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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of ergonomic risk factors, thermal exposures, and job stress at an airline catering facility.

Ramsey-J; Musolin-K; Ceballos-D; Wiegand-DM; Mead-K
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2011-0131-3221, 2014 Sep; :1-31
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a union representing airline catering employees at one facility. The union was concerned about work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), extreme hot and cold temperatures, job stress, and employees being injured while working in the kitchen and on the loading docks. At the time of our visit, the facility had approximately 500 employees and operated two shifts. The company catered for one major airline and serviced 16 international flights and 220-260 domestic flights per day. Employees prepared food, beverages, and nonfood amenities. During our evaluation we (1) observed job tasks to see if they posed a risk for work-related MSDs, (2) measured workstation heights and reach distances to determine work-related MSD risk, (3) looked at OSHA logs of work-related injuries and illnesses, (4) measured air temperature and air flow inside cold rooms, and carbon monoxide concentrations at loading docks, and (5) interviewed employees about their work, medical history, health symptoms, job stress, personal protective equipment use, and health and safety concerns. We found that employees were exposed to a combination of risk factors for work-related MSDs including awkward postures, forceful exertions, and repetitive motions. The most common injuries reported on the logs were musculoskeletal strain, sprain, or pain. Air temperature inside the food prep cold room averaged 43.1 degrees F and 40.8 degrees F in the international cold food room. Average air velocities were less than the cold stress ACGIH TLV of 200 feet per minute, thereby reducing the potential cooling effect of air movement. The potential exists for autoclave operators and delivery truck drivers to work in hot conditions during the summer months. No confined space entry procedures were in place for cleaning the autoclave. Employees reported health concerns from hot and cold temperatures, diesel exhaust entering the loading docks during winter days, and reported time pressure, high workload, and lack of social support. To address the risk for work-related MSDs, we recommended redesigning work stations, providing work tables with adjustable heights, rotating employees to different job tasks after every break, and educating employees on MSDs and ergonomics. For cold rooms we recommended installing horizontal baffle deflectors on all refrigerator fans, and providing employees alternative gloves and warm water or dry air heaters to warm their hands. To address the potential for heat stress, we recommended the employer (1) develop and implement a heat stress prevention program, (2) establish mandatory breaks for employees exposed to heat, and (3) ensure new trucks have air conditioning. We also recommended the employer (1) develop a written autoclave cleaning procedure addressing confined space, lockout/tagout, and personal protective equipment; (2) train employees on the health effects of exposure to cold and hot temperatures; (3) present all information to employees in a manner that they can understand; (4) seal loading docks so diesel truck exhaust does not enter the building; and (5) explore and address issues of job stress.
Region-5; Health-hazards; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Job-stress; Cooking-equipment; Food-handlers; Food-processing-equipment; Food-processing-workers; Temperature-effects; Ergonomics; Injury-prevention; Work-operations; Work-practices; Air-temperature; Air-transportation; Cold-environments; Hot-environments; Materials-handling; Materials-storage; Posture; Risk-analysis; Health-surveys; Force; Repetitive-work; Air-flow; Equipment-operators; Confined-spaces; Equipment-design; Safety-education; Training; Personal-protective-equipment; Safety-measures; Author Keywords: Food Service Contractors; Michigan; airline catering; ergonomics; musculoskeletal injuries; heat; cold rooms; job stress
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2011-0131-3221; M102014
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division