Health and Safety in the Food & Drink industry

The chilled food sector currently employs more than 100,000 people, and the protection of their health and safety is a CFA priority. The Association has been engaged on health and safety in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Food and Drink Manufacturing Forum since its inception, and its Health & Safety Working Group is comprised of senior Health and Safety leads from CFA members.

CFA is a signatory to the HSE’s Common Strategy for Improving Health and Safety in the Food and Drink Manufacturing Industry and is currently developing an action plan which aligns with the strategy. It has pledged to:

  • work to help industry achieve the HSE’s Common Strategy objectives
  • promote the strategy
  • benchmark the industry to track progress
  • compile action plans to help them to address issues including: injury reduction, muscoskeletal disorders (MSD), slips and trips and occupational health.

Sharing Best Practice

The HSE’s Common Strategy is asking signatories to share their experience and knowledge.

These best practice case studies aim to further reduce the sector’s incidents of injuries and work related ill-health.


CASE STUDY 1: Slippy Stairs

The issue:

Even after thorough cleaning, residues of mayonnaise were remaining on the stairs leading to the coleslaw mixers in a CFA member’s site. The busy stairway is used for access to add ingredients and also for hygiene and maintenance of the machine. Over 12 months the company had four accidents and four

near misses with operators slipping on the stairs.

This posed two challenges – keeping the stairs clean while reducing the risk of slipping.

Action taken:

Operators, hygiene and engineering colleagues worked together to research different materials and treatments. A physical solution was identified involving a raised profile nosing bolted to the front edge of each step. Because the nosing locks in between the ridges in the soles of anti-slip wellingtons it does not cause a trip risk. But it does prevent slipping.

The solution reached had to be capable of being cleaned effectively and to not allow material to build up on the stair tread against the nosing. The profiled nosing were made of stainless steel to meet high care standards.

The group presented the solution to the site management team who agreed the capital needed (£3.5k). After two weeks of testing on one set of stairs there was a positive response from operators – no one felt at risk of slipping on the modified stairs.


The profiles were installed on all three sets of stairs and there have been no accidents, or near-miss incidents. They are so successful that the company are installing them in a new factory where coleslaw is to be manufactured.

CASE STUDY 2: Handling with Care

The issue:

Musculoskeletal disorders associated with manual handling activities (including repetitive tasks) were identified as an issue for one CFA member company. This was leading to high levels of absence and an increase in employers liability claims.  The roles involved repeated movements including: stacking and de-stacking of cases and trays of products and raw materials, packing products, fast-paced high dexterity work such as putting products into packs, manual movement of heavy loads and so on.


Action taken:

In consultation with managers and operations directors an MSD reduction strategy and standard were developed. This included a range of solutions including: specific training; the re-assessment of specific tasks after training; a programme of muscle stretching exercises; mechanical lifting aids for heavy loads; job-specific manual handling training; job rotation procedures and tool box talks on manual handling for shop floor employees.

A best practice library was set up on the company’s intranet and systems put in place to allow employees not only to report manual handling concerns but to also suggest solutions.

The strategy and standards were endorsed by the Chief Operating Officer and supported by the leadership team in funding and the allowing of colleagues to take time away from their normal work activities.


The company has seen a 16% reduction in MSD related incidents, a 5% reduction in absence associated with MSD incidents, a 9% reduction in associated claims and increased worker morale and engagement due to job rotation allowing them to carry out different tasks in different areas.


Further information on the HSE’s Food and Drink Manufacture Health and Safety Forum is available on its website.