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Poultry Processing Industry eTool
Plant-Wide Hazards
Receiving and Killing
Cutting and Deboning

Task 3: Deboner

DebonerEmployees remove bones from various poultry parts, including breasts, thighs and legs. The task may be performed with a standard knife on a flat cutting surface or a tilted cutting surface. Legs may be deboned on a specialized conveyor line using a Whizzard knife. Breast meat may be removed directly from the carcass while it is still on the cone line.

Hazards of this task may include:

Ergonomic hazards from use of knives
Hazardous Situation:
Workers use a knife to cut the meat away from the bone. Most knives have a straight, in-line design. Using this type of knife on a horizontal cutting surface forces employees to bend their wrists to perform the cut. Bending the wrist while exerting finger force is stressful to the tendons and muscles of the hand and forearm. Factors such as poorly fitting gloves, slick handles, inappropriately sized handles, frozen meat or dull knives increase the force that must be used. Minimize finger force and bending of the wrist when performing the cutting task.
Possible Solutions:
  • Keep knives sharp and in good condition.
  • Remove damaged knives from service.
  • Use knives appropriate for the task.
  • Provide properly sized gloves.
  • Tilt work surfaces towards employees to reduce wrist deviation.
  • Divide the task into specific units and provide an appropriate cutting tool so the task can be performed with a neutral wrist and body posture.
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Cuts and lacerations
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.
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Hazardous Situation:
Employees repeatedly reach to a conveyor or shelf to obtain parts for deboning and reach to place finished product in tubs or receptacles. Repetitive reaching stresses the shoulder and upper back.
Possible Solutions:
  • Use diverter bars to push product closer to the employee.
  • Reduce width of cutting surfaces so product can be 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.
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Standing for a long time
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.
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