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Reducing Health Risks in Food Manufacturing

Improving the health and safety of workers in food manufacturing businesses is the aim of a new programme of unannounced inspections announced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

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 says it will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements.

“The food manufacturing sector is made up of over 300,000 workers and its health and safety record needs to improve,” commented HSE’s head of Manufacturing Sector John Rowe. “This inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks.”

“Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing by protecting workers’ health; everyone has the right to go home healthy from work,” he added.

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