Survey sheds light on safety and health in food and drink manufacturing

16 September 2015

Slips and trips, manual handling and falls from height are the main causes of major injuries to workers in the UK food industry, new survey results have revealed.

food production line

A study by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s Food and Drink Group (IOSH) found that 125 major injuries and 584 over-three-day injuries occurred across 30 companies in 2013/14.

Around half of the major injuries were as a result of slips, trips or falls on the same level, while one in five major injuries were also as a consequence of either manual handling or falls from height.

The group’s annual Health and Safety Benchmarking Survey did reveal, however, a decrease in total lost time accidents and the overall over-three-day accident frequency rate.

John Boyle, Chair of the IOSH Food and Drink Group, said: “This survey is invaluable to safety and health practitioners working in the food and drink industry as it enables benchmarking of a site’s accident frequency rates – figures which are not available from the HSE.

“Pleasingly this key metric – the number of over-three-day accidents per 100,000 hours worked – has fallen since the inception of the survey in 2010/11. This falling trend correlates with the HSE’s own published figures about safety and health in the sector but the level is still too high.

“We know that there is a lot of good work being done to make the industry safer and healthier. We hope that these survey results will provide further evidence for the need for this good work to continue in the future.”

The IOSH Food and Drink Group has conducted the survey in partnership with the Food and Drink Federation and Dairy UK since 2010. Through the survey, it aims to help food and drink companies compare their safety and health performance with others in the sector.

The latest findings were provided by a sample of companies with a combined workforce of around 65,000 staff – equating to 13% of the UK’s total food and drink industry employees.

Contributions were received anonymously from businesses across the industry including firms working in dairy, bread and cakes, fruit and vegetable production, frozen goods, animal feed, ready meals and meat processing.

Those surveyed reported a total of 1,057 lost time accidents in 2013/14, down from 1,177 in 2012/13. The overall over-three-day accident frequency rate was also down year-on-year from 0.65 per 100,000 hours worked in 2012/13, to 0.54 per 100,000 hours worked in 2013/14.

In addition, the survey provided an insight into the type of work-related health disorders being reported by employees in the food and drink manufacturing sector.

The study revealed 295 cases of disorders relating to mental wellbeing in 2013/14, an increase on 124 instances in 2012/13. There were also 292 back injuries and 201 work-related upper limb disorders in 2013/14 – down from 301 and 272 respectively the year before.

It is planned for the survey to be repeated in a similar format for 2014/15.

Andy Melachrino, Chair of Dairy UK’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee, said: “Dairy UK has always been pleased to be a part of this important benchmarking project as it helps everyone who participates to track their progress against others in the sector.

“Any benchmarking can only be successful if companies are prepared to share their data, and Dairy UK is pleased with a consistent response from its members over the years and indeed an on-going improvement in our own lost time injury rates.”

Andy, who is also Vice-Chair of the IOSH Food and Drink Group, added: “I will be leading the survey for 2014/15 and will be asking other trade associations to gather the data for this survey, in the same way we do at Dairy UK, to maximise the potential responses in the future.”

To obtain a full copy of the latest survey results, email julie.littlejohns@iosh.co.uk. Further details about the IOSH Food and Drink Group can also be found at www.iosh.co.uk/foodanddrinkgroup.

IOSH Food and Drink Group is set to host the National Food and Drink Manufacturing Health and Safety Conference 2015 at Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, on 6-7 October.

The conference will explore the theme of ‘A healthy recipe for leaders’ and include insight around issues including musculoskeletal disorders, working in confined spaces and safety in food hygiene.

Further details about this year’s programme can be found at www.iosh.co.uk, while to book a place call the IOSH Bookings Team on +44(0)116 257 3197, or email bookings@iosh.co.uk.