Occupational health inspections coming up for food manufacturers

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced its inspectors will be inspecting food manufacturers between January and March 2019, with a view to checking up on the management of occupational health issues in the workplace.

In particular, the health and safety watchdog said, its inspectors will be looking at the controls to protect workers from occupational asthma due to exposure to flour dust, and from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) linked to lifting, carrying and repetitive handling tasks.

Exposure to flour dust in food manufacture is one of the main causes of occupational asthma.

Similarly, MSDs are also common in the food manufacturing sector. They are a major cause of ill-health and the second most common type of reported work-related injury, accounting for 20% of reported injuries.

During the forthcoming inspection campaign, HSE inspectors will be looking to ensure that food manufacturers have assessed and are controlling these risks.

The watchdog has warned that poor standards will result in enforcement action.

As an example of how inadequate standards can result in prosecution, the HSE shared the example of an East Yorkshire bakery company which was fined £159,080 for health and safety breaches after employees suffered long-term exposure to flour dust.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that over a four-year period leading up to April 2016, employees were consistently exposed to risks to their health, with some being medically diagnosed as suffering from occupational asthma.

A subsequent HSE investigation found there was no effective method of control to prevent the flour becoming airborne and employees being exposed to breathing in the dust.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Geoff Fletcher commented, “Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

Last reviewed 11 January 2019

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