The organisation launched unannounced inspections yesterday (January 2) to review health and safety standards in food manufacturing businesses nationwide.
Inspections will focus on the two main causes of ill-health, which are occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturing premises and grain mills and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
These cause mainly lower back pain and upper limb disorders, which arise from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks.
‘Its health and safety record needs to improve’
HSE’s head of manufacturing sector John Rowe, said: “The food manufacturing sector is made up of over 300,000 workers and its health and safety record needs to improve. This inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks.”
Everyone working in the industry should update themselves on the latest HSE advice and guidance, which is freely available on the executive’s website, he urged.
“Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing by protecting workers’ health; everyone has the right to go home healthy from work.”
‘Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing’
Exposure to flour dust is the UK’s second most common cited cause of occupational asthma.
MSDs are the most common type of work-related illness in food manufacturing. Handling injuries account for about 20% of reported employee injuries, according to information gathered under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.
Both risks to workplace health were prioritised in the HSE’s recent manufacturing sector plan. “HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place,” it said.
The unannounced inspections were designed to ensure measures were taken by those responsible to protect workers against health risks and HSE. The executive added that it “will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements”.
Meanwhile, last year both Bakkavor and Warburtons were each fined £2M for safety failings. In May Bakkavor was fined £2M for safety failures, after one of its workers died when plastic bales fell on top of him.
In January, Warburtons was also fined £2M, after one of its workers was hospitalised following a fall from a mixing machine, which caused life-changing injuries.
Unannounced HSE inspections to focus on:
- Occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturers and grain mills
- Musculoskeletal disorders arising from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks