Attention was drawn to the food manufacturing sector at the start of this year by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announcing the implementation of inspections to target the cause of workplace ill-health. The HSE felt that companies and people working in this sector needed to pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or they will face serious penalties.
The HSE programme of proactive inspections will review health and safety standards within food manufacturing businesses across the country. The programme of unannounced inspections began on the 2nd January 2018 and the sector were informed ahead of the programme commencing.
What will the inspections focus on?
The HSE explained how the inspections will focus on two of the main causes of ill-health in the sector which are currently occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturers and grain mills and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – predominantly lower back pain and upper limb disorders from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks across the sector.
The HSE recently released its Manufacturing Sector Plan which prioritises the reduction of cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs and these latest inspections follow on from this.
The inspections will ensure measures are being taken by those responsible to protect workers against health risks. The HSE express that they will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements.
Side effects of working in food manufacturing
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, with handling injuries accounting for around 20% of reported employee injuries (RIDDOR). The HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place.
The 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".
He goes on to mention that "Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing by protecting workers’ health; everyone has the right to go home healthy from work.”