Occupational health in the Food Manufacturing Industry

  Posted July 23, 2019

Occupational health risks across different industries are often similar, but each industry has its’ own risks that are peculiar to that industry. It is often the case that some occupational health topics and concerns are more important in some industries than others. In this article I would like to explore the topics that are most prevalent in the food manufacturing industry.

5% of the food manufacturing workforce annually affected

Every year, in the food and drink manufacture industry, around 19,000 workers (nearly 5% of the workforce) suffer from ill health caused or made worse by work. The risk of suffering occupational ill health is around twice that of sustaining an injury that is reportable under regulations.

Common ill health in Food Manufacture

Almost 60% of occupational ill health in the food manufacture industry involves musculoskeletal injury such as back injury from repetitive lifting or work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) from repetitive tasks. It is interesting to note that work-related stress, which is often cited as a cause of mental ill health, is another major issue causing almost 30% of ill health.

Occupational asthma and rhinitis, related mailnly to exposure to flour and bakery dusts, causes around 8% of ill health followed by occupational dermatitis (4%) and noise-induced hearing loss (1%). Occupational rehabilitation, sometimes known as sickness absence and return to work, has become an essential part of running an efficient business to ensure sickness absence is managed and return to work times reduced.

Occupational health priorities

Each industry has it’s own occupational health priorities. The priorities are usually somewhat peculiar to the industry involved. These priorities should frame your occupational health strategy and the services that you use. The occupational health priorities for you in the food manufacturing industry are as follows:

    • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
    • Work-related stress
    • Occupational asthma and rhinitis
    • Occupational dermatitis
    • Noise-induced hearing loss
    • Occupational rehabilitation
    • Exposure to disinfectants

Main causes of occupational ill health in food/drink manufacture

It is important that you are aware of what are the main causes of occupational ill health in your industry. Although they may be similar to other industries, the underlying causes may well be different. Again, your awareness of these problems can help you shape your occupational health strategy and the services you use. The main causes in food manufacture are:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Work related stress
  • Asthma
  • Dermatitis
  • Noise
  • Rehabilitation

Main causes of injury in food and drink manufacture

In manufacturing of any type there are similar causes of injury. Again there are some causes of injury that are peculiar to the food manufacture industry. Each year over 5000 injuries in food and drink manufacturing industries are reported to HSE. It is interesting to note that this represents about a quarter of all manufacturing injuries reported. Around 90% of these injuries occur in food manufacture, the remainder in the drinks sector.

Close to 16% of the injuries are ‘major injuries’ resulting in broken bones, hospitalisation etc. mostly due to slips, falls from height or machinery. 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. The causes of injury in food manufacture are as follows:

Protecting Your Staff

In order to protect your staff and indeed your business you need to put in place a comprehensive health and safety strategy that covers all of the topics we have discussed. You also need a deeper understanding of those issues as they apply to your industry and your business. We can help you in this process.

A Leading Occupational Health Services Provider

HealthScreen UK began in 1992 as a Nationwide Occupational Health Provider based in Leicestershire, covering England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We have enjoyed continued growth over the years and supply Occupational Health Services & Surveillance to most business divisions and industries. Our aim is to avoid any work related causes of illness and ensure fitness for work by providing a specialist service through fully qualified professionals. Also advising on how to make the workplace a safe environment to be in.

If you are looking for an occupational health services provider in the UK, call us on 01455 234 600 opt 1 for a quote

If you are looking for Occupational Health services or you are looking for help with your Occupational health strategy, call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online now.



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Healthscreen UK Ltd provide a fully comprehensive range of Occupational Health Services from Health Surveillance to Biological Monitoring.

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