A Readiness Roadmap
A new FSIS guidebook will help small plants cope with emergencies.
- By Jerry Laws
- Sep 01, 2011
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a new guidebook in June to assist managers of small plants who are facing various types of emergencies. It offers tips for dealing with break-ins and thefts, chemical leaks or spills, water contamination, power outages, and hazardous weather events -- some of the most common types of emergencies plants encounter, according to the guidebook.
The introduction lists 10 actions to take in advance to be prepared for any emergency:
1. Always consider the needs of people with disabilities when creating emergency procedures. This may include using a buddy system, strobe lights in work areas, or an emergency pager system.
2. Compile a list of emergency contact phone numbers for employees and the numbers of fire, police, the FSIS district office, utility companies, the local FBI office, etc.
3. Create an employee call-down system to notify workers about the plant's operational status.
4. Have a system in place to track who is in the plant at any given time (employees, visitors, inspection personnel, etc.)
5. Develop an emergency evacuation plan with an evacuation route specified and designate a spot outside where people will meet once they have evacuated. Designate who will give the evacuation order and who will give the order to return inside, and include a line of succession in case the designated personnel are not present. Have the evacuation route printed and posted throughout the plant. Exits should be unobstructed, clearly marked, and visible in situations with low light or no light.
6. Install emergency lighting.
7. Have an alarm system in place to warn everyone about an emergency. Consider a distinctive alarm for each type of emergency.
8. Make certain all employees know what to do in case of an emergency at the plant.
9. Review your insurance policies to make sure you have enough coverage and the right type of coverage.
10. Test the emergency procedures you develop with your employees.
The chemical leaks/spills section of the guidebook (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/SPN_Guidebook_Plant_Emergencies.pdf) reminds managers that, under OSHA regulations, they are responsible for keeping their employees, products, and premises safe. It recommends maintaining and becoming familiar with the information in Material Safety Data Sheets -- information that will change to a standardized format, once OSHA completes the planned transition to the Globally Harmonized System.
Managers should clearly describe procedures that facility personnel should implement in a Response Management System, including the employees who stay behind to shut down critical plant systems before they, too, evacuate, the guidebook says. It recommends contacting local emergency response organizations and notifying them about response equipment they may need for a response at the plant, as well as conducting practice drills to ensure employees know the evacuation routes and there are no obstructions in place on those routes.
Regulations of FSIS (9 CFR 416.2 on sanitation) and EPA (40 CFR 141, National Primary Drinking Water regulations) can assist with preventing water contamination incidents, it states. "As a small/very small meat, poultry, or egg processing plant owner/operator, it may seem like a very difficult task to prepare for the possibility of a contaminated water supply, considering the large amount of water used during production every day inside your plant. However, it is possible," the guidebook states. It recommends having a water decontamination plan in place and talking with other business owners to discuss working out a mutual agreement to share resources if a contamination problem affects your plant but not the surrounding area. Plant managers should know which local health department to contact in case of contaminated water, it states.
Resources from CDC, FEMA, EPA, and the Minnesota Department Health were consulted in preparing the document.
CDC Monitors E. coli O104:H4 Outbreak
This year's outbreak in Europe of a rare strain of Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 (STEC) had not ended when a task force created by the European Food Safety Authority issued an unsettling report in July saying the most likely common link in the cases was a lot of fenugreek seeds used to grow sprouts that were imported from Egypt by a German company. Other lots may be implicated, the task force found, and it stressed that negative microbiological tests carried out on seeds "cannot be interpreted as proof that a lot is not contaminated with STEC." Nearly 3,900 cases had been reported as of July 11, including 44 deaths, according to that day's update from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
CDC was monitoring the outbreak. For more information, visit: