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Poultry Processing Industry eTool

Cutting & Deboning Cutting

Removing the legs and wings from the bird is usually the beginning stage for both the packaged bone-in and bone-out product. The eviscerated birds are generally impaled on "cones" that continually pass in front of employees. Wings and the leg/thigh are cut away from the main carcass. The breast may also be cut away while on the cone. Wings and leg/thigh are sometimes removed while birds hang on a shackle conveyor similar to that used for evisceration.

This operation includes the following tasks:

 

Task 1: Line Loader

Line Loader

Birds are often transported from the evisceration line to the cone conveyor or line in a tub. Line loaders grasp 2-3 birds in each hand and lift them from the tub and place them on a conveyor or staging shelf, which is generally at waist- to shoulder-height. Other personnel usually place the birds on the cone or shackle.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Repeatedly bending forward and reaching out away from the body stresses the back even if there is little being lifted because the upper body must be supported. When loads are being lifted, bending over at the waist increases the distance the load is held away from the body and increases the stress placed on the back.

Possible Solutions:

  • Automate the movement from the evisceration line to the cone line using conveyors or augers.
  • Use a tilter dumper to elevate and tilt so the contents are continually moved forward toward the employee and are maintained at about waist height at all times.
  • Use a tub dumper at the workstation to empty contents on the conveyor.

Hazardous Situation:

Employees lift multiple birds at one time, usually by the legs. Lifting 2-3 birds in each hand is not uncommon. Birds are cold and slick, and employees usually wear rubber gloves that are also slick and may not fit well. All these factors increase the finger force that must be exerted. Exerting significant finger force can stretch and fray the tendons of the hand and can create a contact trauma to the tendon and sheath where they come in contact with bone or tendon. These types of actions increase the risk of tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Possible Solutions:

  • Automate the movement from the evisceration line to the cone line using conveyors or augers.
  • Use a tilter dumper to elevate and tilt so the contents are continually moved forward toward the employee and are maintained at about waist height at all times.
  • Use a tub dumper at the workstation to empty contents on the conveyor.

Task 2: Tail Cutter

Tail Cutter

The tail is cut from the bird before the bird is placed on the cone. A standard scissors is generally used to perform the operation.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Using traditional scissors forces the fingers to repeatedly open and close the blade, which can stress tendons, increasing the risk of tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel. Contact trauma to sides of fingers can damage nerves, which can cause numbness and tingling in the tips of the fingers and thumb.

Possible Solutions:

  • Provide pneumatic scissors for cutting off tail; these scissors can be activated by employees with little finger force and with the wrist in a neutral posture.
  • Provide spring activated scissors for cutting off tail; these scissors open automatically after each cutting motion.
  • Rotate to tasks that do not require using scissors.

Hazardous Situation:

Standing for a long time reduces blood flow to the legs, forces isolated muscles to work for an extended time, and increases risk of fatigue and varicose veins.

Possible Solutions:

  • Install sit/stand stools, which allow employees to lean and have their weight supported while still remaining in an upright posture.
  • Rotate employees to tasks that do not require prolonged standing.
  • Provide shoe insoles that cushion the feet and spread foot pressure over a larger surface.
  • Provide a foot rest in front of employees so they can lift one foot, allowing them to continually shift their posture.

Task 3: Saw Operator

Saw Operator

Employees may use a saw with a manual feed to cut leg/thigh or wings away from the main carcass, or may load a machine that automatically performs cuts. Manual feed saws can be used to remove legs from the back, divide the legs, cut wings away from the breast, and to split the breast in two. After being loaded, automated machines perform the same cuts as described above.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Employee reaches repeatedly to conveyor or shelf to obtain birds for processing. Reaches are also necessary to place birds into the automatic saw feed mechanism and perform manual cuts. Repetitive reaching stresses the shoulder and upper back.

Possible Solutions:

  • If the feed conveyor is between the saw and the employee, reduce the width of feed conveyors to reduce reaching to the machine.
  • Use diverter bars to push the product closer to the employee.
  • Reduce width of supply conveyor so the product is presented closer to the employee.
  • Position saws and other work fixtures so all activities of the task can be performed with the elbows in close to the torso.

Hazardous Situation:

The nature of this task involves employees working with unguarded saws. Cuts, lacerations, and amputations are possible.

Possible Solutions:

  • Wear cut-proof mesh gloves on both hands.
  • Keep hands to the side of the blade during feeding of the product.
  • Guard all portions of the blade except for an opening large enough to feed the product.

Hazardous Situation:

Standing for a long time reduces blood flow to the legs and forces isolated muscles to work for extended periods of time. This increases the risk of fatigue and varicose veins.

Possible Solutions:

  • Install sit/stand stools, which allow employees to lean and have their weight supported while still remaining in an upright posture.
  • Rotate employees to tasks that do not require prolonged standing.
  • Provide shoe insoles that cushion the feet and spread foot pressure over a larger surface.
  • Provide a foot rest in front of employees so they can shift their posture.

Task 4: Rehang

Poultry Workers

Rehang is generally not necessary since most cutting is performed on a cone line. If the cutting is to be performed from a shackle conveyor, the bird must be rehung. Some automated cutters, such as a "Multi-cut" machine, must be loaded, and thus is technically a rehang type of activity.

The bird must be lifted from the table or conveyor and the legs placed into a shackle or other device moving in front of the employee. This is a highly repetitive reaching task.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Employees may bend to lift chickens from the supply conveyor and then reach out and away, sometimes above shoulder height, to place them on multi-cut machines or shackle conveyors. Injuries to the shoulder, back, and neck are common due to awkward postures and high repetition. Employees at the beginning of the line often work faster than those near the end of the line because there is always a full supply of birds and all positions are open.

Possible Solutions:

  • Minimize forward reaches by moving the shackle conveyor towards employee.
  • Minimize vertical distance between the shackles and the belt conveyor to minimize bending and elevated reaches.
  • Rotate employees up and down hanging line.
  • Install height-adjustable stands so employees can properly position themselves.

Hazardous Situation:

Standing for a long time reduces blood flow to the legs, forces isolated muscles to work for an extended time, and increases risk of fatigue and varicose veins.

Possible Solutions:

  • Install sit/stand stools, which allow employees to lean and have their weight supported while still remaining in an upright posture.
  • Rotate employees to tasks that do not require prolonged standing.
  • Provide shoe insoles that cushion the feet and spread foot pressure over a larger surface.
  • Provide a foot rest in front of employees so they can shift their posture.

Task 5: Cone Line Feeder

Cone Line Feeder

Most plants use a cone line as the main staging area for removing appendages and meat from the body of the bird. The feeder places the eviscerated carcass onto the cone, which is integrated into a conveyor line. This line moves the bird past employees who remove parts from the carcass.

In some plants parts are removed from birds hanging from a shackle conveyor or the process may be automated using multi-cut machinery. In these cases the cone line feeder is replaced by a rehang worker.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Employees repeatedly reach to a conveyor or shelf to obtain birds for processing and reach to place birds on the cone. Repetitive reaching stresses the shoulder and upper back.

Possible Solutions:

  • Use diverter bars to push the product closer to the employee.
  • Reduce width of supply conveyor so the product is presented closer to the employee.
  • Position cones and other work fixtures so all activities of the task can be performed with the elbows in close to the torso.
  • Provide height-adjustable stands, where appropriate, to place employee in proper orientation to the work surface.

Hazardous Situation:

Standing for a long time reduces blood flow to the legs, forces isolated muscles to work for an extended time, and increases risk of fatigue and varicose veins.

Possible Solutions:

  • Install sit/stand stools, which allow employees to lean and have their weight supported while still remaining in an upright posture.
  • Rotate employees to tasks that do not require prolonged standing.
  • Provide shoe insoles that cushion the feet and spread foot pressure over a larger surface.
  • Provide a foot rest in front of employees so they can shift their posture.

Task 6: Wing Cutter

Wing Cutter

Wing cutters use knives to cut the wings from the bird. This may be a multi-step process where several workers along the line each perform one of the necessary cuts, or all cuts can be done by a single operator.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Workers use a knife to cut the wings away from the rest of the carcass. The cutting motion may entail some bending of the wrist. Factors such as poorly fitting gloves, slick handles, inappropriately sized handles, or dull knives increase the force that must be used. Finger force and bending of the wrist are recognized risk factors for the development of many hand injuries. Minimize these factors when performing cutting tasks.

Possible Solutions:

  • Keep knives sharp and in good condition.
  • Remove damaged knives from service.
  • Use knives appropriate for the task.
  • Keep the wrist as straight as possible during the cutting task.
  • Provide properly sized gloves.

Hazardous Situation:

Employees are performing highly repetitive tasks using knives close to other employees. Cuts and lacerations are possible to the employee and those standing nearby because employees are exposed to sharp knife blades. Any cut not treated at once will normally become infected as a result of working with poultry.

Possible Solutions:

  • Allow sufficient room for each employee on the line.
  • Use mesh glove on non-cutting hand.
  • Maintain sharp blades.

Hazardous Situation:

Employees repeatedly reach to the bird on the cone to perform cutting tasks and may need to reach to a bin or a tub to deposit removed item. Repetitive reaching stresses the shoulder and upper back.

Possible Solutions:

  • Position cones and other work fixtures so all activities of the task can be performed in front of the employee with the elbows in close to the torso.
  • Provide height-adjustable stands so employees are in proper orientation to their work area.

Hazardous Situation:

Standing for a long time reduces blood flow to the legs, forces isolated muscles to work for an extended time, and increases risk of fatigue and varicose veins.

Possible Solutions:

  • Install sit/stand stools, which allow employees to lean and have their weight supported while still remaining in an upright posture.
  • Rotate to tasks that do not require prolonged standing.
  • Provide shoe insoles that cushion the feet and spread foot pressure over a larger surface.
  • Provide a foot rest in front of employees so they can shift their posture.

Task 7: Leg/Thigh Cutter

Cutting

Cutters use knives to cut the legs/thigh unit from the bird. This may be a multi-step process where several workers along the line each perform one of the necessary cuts, or all cuts can be done by a single operator.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Workers use a knife to cut the wings away from the rest of the carcass. The cutting motion may entail some bending of the wrist. Factors such as poorly fitting gloves, slick handles, inappropriately sized handles, or dull knives increase the force that must be used. Finger force and bending of the wrist are recognized risk factors for the development of many hand injuries. Minimize these factors when performing cutting tasks.

Possible Solutions:

  • Keep knives sharp and in good condition.
  • Remove damaged knives from service.
  • Use knives appropriate for the task.
  • Keep wrist as straight as possible during the cutting task.
  • Provide properly sized gloves.

Hazardous Situation:

Employees are performing highly repetitive tasks using knives close to other employees. Cuts and lacerations are possible to the employee and those standing nearby because employees are exposed to sharp knife blades. Any cut not treated at once will normally become infected as a result of working with poultry.

Possible Solutions:

  • Allow sufficient room for each employee on the line.
  • Use mesh glove on non-cutting hand.
  • Maintain sharp blades.

Hazardous Situation:

Employees repeatedly reach to the bird on the cone to perform cutting tasks and may need to reach to a bin or a tub to deposit removed item. Repetitive reaching stresses the shoulder and upper back.

Possible Solutions:

  • Position cones and other work fixtures so all activities of the task can be performed in front of the employee with the elbows in close to the torso.
  • Provide height-adjustable stands so employees are in proper orientation to their work area.

Task 8: Back/Breast Separator

Poultry Worker

Employees may use a saw with a manual feed to separate the breast section from the back. This manual feed technique can be used to remove legs from the back, divide the legs, cut wings away from the breast, and to split the breast in two. After being loaded, automated multi-cut machines perform the same cuts as described above.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Employee repeatedly reaches to conveyor or shelf to obtain birds for processing. Repetitive reaching stresses the shoulder and upper back.

Possible Solutions:

  • If the feed conveyor is between the saw and the employee, reduce the width of feed conveyors to reduce reaching to machine.
  • Use diverter bars to push the product closer to the employee.
  • Reduce width of the supply conveyor so the product is presented closer to the employee.
  • Position saws and other work fixtures so all activities of the task can be performed with the elbows in close to the torso.

Hazardous Situation:

The nature of this task involves employee working with an unguarded saw. Cuts, lacerations, and amputations are possible.

Possible Solutions:

  • Wear cut-proof mesh gloves on both hands.
  • Keep hands to the side of the blade during feeding of product.
  • Guard all portions of the blade except for an opening large enough to feed product.

Hazardous Situation:

Standing for a long time reduces blood flow to the legs, forces isolated muscles to work for an extended time, and increases risk of fatigue and varicose veins.

Possible Solutions:

  • Install sit/stand stools, which allow employees to lean and have their weight supported while still remaining in an upright posture.
  • Rotate employees to tasks that do not require prolonged standing.
  • Provide shoe insoles that cushion the feet and spread foot pressure over a larger surface.
  • Provide a foot rest in front of employees so they can shift their posture.

Task 9: Trimmer/Clean-up

Trimming

Employee obtains separated pieces of poultry from conveyor and uses scissors to trim excess skin, fat, and pieces of bone.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Use of traditional scissors forces the fingers to repeatedly open and close the blade, which can stress tendons, increasing the risk of tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel. Contact trauma to sides of fingers can damage nerves, which can cause numbness and tingling in the tips of the fingers and thumb.

Possible Solutions:

  • Provide pneumatic scissors; these scissors can be activated by employees with little finger force and with the wrist in a neutral posture.
  • Provide spring activated scissors; these scissors open automatically after each cutting motion. 
  • Rotate workers to those tasks that do not require scissor use.

Hazardous Situation:

Standing for a long time reduces blood flow to the legs and forces isolated muscles to work for extended periods of time increases risk of fatigue and varicose veins.

Possible Solutions:

  • Install sit/stand stools, which allow employees to lean and have their weight supported while still remaining in an upright posture.
  • Rotate employees to tasks that do not require prolonged standing.
  • Provide shoe insoles that cushion the feet and spread foot pressure over a larger surface.
  • Provide a foot rest in front of employees so they can shift their posture.

Hazardous Situation:

Employees repeatedly reach to conveyor or shelf to obtain parts to be trimmed and reach to place finished parts in tubs or baskets. Repetitive reaching stresses the shoulder and upper back.

Possible Solutions:

  • Use diverter bars to push the product closer to the employee.
  • Reduce width of supply conveyor so the product is presented closer to the employee.
  • Position product and work fixtures so all activities of the task can be performed with the elbows in close to the torso.
  • Tilt work surface so product slides to the employee.

Support Task: Knife Person

Trimming

A knife person collects dull knives from employees along the processing lines and replaces them with sharp ones. This employee may also sharpen knives that have been collected.

Hazards of this task may include:

Hazardous Situation:

Workers walk all over the facility on wet floors that may have bird skin, bird parts, and ice on them, creating a slipping hazard. Metal drain covers on the floor are also very slippery and pose a hazard. A falling worker may contact dangerous equipment, or cut him/herself on a knife blade.

Possible Solutions:

  • Cover drains with non-slip grating.
  • Provide workers with non-slip footwear and require its use.
  • Paint floors with slip-resistant paint or install non-slip floor tile.
  • Provide guardrails at workstations adjacent to dangerous equipment to prevent injury.
  • Carry knives in sheaths or closed containers.

Hazardous Situation:

Employees may suffer cuts, lacerations, skin abrasion, contusions, or eye damage during use of grinders to sharpen knives. Grinding wheels may break up or explode. Bits and pieces of knife blades may be thrown off during sharpening.

Possible Solutions:

  • Use safety goggles or other protective eyewear.
  • Use only grinding wheels with rpm rating matching the spindle speed of the grinder.
  • Use ring test procedure to check for non-visible damage to the grinding wheel.
  • Follow manufacturer's recommendations for guarding and use of the grinding wheel.
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