In February 2015, the HSE published a more practical and updated version of its food safety guidance to the food and drink industries, ten years after the first edition of its ‘Recipe for Safety’.
Since the early 1990s, the HSE has worked with the Food and Drink Federation and trade unions on providing information on how to manage risks associated with the main health & safety standards in the food and drink manufacturing industries. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) describes the guidance as being “written by industry for industry”, with the aim of making the guidance more relevant and accessible.
The guidance has been developed for all those involved in the food and drink manufacturing industries, including workers, supervisors, managers, directors, health & safety professionals, and health & safety representatives. It focuses less on the statistical, financial and legal rationale of preventing injuries and occupational health, and focusses more on practical solutions on how to avoid such incidents and on how to improve working practices.
Some examples of such changes to the updated guidance include:
- Clearer guidance so that the management of key hazards is listed alongside each corresponding health & safety priority, with detailed checklists of practical advice on how to manage each hazard.
- Increased focus on occupational health issues in the industries, such as occupational dermatitis and occupational asthma.
- A reminder that not all workers referring to health & safety policies are English speakers. This is particularly pertinent in light of cases where non-English speaking workers have been seriously or fatally injured as a result of not properly understanding safety procedures in the workplace.
For your reference, we have outlined the key health & safety priorities which are highlighted, and some of the practical guidance provided by the HSE on how to manage their associated risks, in the table below.
Heeding and adhering to HSE’s guidance may involve some radical change to working practices in the food and drink manufacturing industries. However, it should go some way to improve the rate of occupational ill health, injuries and fatalities in those industries. This point is particularly pertinent in the context of the potential increase in fines for such breaches of food safety regulations, seen in the proposed new Sentencing Guidelines.
|Health & Safety priority||Examples of HSE practical guidance|
|Machinery||Remember that machine operators need frequent and easy access to assist product flow, clear blockages and clean the machinery.
Use fixed guarding on machinery where daily or frequent cleaning is not required.
|Workplace transport|| Consider:
Segregate people and vehicles.
|Work at height|| Refer to HSE’s fall prevention hierarchy:
|Entry into silos and confined spaces||
Ensure that emergency back-up is trained so that rescuers do not fall victim.
Canister or cartridge respirators will not be suitable for most confined space work, as they do not protect against high concentrations of gases or oxygen deficiency.
|Slips and trips||
Ensure that the surface of a traffic route is suitable, in good condition and kept free from obstructions.
Ensure cleaning methods are effective for the type and specification of floor in use and make effective arrangements for routine cleaning and dealing with spillages.
|Being struck by objects or knives||For work that involves pulling the knife back towards the body, for example deboning tasks, ensure that chainmail aprons are worn.|
Consider redesigning tasks so that no heavy lifting above shoulder height is required.
Where there is a risk of over-filling trays or bins etc., mark the containers with a line to indicate the maximum load.
|Upper limb disorders (ULD)||
Reduce the frequency of doing a task which may present a ULD risk, by adding further tasks to broaden the range of the work activity.
Avoid the use of wrist supports, anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers as these may mask symptoms and run the risk of exacerbating or prolonging a condition.
|Occupational dermatitis||Consider whether hygiene levels can still be maintained if water temperature or the number of times hands are washed in a day is reduced.
Avoid processes where workers spend more than two hours in contact with water.
Use a dredger or sprinkler instead of hand-throwing flour to reduce dust levels.
|Noise-induced hearing damage||Provide suitable hearing protection where necessary.
Consider specifying noise reduction requirements when purchasing new machinery or plant.
This health priority now has a dedicated section under the new HSE guidance. HSE’s practical guidance suggests taking the following steps: