Food factories should wake up to dust dangers

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Dust in food processing is often seen as a nuisance rather than a hazard
Dust in food processing is often seen as a nuisance rather than a hazard

Related tags: Food industry

One-in-five food industry decision makers concede dust is an issue in their manufacturing plants but fail to address it adequately, a survey has found.

In addition, almost a quarter (24%) surveyed said they didn’t have any dust extraction procedures in place, and a further 10% claimed they weren’t sure, according to the survey by Dustcontrol UK.

The survey of 100 industry figures – all regarded as being in influential positions – focused on dust-related issues in the workplace and the extent to which they were regarded as a problem.

Dust-related issues

Almost a quarter (23%) said it was ‘a big issue, one which we address regularly’; 21% said it was ‘a massive issue, where we have put certain procedures in place’; and another 21% said ‘dust is an issue for us, but something we don’t address as much as we should’. The remaining 35% didn’t believe that dust was a problem for them.

Dust is a big challenge in the food industry because of the presence of airborne allergens, which, while a problem for workers’ long-term health, can also pose issues further down the line for consumers, Dustcontrol said.

High concentrations of certain types of dust in confined spaces is also a known fire hazard. Examples of explosible dusts in the food industry included flour, custard powder, instant coffee, sugar, dried milk, potato powder and soup powder, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

‘Dust is often underestimated’

“Dust is a prevalent issue in the food industry, and to find that one-in-five key decision makers are aware of potential problems – yet don’t address them – is concerning,”​ said James Miller, general manager at Dustcontrol UK. “Dust is often underestimated and seen as a nuisance rather than a genuine hazard, when it very much is.”

Guidance from the HSE included maintaining “scrupulous cleanliness”​ by the use of a fully earthed, centralised piped vacuum cleaning system. The use of sweeping brushes and compressed air should be avoided, except for non-dusty cleaning activities, it added.

Almost half (49%) surveyed by Dustcontrol claimed they used vacuum cleaning around the food surface area. However, 43% said they didn’t, with a further 7% not even being aware it was an option.

Related topics: Hygiene, safety & cleaning

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