The process of manufacturing cheese can be messy and the cleaning up process is therefore an essential part of everyday life for Glanbia Cheese in County Armagh. Chris Nix, sales director at Scafftag worked with Glanbia to help it make the cleaning up process as safe as possible.

As a leading mozzarella manufacturer in Europe with several hundred employees working at its site in Northern Ireland, the safety of each employee is a significant concern for Glanbia Cheese. Whilst looking to improve the existing Lockout Tagout procedures potential failings were identified that prompted Glanbia Cheese to review its entire isolation and lockout tagout procedures with the help of equipment status management specialists Scafftag. Scafftag worked with Glanbia Cheese to review current procedures and develop physical and visual Lockout/ Tagout systems that were relevant and bespoke to the plant.  

With a total of 559 major injuries within manufacturing reported in 2010/11 by the HSEi, it was imperative that the manufacturing plant changed its isolation procedures to better protect its staff and to ensure that dangerous equipment could be properly shut down during the cleaning process. Gavin Rowan, health and safety manager at Glanbia Cheese, explains: “It was evident we needed to improve our procedures to not only keep our staff safe at work, but to help streamline processes, reduce the risk of mistakes and improve control of the manufacturing site. The improved Lockout/ Tagout procedures give us peace of mind that each member of staff is in a properly managed and safe working environment.”

As part of the processes involved in a large scale cheese manufacturing operation the entire manufacturing plant has to be cleaned thoroughly daily; a job that can take over three hours to complete. Cheese manufacturing plants provide an ideal place for bacteria to grow, with a warm atmosphere and the presence of natural bacteria, so the decontamination of all equipment is essential. To manage these risks a system of cleaning has been put in place that includes pumping caustic water backwards and forwards through the entire plant then flushing with boiling and cold water to remove all traces of the caustic water and remaining debris. The process causes water to bubble out, with overflowing water landing on the floor and steam filling the room. This in itself creates a series of hazards to those working in the environment during the cleaning process that must be managed. Although this process is mostly automated, each auger (the corkscrew-like device that pushes the cheese through the machinery) in the plant must be manually broken down before cleaning. This manual operation, with four to five people working on each machine during the cleaning process, presents a life threatening hazard if not effectively managed and the correct procedures not in place.  

The directors and management teams made a conscious decision to take a closer look at the site’s isolation procedures to ensure the employees and contractors were safe as well as having better control of the procedures and an assurety that the workforce was adequately trained. As part of this review Scafftag was asked to survey the entire plant, that included identifying all production equipment and pipelines, identifying and recording all energy sources therein, photographing each one and subsequently creating visual Lockout/Tagout procedures for each to ultimately help create safe isolation and re-energisation procedures for the site. Surveying the site enabled Scafftag to recommend suitable physical isolation devices for the site equipment allowing for the safe shut down of each piece of equipment during the cleaning process. Each placard included a visual procedure to recommend the order of use, how to use it and how to safely shut down the machinery. These visual Lockout/Tagout procedures provided an effective communication tool to explain to the workers what they can and cannot do to maintain a safe working environment.

For such a large plant with so many different pieces of machinery, the entire survey took four days to complete. The resulting Lockout/Tagout and isolation system developed by Scafftag has enabled workers at Glanbia Cheese to safely isolate equipment and, with the use of the specialist tags and safety equipment provided by Scafftag, ensure that there is no risk of re-activation whilst an employee is working on the equipment.
The tags and safety devices provided by Scafftag are an excellent fit for the Glanbia Cheese site, offering a durable solution that would cope well under the conditions experienced daily in the plant. Scafftag also incorporated the Lockout ProTM software into the lockout and isolation solution package, giving Glanbia Cheese the tools to create and implement an OSHA-compliant energy control lockout program, ensuring that implementing the Lockout compliance process is manageable and effective.

T: +44 (0)845 0894060