Safety design of the industrial knife and its use in the meat packing industry are discussed. While many aspects of the meat packing industry have been modernized, the design of the knife used in butchering has remained relatively unchanged. Knives used in this industry have been modified in some ways in an effort to reduce accidents. For example, plastic handles with rough abraded surfaces have been designed in an attempt to prevent slippage during exertive knife strokes. Slipperiness due to animal body fluids, however, often defeats this design and results in slipped grips and frequent severe and sometimes permanent damage. In addition, fatigue due to long hours at strenuous butchering work stations also leads to slipped grips and severe hand lacerations. Anthropometric data related to hand shape and size when the hand is closed, relaxed or lying flat is available from a variety of sources and is extremely useful as applied to the design of knife handles. In a study of knife handle function in a slaughterhouse, modifications to existing handles were tested. Worker responses lead to further design modifications, producing an improved knife handle. Both the circumference of the handle and the gripping surface length were increased in the improved design. The improved handles were easier to hold, did not interfere with worker performance in any of the three slaughterhouse tasks studied, caused less fatigue, and provided more leverage than did the standard knife handles. A wood that became more textured with repeated exposure to moisture also was cited as an important improvement in the handle design. Further areas in need of study were discussed.
Proceedings of the Symposium on Occupational Safety Research and Education, January, 1981, DHHS(NIOSH) Publication No. 82-103