While FSMA, HACCP, and GFSI regulate the safety and quality of the food you produce, your facility is also subject to regulations that keep employees safe. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) governs these regulations across industries.

Here is a guide to operations, materials, and fire regulations that can help ensure the physical safety of the people you employ.

Operations, inside and out

All workplaces must adhere to the General Industry Standards in OSHA 1910. Not all sections apply to your food plant, but here are some major ones that do.

Walking-working surfaces

The General Requirements of OSHA 1910 Subpart D address the state of your aisles and passageways, storerooms, service rooms, floors, and covers or guardrails. Make sure these spaces are clean and orderly, clearly marked, and free from “protruding nails, splinters, holes, or loose boards.”

Standard 1910.23, “Guarding floor and wall openings and holes,” additionally stipulates covering manholes, skylights, platforms, and stairways with appropriate hinged covers or standard guardrails with swinging gates where applicable.

Powered platforms, manlifts, and vehicle-mounted work platforms

Large plants require scaffolding and platforms for maintenance purposes. Standard 1910.66 applies to “powered platform installations permanently dedicated to interior or exterior building maintenance of a specific structure or group of structures.”

To ensure their safety, these structures need to be designed and approved by licensed engineers. The installations need to withstand climatic conditions, and the buildings themselves need to be able to bear the load of the installations.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

General Requirements in Standard 1910.132 apply to “personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers.” In addition to providing the necessary protection, you must assess what’s needed and communicate those needs to your employees, along with an explanation of the hazards for which the protective equipment is provided.

You should provide your employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) that fits and that’s not defective. Employers must also provide training around the use of required PPE:

  • When the PPE is required
  • What type of PPE is necessary
  • How to properly put on and adjust PPE
  • How to care for, maintain, and dispose of PPE

Medical and first aid

Standard 1910.151 requires medical personnel to be on site for advice and consultation on matters of worker health. This standard also requires first aid supplies to be kept available and that someone on-site be trained in first aid.

You should also provide quick-flush stations for drenching or flushing the eyes and body immediately, in case of exposure to “injurious corrosive materials.”

Agricultural operations

A separate regulation, OSHA 1928, applies specifically to agricultural operations. If you run an agricultural site, you need some basic protections in place.

  • Employee training in operating equipment
  • Roll-over protective structures (ROPS) for tractors
  • Protective frames for wheel-type agricultural tractors
  • Protective enclosures for wheel-type agricultural tractors

Living in a material world

When you think about safety, you must also consider the equipment and materials inside your plant and the ways they impact your employees’ environment. OSHA’s industry-specific resources speak to a variety of specialized workplace situations.

Fire safety

When it comes to fire safety, this guide from Nilfisk Industrial Vacuums breaks down the relevant NFPA codes and standards.

  • NFPA 61 – Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities
  • NFPA 70 – The National Electrical Code
  • NFPA 652 – Fundamentals of Combustible Dust
  • NFPA 654 – Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
  • NFPA 68 – Explosion Protection by Deflagration Venting
  • NFPA 69 – Explosion Prevention Systems

Additionally, OSHA governs your plant’s fire safety in Standard 1910, subparts E, L, and S.

Means of Egress

The appendix of 1910 Subpart E contains the most helpful information on emergency action plans, evacuation, and training. It also covers how to control the accumulation of flammable and combustible waste materials and maintenance of equipment.

Fire Protection

This definitions section covers the scope and application of 1910 Subpart L, which governs fire brigades and extinguishing systems, as well as fire detection and employee alarm systems. The appendices of this section (A-E) also offer helpful resources and references, as well as test methods for protective clothing.

Combustible dust

A significant number of foods generate dust that becomes highly flammable in large, contained concentrations. OSHA determines the safety standards for ductwork and dust collection systems to reduce the likelihood of dust-related explosions. They’ve compiled a poster that illustrates the different types of combustible dust and the various control and prevention measures facilities that process these materials need to take.


The introduction to 1910 Subpart S guides employers through safety-related workplaces, maintenance, and requirements for special equipment. Special regulations apply to hazardous locations, “depending on the properties of the flammable vapors, liquids or gases, or combustible dusts or fibers that may be present. . . and the likelihood that a flammable or combustible concentration or quantity is present.”

Food industry trends show increased construction, primarily in expansions and renovations of aging facilities. As you look to the future, be sure to build in the right compliance measures to keep your employees and operations safe.