In October this year, the National Food and Drink Manufacturing Health and Safety Conference will take place. This annual event is aimed at health and safety practitioners, enforcing authorities, machinery & equipment designers, manufacturers and anybody involved in the food and drink manufacturing sector. Run by IOSH in partnership with the Food and Drink Manufacture Health and Safety Forum and HSE it is the foremost health and safety conference regarding food and drink.
Since 1990, the number of accidents in the food and drink industry has dropped by over a third; due to awareness of occupational health issues in the food sector. However, fatalities and injuries still cause much suffering and distress, so it pays to manage health and safety. Lost profit, legal penalties, loss of plant and loss of insurance costs are the consequences of a badly managed health and safety system.
The food and drink manufacturing industry is so diverse and wide that it’s impossible to provide general safety guidelines for the manufacture of all products. The manufacture of each product will have its own health and safety system and regulations to adhere to. Although food and drink is naturally processed under strict controls, it does not follow that these are low risk occupations. Safety hazards include falls from height, occupational dermatitis, falling into silos, occupational asthma, noise induced hearing loss, musculoskeletal injuries, work-related stress and accidents with machinery.
To manage the safety hazards within a food and drink processing plant, the risks which are significant must be identified and the causative factors set out so they can be controlled. Nearly half of all fatalities in the food and drink industries are as a result of transport related accidents. There should be safe guard systems for reversing and the segregation of pedestrians from vehicles where possible. Lift truck drivers should be trained and that they work on safe platforms. There should be systems in place to prevent tipping lorries and trucks from overturning. All jobs that need access to height should be identified and effective safeguards provided. There should be maintenance of stairways and ladders and any loose roof sheeting fixed. When working at a height, the operators’ hands must be free to work and aids should be in place where the worker can rest tools. If a temporary access to a height is required, workers must be trained on the safe way to do this.
Where it is unavoidable to enter silos and confined spaces, there must be a safe system of work for entry and rescue. If the atmosphere in a silo is hazardous, suitable respiratory protective equipment must be worn. Entry to silos which pose an engulfment risk should be forbidden. In all types of machinery used on the factory floor, for example that used in packing, there must be safe guards. The operator must be free to move so they can assist product flow and clear blockages. Slips and falls are another hazard in any work. There should be set up an effective cleaning regime, where there is adequate marking, lighting and if necessary, safety shoes should be worn. Manual handling risks should be tackled, for example using lighter containers and mechanical handling aids etc. Consideration must also be given to staking, handling and movement of goods to prevent them from falling.