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HSE updates guidance to food and drink sector

Results from the initiative were certainly impressive, as statistics for 2004/05 indicate: fatal injuries per year had dropped 70 per cent, the total number of injuries per year had fallen by 47 per cent and the all-incidence rate was down 35 per cent. Nevertheless, despite the relatively controlled environments, food and drink processing operations can still be hazardous; between 1994 and 2004 there were 44 deaths and 106,500 reportable injuries in this sector. By continuing with the 'Recipe for Safety' partnership between the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and the food and drink industries, it is hoped that the fatality and injury rates can be further improved.

Keen to keep up the momentum, the HSE has recently published a new edition of a book that shows companies in the food and drink industries how to improve safety and develop a positive safety culture in the workplace. It is particularly useful for managers, supervisors and safety representatives in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), as well as those in larger organisations.

This new edition of 'Recipe for Safety - Occupational health and safety in food and drink manufacture' updates and replaces the earlier edition published in 1999. It benefits from expanded chapters on occupational health and sets out benchmarks for both occupational health and safety risks. Member organisations and expert advisers of the Food Manufacture Health and Safety Forum contributed to and reviewed the publication, making it a truly joint HSE/food industry publication involving both trade organisations and trade unions (member organisations of the Forum are: Health and Safety Executive; Food and Drink Federation; Meat Joint Working Party; British Poultry Council; Dairy UK; Agricultural Industries Confederation; Health and Safety in Bakeries Liaison Committee; British Beer and Pub Association; British Soft Drinks Association; USDAW; T and G; GMB; BFAWU; and Scotch Whisky Association).

'Recipe for safety' aims to increase awareness of the accident and ill health situation in the food and drink industries and, in particular, those areas requiring priority attention. Priority health and safety issues are identified as follows: manual handling and musculoskeletal injuries; workplace transport; falls from height; machinery; slips and trips; occupational dermatitis; occupational asthma; noise-induced hearing loss; and work-related stress.

Food processing operations, by their very nature, can be hazardous. Positive action is needed to improve the overall health and safety performance, and effective management of occupational safety and health is essential to sound business management. The book advises on managing safety risks and occupational health priorities, and also offers sources of further advice and information. While many companies have excellent health and safety records - and suggestions in the book reflect their good practice - others have yet to develop a positive safety culture. 'Recipe for safety' will be a significant help to such companies.

Dr Roger Nourish, head of the HSE’s Agriculture and Food Sector, says: "This guidance will greatly assist the food and drink industries in managing health and safety priorities. It draws together into one book a lot of useful information from previous HSE publications and from practical industry experience."

'A recipe for safety - Occupational health and safety in food and drink manufacture', Health and safety guidance 252 (HSG 252), ISBN 0 7176 6115 6, costs £9.95 + VAT from HSE Books. More information is available from the HSE's website.

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