Food Slicer and Meat Grinder Safety

Print a Sign-In Sheet | Spanish Version Coming Soon

Amputations from high-powered appliances are among the most severe workplace injuries, and often result in permanent disability.

Food slicers are electrically-powered machines typically equipped with a rotary blade, an on/off switch, a thickness adjustment, and a food holder or chute. Operators may use a pushing/guarding device, plunger, or gravity (e.g., with or without an attachment connected to the food holder) to apply pressure to the food against the slicer blade.

Electric meat grinders typically have a feeding tray that holds uncooked meat as the worker pushes it into the machine. The meat is then pulled inside the grinder by the feed screw and through the cutting plate. Other parts include an on/off switch, a reverse switch, and a food pusher (i.e., plunger).

Preventing Worker Injuries When Using a Food Slicer

When food slicers are in use, or turned off but still energized, the top and bottom of the slicer are a hazardous area where workers’ fingers and hands may contact the blade, causing serious cuts or amputations.

Rotary blade food slicers must be used with guards that cover the unused portions of the slicer blade on both the top and bottom of the slicer. Employers should buy slicers already equipped with a feeding attachment on the food holder sliding mechanism or purchase this attachment separately and install it before use.

Worker training should include warnings to:

  • Never put a hand behind the food chute guard;
  • Never place food into the slicer by hand-feeding or hand pressure;
  • Use a pushing/guarding device with chute-fed slicers;
  • Use plungers to feed food into chute-fed slicers or use the feeding attachment located on the food holder;
  • Turn off the food slicer when changing foods;
  • Keep hands out of the danger zone on the back of the blade where the sliced food exits; and
  • Turn off and unplug slicers when not in use or when left unattended for any amount of time.

Preventing Worker Injuries When Using a Meat Grinder

Employers must ensure that meat grinders are fitted with a primary safeguard (e.g., properly designed tapered throat or fixed guard) if a worker’s hand may come into contact with the point-of-operation (i.e., the auger cutter area).

Worker training should include warnings to:

  • Only use a proper plunger when feeding meat into grinders;
  • Operate grinders only when feeding trays and throats have been installed;
  • Use the meat grinder only for its intended purpose; and
  • Turn off and unplug grinders when not in use or when left unattended for any period of time.

A Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) program is required under 29 CFR 1910.147 when the guards are removed unless the worker, maintaining or cleaning the unguarded machine, unplugs the food slicer from the energy source and has exclusive control of the plug to ensure that no one else can unexpectedly start the machine.

A LO/TO program must include:

  • Procedures for locking out or tagging out food slicers;
  • Specific LO/TO training; and
  • Periodic review of LO/TO procedures to ensure that all requirements are followed.

The following safe maintenance/cleaning practices and procedures are explained in the manufacturer’s operating manual:

  • Adding distance between the hand and sharp edges by using a cleaning device with a handle.
  • Wiping the blade from the center outward to avoid contact with the blade edge.
  • Never wiping toward the blade when cleaning the slicer table.

Training Employers Should Provide

Employers should ensure that all operators receive on-the-job training under the direct supervision of experienced operators until they can work safely on their own. Thorough operator training, including equipment-specific topics, should be based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and include the following safe operating and cleaning procedures for the equipment they will use:

  • Hazards associated with food slicers and meat grinders.
  • How to use the required safeguards and how they provide protection.
    • How and under what circumstances to remove safeguards.
  • How to prevent unexpected start-up during cleaning or maintenance using appropriate LO/TO procedures.
  • Hand protector usage and limitations.
  • What to do (i.e., contact the supervisor) if a safeguard is damaged, missing, or unable to provide protection.

Training is necessary for new operators and maintenance or setup workers, when any new or altered safeguards are put in service, or when workers are assigned to a new machine or operation.


KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.