When you are working to tight deadlines and within strict budgets, matters like health and safety can often get pushed to the side. It can be tempting to shift the onus onto your operatives – covering the basics, then trusting in their ability to assess risk and avoid danger.

The problem with this approach is that even the most switched on individuals are capable of misjudging a situation, and that’s not to mention the team members who are much more careless in their approach. The only way to truly protect your workforce is to take responsibility for the health and safety measures at your site.

You should be doing everything in your power to look after your operatives. The result will be improved staff retention, increased productivity, and a better chance of securing audit compliance. Most important of all, you will be guarding your team against illness, serious injury, and even fatality.

Determined to provide support as you evaluate your site’s current approach to health and safety, we have put together a comprehensive guide to improving this aspect of your operation.

What are the key Health & Safety risks?

Slips, trips, and falls: prominent in the food industry due to wet and slippery conditions.

Strain and injury: caused by strenuous and repetitive manual labour.

Cut hazards: operatives could be cut by knives or the blades of a machine.

Harmful or toxic materials: substances such as ammonia can lead to illness or even death.

Skin complaints: caused by the overuse of hand sanitiser without suitable skincare.

Noise hazards: extremely loud machines could have a lasting impact on your workers’ hearing.

Electrical hazards: possible electrocution.

Poor mental health: caused by isolation and a demanding workload.

So, how do I improve the standard of Health & Safety at my site?

1. Equip your team with Protective Clothing

One of the easiest ways to gauge a site’s commitment to health and safety is to look at the protective equipment worn by its operatives. Dirty and degraded garments leave workers at risk of tripping over their hems, catching their cuffs, and having to deal with harmful substances bleeding through their protection. In contrast, quality garments will result in increased moveability, reduced sweating, and reduced risk of injury.

Designed by Hygiene Teams for Hygiene Teams, the WashGuard range from Klipspringer certainly qualifies as a quality collection of garments. Featuring bibs and braces, aprons, smocks, trousers, jackets, coveralls, gloves, and boots, this range has been designed with the specific purpose of allowing your team to focus on the job in hand with 100% protection.

Below are just a few of the key features:

The reflective strips ensure your operatives can be seen at all times, even in low light conditions. This reduces the risk of your workers colliding or being careless in the vicinity of another team member.

The hood offers maximum safety – helping to cover the face and hair.

Elasticated cuffs provide superior protection for the arms and legs. Thanks to this feature, your team is less likely to come into contact with harmful substances.

The material is also waterproof, complying with standards EN343 and EN14605. This will stop any water or hazardous liquids from seeping into the garment.

These garments are impressively lightweight, helping your operatives to navigate the factory floor.

The covered, sewn and welded seams make it less likely that these garments will rip and leave your operatives exposed.

The anti-slip boots have a steel toe-cap, so your workers are less likely to fall or seriously injure their feet. These boots also boast improved insulation and protection against hazardous surfaces.

2. Training and Visual Management

When it comes to health and safety, you need to consider the specific needs of everyone working at your site. After all, it is possible that your team consists of agency staff who will only be with you for a couple of days, operatives with poor eye sight, individuals who struggle to process lengthy amounts of text, and team members who don’t have English as their first language. Even with all these factors aside, the brain registers images far quicker than words, making Visual Management an important avenue to explore. From PPE instructions and equipment guides to hazard warnings and emergency exit signs, transforming key information into colourful and visual displays is the best way to embed it into your site’s culture. What’s more, Visual Management will send a clear message to auditors, customers, and site staff – demonstrating your ongoing commitment to working within the relevant specifications and standards.

Another key point to consider is how often you are training your operatives. It’s important that you carry out regular risk assessments and update your training plan every time a new issue is identified. Your staff should also receive training when new equipment is introduced to your site and any major changes to your processes occur. Otherwise, they are likely to resort to guesswork and could end up using new machines incorrectly, wearing the wrong PPE, and lifting items that should only be handled by two or more operatives.

Finally, you need to nurture a culture of awareness and accountability. This should be done from the top down, so you will need to lead by example – learning from any oversights, adopting a transparent approach, and welcoming feedback. Instead of your workers scrambling to cover up accidents or errors, they will be a lot more likely to talk to an approachable and fair team leader. You can take this a step further by assigning health and safety duties to suitable team members, encouraging them to take responsibility for smaller groups or specific processes.

3. Find the right First Aid Kits for your site

The next step is to evaluate the First Aid Kits at your factory. If you are based in the UK, you need to make sure your kits are in line with the British Standard – containing essential items such as sterile wipes, bandages, eye pads, gel dressing, and a First Aid leaflet. You should then ensure the expected equipment is in each kit and establish a clear plan for the replacement of any missing items. Ideally, there should be a log kept alongside your kits, allowing first aiders and any operatives to keep a record of the materials that have been used.

Although a British Standard First Aid Kit will contain the essential equipment, you should also consider the specific needs of your site. For example if you have operatives working in wet conditions or unloading deliveries outdoors, you will likely need the weatherproof version of the British Standards Kit. Equally, if your site handles extremely hot machinery, you will require a First Aid Burns Kit, along with ancillary items such as an instant ice pack.

You may also want to commission Shadow Boards for the storage of your First Aid Kits. After all, there is little point in have emergency essentials on site if none of your workers know how to find them. A brightly coloured Shadow Board will attract the attention of even the most panicked operative and offers the added benefit of keeping your health and safety equipment up above the factory floor.

4. Don't overlook Mental Health 

In 2021-22 alone, 17 million working days were lost to mental health issues*. Failing to incorporate this challenge into your health and safety plan isn’t just an outdated approach, it could be detrimental to your operatives and the success of your site.

Along with the physical wellbeing of your employees, you should also be thinking about their mindset. This could involve anything from minor efforts to boost morale all the way up to securing a health plan that includes confidential counselling. Whatever the options available to your site, it’s important that your operatives aren’t left to struggle alone. Factory work can be demanding, tiring, and sometimes isolating. This needs to be reflected in your training and resources, along with your general treatment of the people working at your factory.

Although investing in the mental health of your workers may involve an upfront cost, you should view this step as a long term investment. Employee retention and motivation is a growing problem within the food production industry, so creating an environment where team members feel supported could be just the thing to set your site apart.

If your team members feel positive about their working conditions, whether that’s due to having the proper protective clothing, the right equipment, or the relevant safety measures in place, they are more likely to reward you will loyalty and enthusiasm. It will also be much easier for them to focus on the job at hand, resulting in a more productive and dynamic operation.

5. Evaluate your equipment

Say your hygiene team is regularly tasked with cleaning the walls and ceiling of your factory, the ergonomics and bristles of a regular brush aren’t suited to this task. This means the user will have to strain themselves to achieve a even a subpar clean. High reach equipment, flexible brushheads and telescopic handles will help to protect your operatives from this issue. Another clever design feature comes in the form of nylon reinforced polypropylene handles, as despite being able to withstand the daily demands of factory life, they are lightweight enough to reduce fatigue.

Now that you have reached the end of our guide to health and safety within the food production industry, we hope that you have been inspired to enhance your operation and further protect the operatives at your site. The reward for your efforts will be a safer, happier, and more productive workforce. You will also be perfectly positioned to impress your auditors, along with any visiting customers. If you would like any further guidance throughout this process, you can contact us on 01473 461800 or sales@klipspringer.com. Alternatively, fill out the contact form below and one of our friendly team members will be in touch.

If you would like further guidance relating to your health and safety standards, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below to arrange a free consultation.