Food manufacturers and their employees “must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace risks or face serious penalties”, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warned ahead of a new round of unannounced inspections.
The proactive inspections will review safety and health standards in food manufacturing businesses across the country, focusing on two of the main causes of ill health in the sector. These are occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit factories, and grain mills; and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as lower back pain and upper limb disorders from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks.
The visits make up part the HSE’s three-to-five-year manufacturing sector plan, in which it proposes to reduce the cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs as well as work-related stress.
According to the plan, an average 27 workers are killed each year in the sector, accounting for almost 20% of all workplace fatalities, and the rate of fatal injury is higher than the all industry average.
Exposure to flour dust is the UK’s second most common cited cause of occupational asthma, while MSDs are the most common type of work-related illness in food manufacturing.
The HSE “will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements”. John Rowe, HSE head of manufacturing sector, said: “The food manufacturing sector is made up of over 300,000 workers and its health and safety record needs to improve. The inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks. The HSE is calling on anyone working in the industry to take the time to refresh their knowledge of our advice and guidance, available for free on our website.”
Hawkes Health are presently working with a commercial bakery in assessing the adequacy of their management controls concerning flour dust.