Causes of injuries to workers in UK food industry revealed

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Slip, trip or fall on the same level was the top category of worker injury
Slip, trip or fall on the same level was the top category of worker injury

Related tags Occupational safety and health

Major injuries increased but over 3-days injuries decreased in the UK food industry, according to a survey.

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 31 companies in 2013/14 – up from 111 and down from 673 respectively across 30 companies in 2012/13.

Accidents due to slip, trip or falls on the same level accounted for the most (44%) of major injuries over the last four years.

Injured whilst handling lifting and carrying (13%), falls from height (10%) and contact with moving machinery (9%) were also causes of major injuries.

This correlated with figures by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showing about 16% of injuries reported to them are 'major injuries' resulting in broken bones, hospitalisation etc. mostly due to slips, falls from height or machinery.

Each year over 5,000 injuries are reported to HSE in the food and drink manufacturing industries

Anonymous contributions for the survey by IOSH F&D Group, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and Dairy UK came from sectors including dairy, bread and cakes, fruit and vegetable production, frozen goods, animal feed, ready meals and meat processing.

Over 3-day injuries

A total of 767 accidents were recorded in the over 3-days injuries category with 32% caused by a slip, trip or fall on the same level and 24% by manual handling injuries in the past four years.

Causes of major and over 3-day injuries were not unexpected and compared positively with information previously reported by HSE, said the report.

The over three day accident frequency rate was 0.65 and 0.54 per 100,000 hours worked for 2012/13 and 2013/14. This means it went up in 2012/13 but has improved back to 2011/12 rates in 2013/14.

Each year over 5,000 injuries are reported in the food and drink manufacturing industries, said HSE.

This represents about a quarter of all manufacturing injuries reported. Around 90% occur in food manufacture, the remainder in the drinks sector.

HSE said about 16% are 'major injuries' and the remainder are 'over-3-day absence injuries' mostly caused by lifting and handling, slips and trips and being struck by objects such as hand-knives or falling objects.

John Boyle, chair of the IOSH Food and Drink Group, said the survey enables benchmarking of a site’s accident frequency rates – figures 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 hope that these survey results will provide further evidence for the need for this good work to continue in the future.”

Lost time accidents

Respondents were asked how many "3 days or less" lost time accidents were recorded and these have been amalgamated with major and over 3 day injury figures to give an overall number of accidents resulting in lost time.

The food and drink industry is the largest of the UK manufacturing sectors accounting for 15% of manufacturing overall, with a total turnover of £70bn. The industry employs some 500,000 people, equating to 13% of the UK manufacturing workforce.

Slips and trips accounted for 27% of lost time accidents and manual handling for 23% over the last four years.

The average number of lost time accidents was 1,798 but this varied depending on the year and the trend has been a decrease.

There were 30 responses in 2012/13 covering almost 62,000 staff and 31 in 2013/14 covering over 65,000 staff - a sample size of 13% of the food and drink industry workforce. This was down from 63 responses in 2011/12.

Dairy UK submitted responses on behalf of 18 companies for both years so more were represented than responses received.

It is planned for the survey to be repeated for 2014/15.

Andy Melachrino, chair of Dairy UK’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee, said the benchmarking project helps participants to track 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.”

Between April 2000 to March 2012 there were 53 fatal injuries but none since up to 2014.

These involved machinery/plant (38%), workplace transport (25%), falls from height (15%), confined spaces/asphyxiation (11%), struck by an object (8%), animals (2%) and electrocution (2%).

IOSH Food and Drink Group hosted the National Food and Drink Manufacturing Health and Safety Conference earlier this month. 

Greencore Food to Go’s Park Royal factory, in London, won the awards in recognition of developing and installing a new conveyor system on its ten dispatch lines, removing the risk of staff suffering health problems associated with twisting and overstretching.

The £150,000 investment was in response to a 25% increase in its workload since a high-speed production line was installed in 2014. 

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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