If it’s good for food safety, does it translate to worker safety?

The US Senate passed today the Food Safety Modernization Act on a by a 73 to 25 vote. More than a dozen Republican Senators broke ranks with their leadership and voted in favor of the bill: Alexander (TN), Brown (MA), Burr (NC), Collins (ME), Enzi (WY), Grassley (IA), Gregg (NH), Johanns (NE), Kirk (IL), LeMieux (FL), Lugar (IN), Murkowski (AK), Snowe (ME), Vitter (LA), and Voinovich (OH). Supporters of the bill are calling it a milestone that will provide better protection for consumers from foodborne illness (here, here, here.)

Section 103 of the food safety bill (S.510), will require food manufacturers to identify food safety hazards and fix them. The legislative text sounds similar to part of what OSHA chief David Michaels has been describing as an injury and illness prevention program (I2P2). Michaels says he wants employers to adopt a program that

“involves planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving processes and activities that protect worker safety and health.”

An astute reader of The Pump Handle suggested that with just a little tweaking, the Senate bill could be adapted to fit the OSHA chief’s vision. See what you think:

Section 103: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall evaluate the hazards that could affect food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by such facility worker safety, identify and implement preventive controls to significantly minimize or prevent the occurrence of such hazards and provide assurances that such food is workers are not adulterated under section or misbranded under section 403(w), monitor the performance of those controls, and maintain records of this monitoring as a matter of routine practice. [Note: the phrase "not adulterated could be changed to "not suffer material impairment of health" to be consistent with the OSH Act.]

(b) Hazard Analysis: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall– ”(1) identify and evaluate known or reasonably foreseeable hazards that may be associated with the facility, including–’(A) biological, chemical, physical, and radiological hazards, natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens, and unapproved food and color additives; and ”(B) hazards that occur naturally, may be unintentionally introduced, or may be intentionally introduced, including by acts of terrorism; and (2) develop a written analysis of the hazards.

(c) Prevention Control: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall identify and implement preventive controls, including at critical control points, if any, to provide assurances that–(1) hazards identified in the hazard analysis conducted under subsection (b) will be significantly minimized or prevented; and (2) the food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by such facility workers will not be adulterated under section 402 or misbranded under section 403(w).

(d) Monitoring of Effectiveness: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall monitor the effectiveness of the preventive controls implemented under subsection (c) to provide assurances that the outcomes described in subsection (c) shall be achieved.

(e) Corrective Action: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall establish procedures that a facility will implement if the preventive controls implemented under subsection (c) are found to be ineffective through monitoring under subsection (d).

(f) Verification: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall verify that–

(1) the preventive controls implemented under subsection (c) are adequate to control the hazards identified under subsection (b);
(2) the owner, operator, or agent employer is conducting monitoring in accordance with subsection (d);
(3) the owner, operator, or agent employer is making appropriate decisions about corrective actions taken under subsection (e);
(4) the preventive controls implemented under subsection (c) are effectively and significantly minimizing or preventing the occurrence of identified hazards, including through the use of environmental and product testing programs and other appropriate means; and
(5) there is documented, periodic reanalysis of the plan under subsection (i) to ensure that the plan is still relevant to the raw materials, conditions and processes in the facility, and new and emerging threats.

(g) Recordkeeping: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall maintain, for not less than 2 years, records documenting the monitoring of the preventive controls implemented under subsection (c), instances of non conformance material to food worker safety, the results of testing and other appropriate means of verification under subsection (f)(4), instances when corrective actions were implemented, and the efficacy of preventive controls and corrective actions.

(h) Written Plan and Documentation: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall prepare a written plan that documents and describes the procedures used by the facility to comply with the requirements of this section, including analyzing the hazards under subsection (b) and identifying the preventive controls adopted under subsection (c) to address those hazards. Such written plan, together with the documentation described in subsection (g), shall be made promptly available to a duly authorized representative of the Secretary upon oral or written request.

(i) Requirement to Reanalyze: The owner, operator, or agent in charge of a facility employer shall conduct a reanalysis under subsection (b) whenever a significant change is made in the activities conducted at a facility operated by such owner, operator, or agent employer if the change creates a reasonable potential for a new hazard or a significant increase in a previously identified hazard or not less frequently than once every 3 years, whichever is earlier. Such reanalysis shall be completed and additional preventive controls needed to address the hazard identified, if any, shall be implemented before the change in activities at the facility is operative. Such owner, operator, or agent shall revise the written plan required under subsection (h) if such a significant change is made or document the basis for the conclusion that no additional or revised preventive controls are needed. The Secretary may require a reanalysis under this section to respond to new hazards and developments in scientific understanding.

If it’s good for food safety, does it translate to worker safety? Tell me what you think.

In a related thought, I can’t help but think of the workers I wrote about last week who are employed at turkey processing plants. At Hormel, Smithfield, West Liberty and other food factories, they handle about 30 turkeys per minute and make as many as 20,000 cuts per shift. Working at that pace, I can imagine the opportunities for contamination of the meat, but I wonder whether agents of the operator, now required to conduct these hazard analyses, will identify production speed as a food safety hazard. Wouldn’t it be something if a new law to protect consumers’ health and safety could be used to slow down the line and improve workers’ health and safety.