Safely Prepare Your Holiday Meal

November 24, 2008

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice preparing your first Thanksgiving meal, be aware of safety issues when thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking your turkey.

Food safety is especially important as you prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Within the last couple of years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has investigated outbreaks of foodborne illness that were caused by bacteria in jalapenos, spinach, peanut butter, frozen pizza, frozen pot pies, and frozen beef patties. Many consumers are now more aware of the ongoing importance of food safety.

CDC is a food safety partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for the safety of meat and poultry. The FSIS has assembled preparation tips intended to serve as safety reminders to those who are already familiar with meat and poultry preparation safety and as guidelines for the first-time chef.

Turkey Basics: Safely Thaw, Prepare, Stuff, and Cook

When preparing a turkey, be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking to adequate temperature.

Safe Thawing

Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit—the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the “danger zone.”

There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven. 
Safe Preparation

Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Safe Stuffing

For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit, possibly resulting in foodborne illness. 

Safe Cooking

Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

Following these cooking guidelines can help you prepare a safe Thanksgiving dinner that everyone will enjoy.

Don't Skimp on Safety This Holiday Season

Although families may spend less this holiday season, they should not skimp on safety. To save money, consumers may be looking for sales by shopping at discount stores and surfing the Web to find a good bargain. But it is not a bargain if the gift you are giving comes at an unintended price. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), one of the world’s leading product safety organizations, urges families to focus on safety when purchasing gifts this holiday season.

What many consumers don’t realize is that not all products that make it to store shelves meet important safety standards. And some products found at deep-discount stores may pose potential safety hazards, especially if they are counterfeit or do not legitimately bear a recognized safety certification mark, such as the UL Mark (the letters “UL” inside a circle). Without an accredited safety certification mark, there is no way to tell if the gift you are giving has been tested to strict UL requirements that help avoid foreseeable safety risks.

Finding the perfect “safe” gift for your family and friends does not mean you have to blow the budget. Before hitting the stores, UL recommends following these simple tips to ensure you are making safety a priority in your gift giving this year:

  • Shop at retailers you know and trust: Whether you are shopping online or heading to the mall, make sure it is a place you believe to be reliable and reputable. Many retailers require their products to be UL-Listed, meaning the products have been rigorously tested and are evaluated for potential risk of fire, shock, and/or personal injury.
  • Look for the UL Mark: UL encourages consumers to look for a reputable certification mark on the product and/or packaging.
    • Consumers should look for the UL Mark (the letters “UL” inside a circle) and the word “LISTED” in capital letters on the product or its packaging to determine if the product has been properly certified.
  • Examine packaging: Consumers should thoroughly examine new products prior to use and pay particular attention to products in boxes or packages that do not offer the following:
    • Brand name
    • Manufacturer’s name with contact information for reporting problems with the product
    • Product name and identity (i.e., a description of what the product is exactly)

As the leading safety testing and certification organization in North America, UL has conducted product safety testing for more than 110 years. Each year, 21 billion UL Marks appear on more than 19,000 types of products—from hair dryers to digital cameras—all of which have been evaluated to meet nationally recognized standards. The UL Mark means the product has been certified for safety regarding foreseeable hazards, like electric shock, fire, and mechanical dangers.

“With so many gifts to choose from, safety is one thing that should not be compromised,” says John Drengenberg, manager of Consumer Affairs for Underwriters Laboratories. “Regardless of your budget—big or small—product safety is very important and should be considered this and every holiday season.”

New Pool and Spa Safety Rules

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) through the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB) are imposing mandatory requirements for suction entrapment avoidance measures for the safe use of pools and spas.

The Act requires that each public pool and spa, both new and existing, must be equipped with drain covers/grates conforming to the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 2007 performance standard.

Additionally, each public pool and spa (pump) serving a single main drain, other than an unblockable drain, must be equipped with one or more additional devices or systems designed to prevent suction entrapment that meet the requirements of any applicable ASME/ANSI Standard or applicable consumer product safety rule.

Such additional devices or systems include:

  1. Safety vacuum release system (SVRS): A safety vacuum release system ceases operation of the pump, reverses the circulation flow, or otherwise provides a vacuum release at a suction outlet when a blockage is detected. An SVRS should be tested by an independent third party and found to conform to ASME/ANSI standard A112.19.17 or ASTM standard F2387.
  2. Suction limiting vent system with a tamper-resistant atmospheric opening.
  3. Gravity drainage system that utilizes a collector tank.
  4. Automatic pump shutoff system.
  5. Drain disablement: A device or system that disables the drain.
  6. Other system: Any other system determined by the CPSC to be equally effective as, or better than, the systems described in subclauses (I) through (V) of this clause at preventing or eliminating the risk of injury or death associated with pool drainage systems.

The DES warns that disabling a drain may drastically impact the circulation, filtration, and disinfection system. Such action may make it impossible or difficult to maintain the water quality standards set forth in N.H. administrative rules. DES requires that any proposed changes to the structure and/or circulation system must be submitted to the DES for approval prior to initiating any work. For more information, please contact Tim Wilson, DES Public Pool and Spa Program at 603-271-7108.

Fall Hazards at Connecticut Worksite Lead to $77,000 in OSHA Penalties

OSHA has cited Atlas Restoration LLC for allegedly exposing employees to falls of 21 feet at a West Hartford, Conn., worksite. The Wolcott, Conn., roofing contractor faces a total of $77,000 in penalties.

OSHA began its inspection June 5 after an agency inspector observed employees working on a roof without apparent fall protection. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in place and in use whenever employees work at heights of 6 feet or more.

“Working without fall protection is like walking a tightrope blindfolded in that one slip or misstep can swiftly result in death or disabling injuries,” said C. William Freeman III, OSHA’s area director in Hartford. “While no falls occurred this time, these hazards are particularly disturbing since this employer previously has been cited for similar conditions at other jobsites.”

OSHA issued Atlas Restoration two repeat citations, with $49,000 in proposed penalties, for the lack of fall protection, improperly erected scaffolding, and failing to train employees in fall and ladder hazards. OSHA cited the company in 2006 and 2007 for fall hazards at jobsites in New Milford, Danbury and Hamden, Conn., and in 2007 for scaffolding hazards at a Hamden worksite.

As a result of this latest inspection, OSHA also issued Atlas four serious citations, with $28,000 in penalties, for an improperly installed and anchored fall protection system, improperly secured roof bracket anchors, scaffold platforms that did not safely overlap, and allowing an employee to climb an extension ladder while carrying roofing materials and a rope.

OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. 

Atlas Restoration has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to meet with OSHA or to contest them to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Hartford Area Office.

OSHA Programs Contribute to Reduced Injury and Illness Rates for 2007

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on November 20 that the rate and number of occupational injuries and illnesses decreased from 2006 to 2007.

“These injury and illness results demonstrate that OSHA’s balanced approach to workplace safety is working,” said Thomas M. Stohler, acting assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “It’s an approach that encompasses education, training, information sharing, inspection, regulation, and aggressive enforcement that are helping achieve significant reductions in workplace injuries and illnesses.”

“OSHA’s efforts reducing workplace injuries and illnesses have included cooperative efforts such as Voluntary Protection Programs that help companies generally experience 50% fewer lost workday injuries, and they have injury and illness rates that are 53% below their industry’s average, and reduced workers’ compensation costs.”

From 2003 to 2007, the total number of injuries and illnesses with days away from work declined 11.9%, which demonstrates that a comprehensive strategy of targeted enforcement coupled with an emphasis on prevention through compliance assistance is most effective. In addition, the ergonomic injury rate declined 9% from 2006 to 2007.

OSHA Recognizes Covanta Energy of Southeastern Connecticut as VPP Star

Covanta Energy of Southeastern Connecticut (Covanta SECONN) has been approved for an additional three years of participation in OSHA’s prestigious Voluntary Protection Programs ().

The Preston, Conn., energy-from-waste facility continues at the star level, the program’s highest level of achievement. The renewal follows an OSHA team’s on-site review, which included an examination of the facility’s safety and health management system, interviews with employees, and a complete tour of the plant.

“This star renewal pays tribute to the continuous, effective commitment by Covanta and its 38 employees at the Preston plant to identify, minimize, and eliminate workplace hazards,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “The priority they place on employee safety and health is reflected in their enviable and unbeatable illness and injury rate. The Preston plant recorded no injuries or illnesses in the past six years.”

Among the plant’s areas of excellence are a comprehensive program to analyze, identify, and address hazards associated with each job and task; discussion and correction of near-miss incidents; an annual safety day for trash haulers who deliver to the plant; and active promotion of safety and health within its industry and the VPP Participants’ Association.

Covanta SECONN is one of more than 2,110 worksites nationwide that have earned entry into OSHA’s VPP. Employers that have been accepted into the VPP represent more than 270 industries. Requirements include a high degree of management commitment and employee involvement; a high-quality worksite analysis, hazard prevention, and control program; and comprehensive safety and health training for all employees. Each of these elements must be effective, in place, and in operation for at least one year before a company can apply to join the VPP. Companies in the VPP achieve average injury and illness rates 50% below the Bureau of Labor Statistics average for other companies in their respective industries.

Post Office Enters OSHA’s VPP as Workplace Safety and Health Star

The U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) post office in Attleboro, Mass., is the latest postal service worksite in New England to achieve star status as an OSHA Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) site. Agency officials welcomed the facility into the VPP in a flag-raising ceremony held at the site.

The VPP recognizes worksites that are committed to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards and encourages cooperative relationships among labor, management, unions, and government. The VPP star is the highest level of recognition that OSHA awards.

“Employees and management at the Attleboro post office take a proactive approach to safety and health, working together to evaluate, identify, and eliminate hazards before they hurt employees,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England. “This mutual commitment through the VPP has paid dividends in fewer injuries and illnesses.”

The Attleboro facility has 65 employees who are represented by the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, and National Rural Letter Carriers Association. The star designation came after an OSHA team’s three-day on-site review found its safety and health programs consistent with the high quality expected of VPP participants.

Among the Attleboro facility’s areas of excellence is its relationship with the city of Attleboro and its use of local cable television to educate the public about the top hazards faced by mail carriers on their routes and the importance of keeping the areas around homes and businesses free from those hazards.

OSHA Recognizes BSI Constructors of St. Louis for Workplace Safety Excellence

OSHA has designated BSI Constructors Inc. of St. Louis, Mo., as a Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) merit site for achievement in workplace safety and health excellence.

BSI Constructors, which has about 150 general construction employees, earned this status as part of OSHA’s Mobile Workforce Demonstration for Construction program, a component of the agency’s VPP designed to strengthen employee protections in the construction industry.

“BSI Constructors has demonstrated a strong commitment to employee safety and health,” said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator. “It has joined an ever-growing cadre of construction companies committed to providing the best in workplace safety.”

Konover Construction Corp. Joins U.S. OSHA and ConnOSHA to Enhance Safety on Connecticut Hotel Construction Project

Equipping contractors and employees who will be constructing the new Sierra Hotel in Shelton, Conn., with the tools to help them identify hazards and prevent on-the-job injuries is the goal of a new site safety partnership among the Bridgeport Area Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety (ConnOSHA), and the Konover Construction Corp.

“Partnerships such as this one in Shelton are designed to make safety and health the priority for every contractor and employee working on the project,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “Our common and continuous goal is to reduce and eliminate injuries and illnesses, and their associated human and financial costs.”

Under the partnership, Konover Construction will develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program that equals or exceeds OSHA guidelines. It will include OSHA’s 10-hour construction safety course for supervisors and employees to help them recognize and correct construction-related work hazards, as well as regular, documented in-house safety inspections; weekly safety training sessions; and the collection and analysis of injury and illness data.

“An additional benefit of this partnership is the training and knowledge it will provide to contractors, especially smaller employers,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “They will be able to take the vital and useful safety and health information they obtain on this project and carry it with them to future jobsites.”

The project involves the construction of a four-story, 84,000-square-foot hotel and two-story 24,000-square-foot parking garage in Shelton. The $10 million project is scheduled for completion in September 2009. About 25 to 30 smaller contractors are expected to benefit from the training and education provided through the partnership.

OSHA’s Strategic Partnership Program is part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of employees through cooperative relationships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and employees. More than 1.4 million employees and more than 26,000 employers across the United States have participated with OSHA in more than 530 strategic partnerships since the program began in 1998.

Boise Cascade Adds Third Worksite to SHARP Certification Safety Program

Oregon OSHA welcomed the Boise Cascade LLC, Willamina Veneer mill to the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) in November.

SHARP provides an incentive for Oregon employers to work with their employees to find and correct hazards, develop and implement effective safety and health programs, and continuously improve. The ultimate goal of SHARP is to encourage employers to become self-sufficient in managing workplace safety and health issues. Currently, 70 employer locations in Oregon participate in SHARP, in addition to 77 facilities that have graduated from the program.

The Boise Cascade Veneer Mill in Willamina began operations as a Boise facility in 1973 and produces veneer used in the manufacturing of laminated veneer lumber, at Boise’s White City plant, also a SHARP site. Employing 55 workers, the Willamina mill began working toward SHARP a year ago, after Boise Cascade’s Western Oregon Region signed a SHARP Partnership Agreement with Oregon OSHA.

“The SHARP process has provided us with an excellent tool to gain greater employee involvement and reinforces our commitment to safety and vision of an incident-free workplace,” said Phillip Reed, a Boise SHARP team member. “Due to the efforts of all of our employees, we have been injury-free for almost two years.”

Willamina Veneer joins Boise’s Medford Plywood Mill, a second-year SHARP site, and White City EWP Mill as SHARP-certified facilities. Three other western Oregon Boise locations are pursuing SHARP certification through the partnership agreement.

Participation in SHARP doesn’t eliminate regulatory enforcement, although SHARP participants do receive a limited exemption from programmed inspections. Employees retain all workplace safety and health rights contained in the Oregon Safe Employment Act. Oregon employers that have been in business for more than one year are eligible to apply for SHARP regardless of size or type of business.

IDOL Signs Cooperative Safety and Health Partnership with Eli Lilly and Company

The Indiana Department of Labor (IDOL) and Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) have entered into a strategic occupational safety and health partnership. The goal of the partnership is to further advance safety and health in Hoosier workplaces, which includes the reduction and severity of injuries and illnesses and the elimination of workplace fatalities. The partnership will cover all of Lilly’s Indiana operations.

“This partnership allows us to better communicate, share, and develop ideas as we work toward the common goal of Hoosier workplace safety and health excellence,” Commissioner of Labor Lori A. Torres said.

Lilly will share information with IDOL personnel and industry safety and health professionals regarding Lilly’s best practices and effective approaches in worker safety and health management. Also, Lilly will act as a mentor to potential participants of IDOL’s Indiana Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). VPP recognizes and partners with businesses and worksites that show excellence in occupational safety and health.

“As part of our corporate social responsibility, we believe in sharing best practices, particularly in the area of workplace safety. This partnership will enable us to pass along what we have learned with other Indiana employers to help them keep their workers and their neighbors safe,” said Steve Gillman, Lilly executive director for health, safety, and environmental.

Lilly will also provide a half-day “Audit Overview” to give IOSHA compliance personnel an overview of an Environmental, Health, and Safety audit process in a large corporation. While the partnership allows for certain compliance inspection deferrals, it does not waive any aspect of the OSH Act or inspections as a result of an employee complaint, serious injury, or death. The partnership will last for two years.

IDOL Honors Bloomington’s Cook Pharmica, LLC with Safety Award

The Indiana Department of Labor (IDOL) announced the certification of Cook Pharmica, LLC, in Bloomington, Ind., in the Indiana Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (INSHARP).

INSHARP, one of Indiana’s exemplary safety and health recognition programs, was established to recognize and promote safety and health management programs throughout the state. Based on benchmarks for advancement and development of safety and health programs within the workplace, INSHARP status can be achieved when management and employees work together to create and maintain a safe and healthy work environment.

Employing more than 240 employees, Cook Pharmica, LLC, is a subsidiary of Cook Medical. The company is a contract biopharmaceutical manufacturing organization that develops and maintains culture-based pharmaceuticals for pre-clinical through commercial use. “Through INSHARP, management, labor, and the IDOL work together towards exemplary safety and health management systems. The IDOL is pleased to have Cook Pharmica as an advocate for employee safety and health excellence,” Commissioner of Labor Lori A. Torres stated.

The INSHARP award ceremony was held on November 19 at the Bloomington, Ind., Cook Pharmica site. The ceremony provided an opportunity for Cook Pharmica employees, staff, and management to celebrate their exemplary status achievement.

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