Injury and fatalities fall in high risk industry

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cent Occupational safety and health Hse Food and drink federation

The battle to bring down the high rate of injury and fatalities in
the UK's food and drink industry is succeeding, according to the
latest figures.

In addition to the harm caused to the employee and his family, workplace injuries lower productivity and cost companies money.

About 25 per cent of all manufacturing injuries occur in the food and drink sectors, twice that of the average for all sectors.

Overall, the food and drink industry has the second highest injuryrate of any sector after mining and quarrying.

Fatal injuries in the UK's food and drink industries have dropped by about 60 per cent and overall injuries by 38 per cent since a programme to reduce work place accidents was launched a decadeago, according to provisional figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a government agency.

This is an improvement on the previous year's figures.

In 2002/3, the overall injury rate in the food and drink industries dropped by 21.5 per cent from the 1990/91 figures.

This represents anaverage drop of two per cent per year.

Incidents of fatal injuries had fallen by 50 per cent.

The provisional figures for the 2003 to 2004 study year indicate that in addition to the huge drop in the death rate due to accidents, the total number of injuries has dropped by 38 per cent from1990/91 figures, to 9,018 injuries a year.

By sector the meat and poultry processing segment was able to reduce injuries by 67 per cent over the period, bakeries by 48 per cent and dairies by 22 per cent.

Slips and trips risks are especially important in the food industry because they occur four times more often than the average for industry, and are the main reason for the relatively high overallinjury rate in the food industry.

They are the largest cause of serious injury in the industry, accounting for 32 per cent of the overall rate for all sectors of the food and drink segment.

The HSE estimates that slips and trips cost the food, drink and tobacco industry £22 million annually, plus the loss of key staff, liability compensation, along with individual suffering anddisability.

The other main causes of injury continue to be manual handling of heavy loads and musculoskeletal injury, falls from a height, workplace transport, being struck by something such as sharp knives orfalling objects and machinery.

Of these, the main causes of fatal injury continue to be workplace transport, falls from height and machinery.

The major injury rate, which includes broken bones, has dropped by about 20 per cent since 1996.

The manual handling injury rate has dropped by 24 per cent during the same period and slips injuriesby 13 per cent.

The statistics were released under a special government programme for the food and drink industries, which was started in the 1990s to reduce workplace accidents.

Under the programme, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and the main food industry trade unions agreed on a common strategy policy, specifying specific actions to improve health and safety in theindustry.

The government agencies believe work place injuries could be reduced by 80 per cent due to changes in employer and employee action.

The policy document sets out targets for injury reductions and actions each party would take to achieve the targets.

Prior to the programme the number of work place injuries in the food and drinkindustries was rising.

Last year the agreement was extended to cover most food and drink sectors.

An industry, workers and government forum was established to prioritise health and safety issues.

In June 2000 the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions (DETR) launched a policy document setting a strategy for reducing working days lostfrom work-related injuries and ill health by 30 per cent for all industries by 2010.

In the ten year period 1994/95 to 2003/04 about 106,500 workers in the food and drink industries suffered an injury and there were 44 fatal injuries, according to the HSE.

The figures excludeinjuries and deaths at contractors.

There is also a high incidence of occupational ill health, particularly musculoskeletal injury, the HSE said.

Other occupational ill health issues include dermatitis, noise, occupational asthma,rhinitis and work related stress.

Some examples of injuries that caused death include: Coffee: transport (fork lift truck) driver crushed when his vehicle overturned, possibly during sharp turn' Biscuits: transport reach truck struck door lintel which dislodged and fell on driver; Slaughtering: machinery/plant electrician crushed by animal handling machinery he was trying to repair; Bakery: transport driver crushed when shunter unit reversed onto HGV trailer docked in loading bay; Bakery Machinery/plant Fitter struck by dough mixing machine which fell from raised forks of FLT Bakery Low fall Worker fixing machine when he fell from a low platform and struck his head on floor Bakery: transport pallet of flour fell from lorry during unloading trapping worker; Soup: machinery/plant worker scalded when pressurized cooking vessel was opened due to fault; Meat: transport FLT entered chiller unit, driver found on floor behind truck with head injuries; Meat: transport HGV driver trapped between tractor and trailer when it moved as the trailer legs were raised; and Sugar: machinery/plant worker suffered burns when boiler at sugar processing plant exploded;

Related topics Processing & packaging

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