HSE food manufacturing inspections target the causes of workplace ill-health

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Companies and people working in food manufacturing are being told they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or face serious penalties.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) programme of proactive inspections will review health and safety standards in food manufacturing businesses across the country, and the sector is being warned that a programme of unannounced inspections will begin today (2nd January).

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 inspection visits come as HSE recently released its Manufacturing sector plan which prioritises the reduction of cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs.

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). HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place.

The inspections will ensure measures are being taken by those responsible to protect workers against health risks and HSE will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements.

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.

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.”

COSHH and bakers – key messages

Substances hazardous to health in baking include:

  • flour dust;
  • improver dusts containing enzymes etc;
  • dusts from protein-containing ingredients such as egg, soya;
  • spices, citrus oils and flavour concentrates;
  • cleaning and disinfectant products.

Dermatitis may result from some bakery tasks, and if hands are wet many times a day or for a lot of the time.

Control measures include:

  • careful working to avoid raising clouds of dust;
  • dust extraction;
  • vacuum or wet cleaning;
  • respirator for very dusty tasks;
  • skin checks.

Example: Flour dust

Flour dust can cause asthma when breathed in.

You must reduce exposure to flour dust as far below the WEL of 10 mg/m3 as is reasonably practicable. You normally need to use health surveillance (Check employees health for any adverse effects related to work. May involve checking skin for dermatitis or asking questions about breathing and may need to done by a doctor or nurse.)

Help in finding the right controls is on the Bakers and asthma website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/asthma/bakers.htm). Control information for flour dust appears in the following information sheets available from the COSHH essentials webpage: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/direct-advice/baking.htm

Employees

Your employer provides equipment to protect your health, such as:

  • dust extraction;
  • personal protective equipment (eg respirator).

You have a duty to use these properly and co-operate with any monitoring and health surveillance.

For advice on preventing and managing musculoskeletal disorders, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/. Alternatively, contact us about any of the above-mentioned issues, on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence

 

 

Health and Safety Statistics 2015/16

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The health and safety statistics for 2015/16 have been published by the HSE and are available at the following link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/index.htm. In summary, compared to the previous year, work-related fatalities, ill health and days lost are up by 1.41%, 8.33% and 11.36% respectively. However, non-fatal injuries, economic cost and enforcements are down by 4.34%, 1.4% and 8.26% respectively. Below are the statistics in more depth.

Key figures for Great Britain (2015/16)

  • 3 million working people suffering from a work-related illness
  • 2,515 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2014)
  • 144 workers killed at work
  • 72,702 other injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR
  • 621,000 injuries occurred at work according to the Labour Force Survey
  • 4 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • £14.1 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2014/15)

Work-related ill health and occupational disease

The latest results show that:

  • Around 13,000 deaths each year from occupational lung disease and cancer are estimated to have been caused by past exposures at work, primarily to chemicals and dusts.
  • An estimated 1.3 million people who worked in 2015/16 were suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by work. Of these, 0.5 million were new cases which started in the year (LFS).
  • Around 80% of self-reported work-related conditions were musculoskeletal disorders or stress, depression or anxiety (LFS).
  • The estimated rate of self-reported work-related ill health, and specifically musculoskeletal disorders, showed a generally downward trend to around 2011/12; more recently the rate has been broadly flat. The rate for stress, depression or anxiety has been broadly flat for more than a decade (LFS).
  • The majority (85%) of new cases of work-related ill health reported by participating GPs in the THOR-GP surveillance scheme, during 2013-2015, were musculoskeletal disorders or mental ill health (THOR-GP).
  • In 2015/16, an estimated 25.9 million working days were lost due to self-reported work-related illness (LFS).
  • Estimated working days lost per worker due to self-reported work-related illness showed a generally downward trend up to around 2009/10; since then the rate has remained broadly flat (LFS).

Workplace injury – all industries

In 2015/16:

  • 144 workers were killed as a result of a workplace accident. (RIDDOR)
  • Fall from a height (26%), being struck be a moving vehicle (19%) or being struck by a moving object (10%) were the main kind of fatal accident accounting for just over half of all fatalities
  • An estimated 621,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury at work according to self-reports. (Labour Force Survey – LFS). Of these injuries:
  • 200,000 led to over 3 days absence from work; of which
  • 152,000 led to over 7 days absence.
  • Being injured handling, lifting or carrying (20%), slipping or tripping (19%), and being hit by a moving object (10%) were the main kind of non-fatal accident accounting for around half of all non-fatal injuries.
  • There were 72,702 non-fatal injuries to employees reported by employers (which only includes over-7-day injuries and specified injuries). (RIDDOR)
  • Note: Non-fatal injuries to employees are substantially under-reported by employers, with current levels of reporting estimated at around a half; and the reporting of injuries to the self-employed a much lower proportion.
  • In total, an estimated 4.5 million working days were lost due to self-reported workplace injuries, on average 7.2 days per case (LFS).

Longer-term picture

  • Over the longer term, there has been a decline in both fatal and non-fatal injuries:
  • There has been a long-term downward trend in the rate of fatal injury, although in recent years this shows signs of levelling off.
  • Rates of self-reported non-fatal injury to workers showed a downward trend up to 2010/11; since then the rate has been broadly flat. (LFS)
  • The rate of non-fatal injury to employees reported by employers fell in 2015/16, continuing the long-term downward trend.

Thankyou to Bryan & Armstrong Ltd (www.bryan-armstrong.com), for very kindly providing us with the below infographic, relating to the latest annual health and safety statistics:

HSE Health and safety statistics 2015/16 Infographic
Click image to open full version (via Bryan Armstrong Ltd).

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence