains (e.g. from the extra effort required to use knives that are not sufficiently sharp).

 Cuts and sprains and strain injuries can be reduced by using a well-designed and sharp knife.

 Choosing a knife
 Well-designed knives have features that assist in safer cutting with less force.
 To stop the hand slipping down the knife, look for

     l   an easy to clean non-slip handle; e.g. glass filled nylon, textured plastic, a finger loop in handle.

     l   a hilt guard. There are several types; e.g. samurai or sabre style, a + or T shaped guard.

 To enable a cut to be made with less exertion, look for

     l   grooves in the blade. Grooves break the vacuum during the cut and reduce the force needed for
         the cut.

     l   a hard steel alloy blade. These blades keep a sharp edge for longer and require the use of a knife
         sharpening machine.

     l   a strong, thin, flexible blade. This reduces the reaction force in the wrist due to blade bending while
         cutting.                      31/01/2006
Knives in the meat and food industries - Safe use and maintenance                                    Page 2 of 5

 To ease hand or wrist strain, look for a handle that

     l   has been shaped to reduce excessive bending of the wrist.

     l   is the right size for the hand. The handle needs to be large enough in diameter to reduce the
         tendency for an excessively tight grip, but not overly large for an inadequate grip.

     l   is suitable for left or right handed use.

 Machine knife sharpening
 Many experienced people think they have a sharp knife but are surprised when they learn that their knife
 is blunt. Manual knife sharpening is a difficult skill to learn. Even with intensive training many people never
 get the knack. Workplaces that have trialled knife sharpening machines find that workers swear by them
 as they always have the benefits of a consistently sharp knife.

 The sharpest blades are obtained by using a self-positioning, powered machine with manual, jig-assisted
 methods to condition the cutting-edge between sharpenings. Hard alloy steel blades (e.g. high carbon
 stainless types) appear to be very suitable for use with this type of system; they are harder to sharpen but
 once sharpened retain the edge for much longer.

 Sharpening machines must be designed to stop knife movement or slippage other than for sharpening and
 honing; e.g. by the use of clamps, etc.

 Other tips for knife sharpening:

     l   Follow the sharpener manufacturer's and the knife manufacturer's instructions.

     l   Use the recommended lubricant as dry abrasion at speed can soften the steel. Liquid-cooled
         abrasion helps reduce the risk of overheating. Knife sharpening equipment and lubricants should be
         readily accessible to workers; e.g. by locating this equipment close to work stations.

     l   Rough abrasion when sharpening results in scoring on the blade. This reduces blade smoothness
         and increases the force needed to push/pull the knife through the material being cut.

 Hand sharpening of knives
 When hand sharpening, a honing steel should be fitted with a guard to stop the hand holding the steel
 from being cut. Workplaces using older style manual or semi manual arrangements should ensure
 competency of persons teaching others to sharpen knives, a high level of training with ongoing feedback
 and refresher training for trainees. Manual handling risk assessments should take adequate account of the
 impact of knife sharpening activities on the risk of sprains and strains.

 Basic knife safety
 Wherever possible, it is best to reduce the risk of injury through a change in the cutting process. For
 example, a well-designed mechanical knife, such as a mechanised hock cutter, can be used on some
 tasks. A change in job design, such as reducing the frequency and duration of the cutting task by job
 rotation, will also assist in reducing the risk of injury.

 Employees should only work with knives after they have been thoroughly trained. In particular, employees
 should be given instruction on:

     l   selecting the knife most suitable for the job.

     l   keeping the knives in good condition, the handle clean and the blade sharp. Never use a blunt                    31/01/2006
Knives in the meat and food industries - Safe use and maintenance                                     Page 3 of 5


     l   holding the knife correctly. To avoid slips the grip should be firm but not excessively tight.

     l   correct cutting methods.

     l   techniques of cutting towards the body where this type of cut is unavoidable; e.g. some boning

     l   putting the knife away, e.g. in a sheath, whenever it is not in use. Never leave knives lying about
         on tables etc where they may be covered by other objects.

     l   using a knife near other workers. Never walk around with an unsheathed knife or carry it knife-
         point up.

     l   what to do if you drop a knife. Never try to catch a falling knife.

     l   safe disposal of knives that have a narrow blade due to excessive resharpening. These narrow
         blades can snap during use, creating a dangerous projectile.

 Knives with a dull or blunt edge contribute to the risk of cuts and sprains and strains, especially where the
 work calls for many cuts to be made each day. Time should be allocated to resharpen the knife regularly
 to ensure that a sharp edge is maintained.

 More safety tips when working with knives

     l   Maintain enough room between people so that the person using a knife won't be bumped or
         inadvertently slip and cut someone else.

     l   Cutting surfaces (e.g. tables, boards) should be maintained in clean and smooth condition.

     l   A protective glove and arm guard should be worn on the non-knife hand.

     l   Wherever practicable, cut away from the body. Protective aprons should be worn during work
         where it is necessary to pull the knife with the point towards the body, such as in boning cuts.

     l   Hand hooks should be provided as a gripping aid. These hooks can also be used to assist in moving
         cuts of meat from one operation to the next. A knife should not be used to transfer meat by
         piercing and levering.

     l   Cutting should be done at waist height using a purpose built surface.

     l   Keep work surfaces and floors clean and tidy to avoid a slip or trip.

     l   Appropriate "non-slip" safety foot wear should be worn.

     l   Lighting needs to be adequate to ensure good visibility. Low lighting, working in shadows or the
         glare or bright reflections of badly positioned lights can create work hazards.

 Legal requirements
 Employers have responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to ensure that an
 environment is provided that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.

 The Occupational Health and Safety (Plant) Regulations 1995 require that hazards associated with the use
 of plant and equipment be identified and actions taken to control risks. The legislation also places duties                     31/01/2006
Knives in the meat and food industries - Safe use and maintenance                                  Page 4 of 5

 on manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant and requires that information be provided.

 Where there is a risk of musculoskeletal (sprain or strain) injury, the Occupational Health and Safety
 (Manual Handling) Regulations 1999 require that actions be taken to eliminate risks, or if elimination is not
 reasonably practicable, to reduce risks to health and safety so far as is reasonable practicable.

 Further information
 Acts & Regulations

     l   Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004

     l   Occupational Health and Safety (Plant) Regulations 1995

     l   Occupational Health and Safety (Manual Handling) Regulations 1999

 Acts and regulations are available from Information Victoria on 1300 366 356 or order online at

 If you only want to view the legislation you can use the Parliament of Victoria web site; go to, click on "Victorian Law Today" and scroll down to the "Search" window.

 The following references may be helpful in meeting legal responsibilities:
 Australian Standards

     l   AS 2336 – 1982: Meat industry hand held knives

     l   AS 2161 – 1998: Occupational Protective Gloves – Part 7.1: Protection against cuts and stabs by
         hand held knives – Chain-mail gloves and arm guards

     l   AS 2210 – 1994: Occupational protective footwear – Part 1: Guide to selection, care and use.

 Copies of standards can be obtained by contacting Standards Australia on 1300 654 646, or by visiting the
 web site at

 WorkSafe Victoria

     l   Code of Practice for Plant – July 1995

     l   Code of Practice for Manual Handling – April 2000

 Copies of publications can be obtained by contacting WorkSafe Victoria on 03 9641 1555, or your local
 WorkSafe Victoria office.

 Other useful health and safety information is available on WorkSafe Victoria's web site; go to and click on the WorkSafe Victoria logo.

 Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) / Meat and Allied Trades Federation of

     l   National Guidelines for Health and Safety in the Meat Industry

 Copies of the National Guidelines can be obtained by contacting the AMIEU on 03 9662 3766.                  31/01/2006
Knives in the meat and food industries - Safe use and maintenance                                                                   Page 5 of 5

 Suppliers of knives and knife sharpening equipment are listed in phone directories under Cutlery. Many
 overseas manufacturers have web sites.

 Special Note on Codes of Practice: Codes of Practice made under the Occupational Health and Safety
 Act 1985 provide practical guidance to people who have duties or obligations under Victoria's OHS laws.
 The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 allows the Minister for Workcover to make Compliance
 Codes which will provide greater certainty about what constitutes compliance with the OHS laws.

 Codes of Practice will continue to be a practical guide for those who have OHS duties and WorkSafe will
 continue to regard those who comply with the topics covered in the Codes of Practice as complying with
 OHS laws. WorkSafe will progressively review all Codes of Practice and replace them with guidance
 material and in appropriate cases, with Compliance Codes.

 Note: This guidance material has been prepared using the best information available to WorkSafe Victoria. Any information about legislative
 obligations or responsibilities included in this material is only applicable to the circumstances described in the material. You should always
 check the legislation referred to in this material and make your own judgement about what action you may need to take to ensure you have
 complied with the law. Accordingly, the Victorian WorkCover Authority extends no warranties as to the suitability of the information for your
 specific circumstances.

 Division Author:                              Manufacturing & Agriculture
 Current Version:
 Publication Date (This                        06/06/2005
 Date First Published:                         16/04/2003
 Industry:                                     Manufacturing
 Category:                                     Food Processing, Meat & Meat Product Processing                                                   31/01/2006

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