Its comments come as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced it would be conducting a round of unannounced inspections in the coming weeks. It asked businesses to pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or face serious penalties.
The inspections are aimed at tackling the two main causes of workplace illnesses in the sector, occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks across the sector.
Adopt best practice
Emma Cartwright, food sector lead at Bureau Veritas, said food manufacturers should review their current systems and adopt best practice in order to boost health and safety standards across the board, in light of the inspections.
“The increasing number of reports of MSDs can often be due to a lack of training in manual handling and minimal job rotation within food manufacturing roles,” said Cartwright. “As a result, this can have a financial impact on businesses due to increased levels of sickness and compensation claims being submitted.
“The significant rise in work-related asthma cases being reported especially in individuals that are in contact with flour dust within the workplace means that exposure to flour dust is now the UK’s second most common cited cause of occupational asthma.”
Bureau Veritas said the key to tackling workplace illnesses was through adopting a long-term best practice programme of improved training and monitoring.
Get their training right
Cartwright added that businesses need to get their training right in order to tackle these issues.
“Implementing and maintaining a system that regularly carries out ergonomic assessments of working areas and properly teaches employees invaluable manual handing techniques can go a long way in limiting the incidence of MSDs,” said Cartwright.
She advised food manufacturers looking to manage dust in the working environment to implement a monitoring solution that produces regular and detailed reports to help control the air conditions within the workplace.
“As the industry faces greater scrutiny, now is the perfect time for companies in the sector to review their current health and systems and look at ways to better protect the health of their employees,” she said.