Food manufacturers and staff have been urged to pay closer attention to how they manage food worker safety and workplace health risks or else face serious penalties.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has begun a programme of unannounced inspections to review standards in food manufacturing businesses across the country.
The focus will be on two of the main causes of ill-health in the sector: occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake/biscuit manufacturers and grain mills; and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – mainly lower back pain and upper limb disorders from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks.
The inspection visits follow the release of HSE’s manufacturing sector plan which prioritises the reduction of cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs.
John Rowe, the HSE’s 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. This inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks.
“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.
“Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing by protecting workers’ health; everyone has the right to go home healthy from work.”
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 per cent of reported employee injuries. HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place.
The inspections will ensure appropriate measures are being taken by those responsible for protecting workers against health risks and HSE will use enforcement to bring about improvements, if deemed necessary.