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Know the Dangers of Underground Grease Traps

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a hazard bulletin to remind employers and workers about the risks of grease traps.

You’ll find grease traps at food processing sites, bakeries, hotels, and grocery stores. They’re generally an underground, outdoor container that collects and traps fats, oil, and grease (FOG) in order to prevent sewer system blockages and damage. Most municipalities require them to limit the amount of FOG that is passed through water treatment facilities.

Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards

When grease traps are underground, those working in the area face risk of injury if precautions aren’t taken.

  • The grease traps’ manhole cover must remain secure to prevent unauthorized access to the trap while also prohibiting additional waste from entering 
  • Trip and fall hazards also exist if the covers aren’t strong enough to support the loads placed on them or if it is not properly secured. Workers can trip over a lid and suffer injuries, or fall into the pit and possibly drown

Confined Space Hazards

When the traps are big enough for bodily entry, they may be considered permit-required confined spaces, and if so, must meet certain requirements, like posting signage.

  • Grease traps can generate flammable and toxic gases over time and must be tested and monitored for oxygen content, flammability, toxicity, or explosive hazards
  • Large traps are often deep enough to produce the danger of engulfment. Employers are responsible for determining the potential risk and implementing controls and training to protect workers. Exiting from the trap can be difficult if a ladder or other egress device isn’t located in the trap
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