Food Manufacturing Inspection

On January 2, 2018, The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) program of the UK announced that they will be conducting several unannounced inspections targeting the food manufacturing industry. The primary targets are workspaces that are at risk for occupational asthma, such as flour mills and bakeries, and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from material handling and repetitive motion. Are you taking appropriate measures?

Risk Assessment

Before you determine what measures need to be implemented, you should first determine what jobs or tasks are at risk. A risk assessment, such as a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA), will help identify these areas. The basic steps are:
1. What task / steps are involved? List out the different tasks or steps involved with the assignment. Steps may include opening a box, lifting a box or sack onto the assembly line, or pouring/scooping material into a mixer.
2. What are the hazards involved in these steps? Given no controls or procedures, what are the ways a person could get hurt? Take these hazards and determine their risk using a risk assessment matrix or scale. Are you operating in a red (extremely hazardous) situation, or a green (low risk) situation?
3. What controls need to be implemented? Once you have rated all the hazards, take the ones in a red or high-risk situation and determine methods, controls, or procedures you can implement to reduce the severity or likelihood of injury. This may include ventilation system, lock out/ tag out devices, procedures, or machine guarding.

Occupational Asthma risks

According to the HSE, the second most commonly cited cause for occupational asthma is exposure to flour dust. Risk controls associated with managing this exposure can include a wide variety of options depending on operations. Two common controls that may help reduce exposure include ventilation and respirators.
Ventilation controls, such as blowers and fans, can help remove or collect the dust. Such control measures should be engineered to ensure effectiveness and that proper guarding is installed.
Respirators are a form of PPE (personal protective equipment). While this should be a last resort, dust masks or other forms of air-purifying respirators can be effective in reducing the dust exposure. However, this method should be coupled with an engineering control, such as ventilation. When considering respirators, eye protections should be evaluated since the dust particles may irritate the eye.

Musculoskeletal Disorder risks

MSD risks are cited as being the most common type of injury within the food industry. These injuries mainly consist of lower back pains or upper arm injuries because of moving materials and conducting repetitive motion activities.
Ergonomics is the best solution for MSD risk tasks. Design work stations so they can be adjustable. If possible, engineer machine assistance for task requiring heavy lifting. While ergonomics is a relatively new area of safety, the concept of designing a workspace to meet the employee instead of making the employee deal with the workspace is key to reducing MSD injuries.