most established markets around the world, soft
drinks now rank first among manufactured
beverages, surpassing even milk and coffee in
terms of per capita consumption.
Including ready-to-drink, packaged products and
bulk mixes for fountain dispensing, soft drinks
are available in almost every conceivable size
and flavour and in virtually every channel of
retail distribution. Complementing this
universal availability, much of the soft drink
category's growth can be attributed to
convenient packaging. As consumers have become
increasingly mobile, they have opted for
easier-to-carry packaged goods. With the advent
of the aluminium can and, more recently, the
resealable plastic bottle, soft drink packaging
has become lighter and more portable.
Stringent quality-control standards and
state-of-the-art water treatment processes also
have afforded the soft drink industry a high
degree of confidence regarding product purity.
Moreover, the manufacturing or bottling plants
that produce soft drinks have evolved into
highly mechanized, efficient and spotlessly
clean food-processing facilities.
As early as the 1960s, most bottlers were
producing beverages through machinery that ran
at 150 bottles per minute. As product demand has
continued to skyrocket, soft drink manufacturers
have shifted to faster machinery. Thanks to
advances in production technology, filling lines
now are able to run in excess of 1,200
containers per minute, with minimal downtime
except for product or flavour changes. This
highly automated environment has allowed soft
drink manufacturers to reduce the number of
employees required to operate the lines (see
figure 65.1). Still, as production efficiencies
have risen dramatically, plant safety has
remained an ever-important consideration.
65.1 Control panel in an automated
soft drink plant in Novosibirsk, Russia
Soft drink bottling or manufacturing involves
five major processes, each with its own safety
issues that must be evaluated and controlled:
See figure 65.2.
65.2 Flow chart of
basic bottling operations
Soft drink manufacturing starts with water,
which is treated and cleansed to meet exacting
quality-control standards, usually exceeding the
quality of the local water supply. This process
is critical to achieving high product quality
and consistent taste profiles.
As ingredients are being compounded, the treated
water is piped into large, stainless-steel
tanks. This is the stage at which various
ingredients are added and mixed. Diet beverages
are mixed with artificial, non-nutritive
sweeteners such as aspartame or saccharin,
whereas regularly sweetened drinks typically use
liquid sugars like fructose or sucrose. It is
during this stage of the production process that
food colouring may be added. Flavoured,
sparkling waters receive the desired flavouring
at this stage, while plain waters are stored in
the mixing tanks until the filling line calls
for them. It is common for bottling companies to
purchase concentrate from other firms.
In order for carbonation (absorption of carbon
dioxide (CO2)) to occur, soft drinks are cooled
using large, ammonia-based refrigeration
systems. This is what gives carbonated products
their effervescence and texture. CO2 is stored
in a liquid state and piped into carbonation
units as needed. This process can be manipulated
to control the required rate of beverage
absorption. Depending upon the product, soft
drinks may contain from 15 to 75 psi of CO2.
Fruit-flavoured soft drinks tend to have less
carbonation than colas or sparkling water. Once
carbonated, the product is ready to be dispensed
into bottles and cans.
The filling room usually is separated from the
rest of the facility, protecting open product
from any possible contaminants. Again, the
highly automated filling operation requires a
minimal number of personnel. See figure 65.3.
Filling room operators monitor the equipment for
efficiency, adding bulk lids or caps to the
capping operation as necessary. Empty bottles
and cans are transported automatically to the
filling machine via bulk material-handling
65.3 Soft drink canning line showing
Stringent quality-control procedures are
followed throughout the production process.
Technicians measure many variables, including
CO2, sugar content and taste, to ensure that
finished drinks meet required quality standards.
Packaging is the last stage prior to warehousing
and delivery. This process also has become
highly automated. Meeting various marketplace
requirements, bottles or cans enter the
packaging machinery and may be wrapped with
cardboard to form cases or placed into reusable
plastic trays or shells. The packaged products
then enter a palletizing machine, which
automatically stacks them onto pallets. (See
figure 65.4.) Next, the loaded pallets are
moved-typically via fork-lift-to a warehouse,
where they are stored.
injuries-especially to employees' backs and
shoulders-are not uncommon in the beverage
business. While many technological advances have
been made in material handling over the years,
the industry continues to seek safer, more
efficient ways to move heavy product.
Certainly, employees must be provided with the
proper training on safe work practices. Injuries
also can be minimized by limiting exposure to
lifting through enhanced work-station design.
Adjustable tables can be used to raise or lower
material to waist level, for example, so that
employees do not have to bend and lift as much.
In this manner, most weight-related stress is
transferred to a piece of equipment instead of
the human body. All beverage manufacturers
should implement ergonomics programmes that
identify work-related hazards and minimize the
risks-either through modification or by
developing better equipment. A reasonable means
to that end is job rotation, which reduces
employee exposure to high-risk tasks.
The use of machine guarding is another critical
component of safe beverage manufacturing.
Equipment such as fillers and conveyors move at
high speeds and, if left unguarded, could snag
employee clothing or body parts, causing
potentially severe injuries. Conveyors, pulleys,
gears and spindles must have appropriate covers
to prevent employee contact. Overhead conveyors
can create an additional hazard of falling
cases. Netting or wire-mesh screens should be
installed to protect against this danger.
Maintenance programmes should dictate that all
guarding which is removed for repair be replaced
as soon as repair work is completed.
65.4 Eight-packs of 2-litre soft
drink plastic bottles on the way to an automatic
Since wet conditions are prevalent in the
filling room, adequate drainage is necessary to
keep liquid from accumulating on nearby
walkways. In order to avoid slip-and-fall
injuries, proper efforts must be made to keep
floors as dry as possible. While steel-toed
shoes usually are not required in the filling
room, slip-resistant soles are highly
recommended. Shoes should be selected based on
the slip coefficient of the sole. Additionally,
all electrical equipment should be properly
grounded and protected from any moisture.
Employees must take precautions to dry the areas
around equipment before any electrical work
Good housekeeping practices and routine
inspections also are beneficial in keeping the
workplace hazard-free. By taking these
comparatively simple steps, management can be
sure that all equipment is in good operating
condition and properly stored. Emergency
equipment such as fire extinguishers and eyewash
stations also should be inspected for proper
Although most of the chemicals present in
bottling plants are not extremely hazardous,
every operation uses flammable substances,
acids, caustics, corrosives and oxidants.
Appropriate work practices should be developed
so employees know how to work safely with these
chemicals. They must be taught how properly to
store, handle and dispose of the chemicals and
how to wear protective gear. Training should
cover the location and operation of emergency
response equipment. Eyewash stations and showers
can minimize injury to anyone who is
accidentally exposed to a hazardous chemical.
It also is necessary to install equipment such
as chemical booms and dykes, as well as
absorbent material, to be used in the event of a
spill. Properly designed hazardous chemical
storage facilities will minimize the risk of
employee injury, too. Flammables should be
separated from corrosives and oxidants.
The large tanks used for mixing ingredients,
which need to be entered and cleaned routinely,
are considered confined spaces. See the box
on confined spaces in this chapter for
information on the related hazards and
Mechanized equipment has become increasingly
complex, often controlled by remote computers,
pneumatic lines or even gravity. Employees must
be sure that this equipment has been
de-energized before it is serviced. Proper
de-energizing procedures must be developed to
guarantee the safety of those who maintain and
repair this equipment. Energy must be shut off
and locked out at its source so that the unit
being serviced cannot be accidentally energized,
causing potentially fatal injuries to service
employees or nearby line operators.
Safety training and written de-energizing
procedures are critical for each piece of
equipment. Emergency stop switches should be
strategically placed on all equipment.
Interlocked safety devices are used to stop the
equipment automatically when doors are opened or
light beams are interrupted. Employees must be
informed, however, that these devices cannot be
relied upon to completely de-energize the
equipment, but only to stop it in an emergency.
Emergency stop switches cannot take the place of
a proven de-energizing procedure for equipment
Chlorine, which is used in the water treatment
area, could be hazardous in the event of an
accidental release. Chlorine typically comes in
steel cylinders, which should be stored in an
isolated, well-ventilated area and secured from
tipping. Employees should be trained to follow
safe cylinder-changing procedures. They also
should be taught how to take quick, decisive
action if an accidental release of chlorine
occurs. In the late 1990s new chlorine compounds
are gradually replacing the need for chlorine
gas. Although still hazardous, these compounds
are much safer to handle than gas.
Ammonia is used as a refrigerant in bottling
operations. Typically, large ammonia systems can
create a health hazard in the event of a leak or
a spill. Bottling facilities should develop
emergency response procedures to identify the
responsibilities of involved employees. Those
who are required to respond to such an emergency
must be trained in spill response and respirator
use. In the event of a leak or spill,
respirators should be immediately available, and
all non-essential personnel evacuated to safe
areas until the situation is controlled.
CO2, which is used in the filling operation,
also can create health concerns. If filling
rooms and adjacent work areas are not adequately
ventilated, CO2 accumulation can displace oxygen
in employees' breathing zones. Facilities should
be monitored regularly for elevated C02
levels and, if they are detected, ventilation
systems should be inspected to determine the
cause for this occurence. Additional ventilation
may be required to correct the situation.
Technological advances have made available
better sound-absorption material for insulating
or muffling motors and gears in most equipment.
Still, given the function and size of filling
equipment, noise levels generally exceed 90 dBA
in this area. Employees who are exposed to this
level of noise for an 8-hour weighted average
must be protected. Good hearing protection
programmes should include research on better
ways to control noise; employee education on
related health effects; personal noise
protection; and training on how to use hearing
protection devices, the wearing of which must be
enforced in high-noise areas. Employee hearing
must be routinely checked.
Fork-lifts are operated throughout the bottling
plant and their safe use is imperative. In
addition to demonstrating their driving skills,
potential operators must understand fork-lift
safety principles. Licenses are commonly issued
to show that a minimum level of competency has
been achieved. Fork-lift safety programmes
should include a pre-use inspection process,
whereby the vehicles are checked to ensure that
all safety equipment is in place and working.
Any deficient conditions should be immediately
reported and corrected. Gas or liquid petroleum
(LP) fork-lifts generate carbon monoxide as a
by-product of combustion. Such emissions can be
minimized by keeping the fork-lift engines tuned
to manufacturers' specifications.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is common
throughout the bottling facility. Filling-room
employees wear eye and ear protection.
Sanitation crews wear face, hand and foot
protection that is appropriate for the chemicals
they are exposed to. While slip-resistant shoes
are recommended throughout the plant,
maintenance employees should also have the added
protection of steel-toed shoes. The key to a
good PPE programme is to identify and evaluate
the potential hazards associated with each job
and to determine whether those hazards can be
eliminated through engineering changes. If not,
PPE must be selected to address the specific
hazard at hand.
Management's role is critical in identifying
hazards and developing practices and procedures
to minimize them in the workplace. Once
developed, these practices and procedures must
be communicated to employees so that they can
perform their jobs safely.
As plant technology continues to
advance-providing better equipment, new guards
and protective devices-soft drink bottlers will
have even more ways to maintain the safety of
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