Health & Safety News

News added on 08.01.2018

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Food safety

Food manufacturing sector under scrutiny

The HSE has set a programme of unannounced inspections in motion to improve standards in the food manufacturing sector. How can you put yourself in the best position to deal with such a visit?

The HSE has started the new year by shining a light on food manufacturing with a programme of unannounced inspections. These visits will review health and safety across the board, with a particular focus on the management of risks to workers’ health.

The inspections will concentrate on two of the main causes of health problems faced by workers in this sector:

- occupational asthma, from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturing, etc.; and

- musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), caused by carrying out manual handling activities and repetitive tasks.

The focus on these areas reflects the HSE’s current priorities in its 2017/18 Business Plan. The HSE estimates that workers seek medical treatment for between 200 and 300 new cases of occupational asthma each year, a trend that has not improved over recent years. Exposure to flour dust is the second most common cause. Although reports of new MSDs are gradually reducing, the HSE’s figures revealed that there were around 500,000 cases (new and existing) in 2016/17. They are the most common type of work-related illness in the food manufacturing sector.

With good risk control measures in place, these workplace illnesses can be prevented. The HSE will be checking that appropriate measures are being taken by food manufacturers and will take enforcement action where necessary.

Now is a good time to review your food safety documentation and ensure that your control measures are appropriate and effective. Refresher training may be in order to make sure that staff wellbeing is at the top of the workplace agenda at all levels. Good preparation is key to ensuring that any unannounced visits go in your favour.

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