Key industry bodies are hoping to capture a better picture of work-related injuries and ill-health in the food and drink industry, with a new annual survey launched today.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Food and Drink Group, Food and Drink Federation and Dairy UK joined forces to develop an annual health and safety benchmarking survey, in a bid to improve further the industry’s track record.
The first results, collected in 2011, show there were two deaths, 137 major injuries and 808 over-three-day injuries in the sector. These came from 45 companies employing almost 70,000 staff – 14 per cent of the total food manufacturing workforce.
It’s hoped that year-upon-year it will reveal more comprehensive data on work-related injuries and ill-health, with more accurate food industry performance data. This better understanding will provide focus for ongoing initiatives to make food and drink manufacture a safer and healthier place to work.
IOSH Food and Drink Group committee member Jackie Wooldridge said: “The true picture of work-related injuries and ill-health across UK industry is hard to capture because reporting can be quite inaccurate. We only have very limited information on accidents in food and drink.
“We wanted to develop a reporting survey that gives us a fuller picture over the years, including a clearer view of ill-health – of which there are thousands of incidents costing millions of pounds annually.
“We’re involving key organisations who are close to their members and passionate about protecting workers. We’re also asking companies to answer the survey anonymously, so we hope the results will give a more honest reflection of how good health and safety really is in food and drink manufacturing.”
Survey results for 2011 show that of the fatalities, one was a fall from height, with another a slip, trip, or fall on the same level. There were 1,730 lost-time accidents reported, with 137 of those major injuries. In the over three-day injury category, there were 313 slips, trips and falls– 39 per cent of the 808 total.
The accident frequency rate (AFR) showed that 62 per cent of the total 68,650 workers in the food industry will suffer an over three-day accident during their working lifetime.
Food and Drink Federation economics executive James Marquette said: “Our members deem accurate health and safety benchmarking data as crucial to their business strategies in preventing accident, injury and ill-health and protecting workers.
“The partnership between FDF, IOSH and Dairy UK has enabled us to implement a survey designed by food and drink manufacturers that collects data at the micro company level.
“Not only does this method provide more accurate data that is suited to the needs of food and drink businesses, but it also puts in place a model that better connects the industry and representative bodies.
“We must now continue to build on our work and expand the survey each year to cover more sectors and include more partners.”
Jackie, who was the driving force behind the project, added: “At the moment, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)* isn’t able to collect data on hours worked, which is the thing food and drink manufacture companies typically use to gauge their performance.
“Although this is only a snapshot of the industry at the moment, we’re hoping that over time, more companies will get involved to give us a wider overview and a bigger sample.
“Despite much progress made in the industry over the years as reported by the HSE, these results continue to remind us of the risks people face at work of suffering an injury that could also hamper their health. It’s something managers should be acting upon quickly to work out how they can reduce the impact on their workforce.”
Dairy UK processing manager Edmund Proffitt said: “Dairy UK is delighted to be working alongside IOSH and FDF on this initiative, which will allow the collation of much more detailed and relevant data. This will greatly assist industry benchmarking initiatives, and in helping the food sector to become an even safer workplace for all those involved.”
Among the survey was also a section questioning data that’s typically under-reported. It showed there were 27 fires and 181 reports of ill-health, including occupational asthma, hearing loss, dermatitis, mental ill-health, upper limb disorders and back injuries.
“At IOSH we’re particularly concerned about the thousands of workers who suffer work-related ill-health – they are the silent statistic that we’re hoping to get a better picture of with this survey,” Jackie added.