Working At Height In The Food And Drink Industry

Working At Height In The Food And Drink Industry

05th June 2014

It seems that the food and drink industry has a problem with falls from height.  Falling from height is the third highest cause of fatal injury in the food and drink industry, totalling 20% of all fatal accidents.  Falling results in around 80 major injuries on an annual basis and many of these injuries involve fractured skulls or broken bones.  The industry sees its fair share of absence due to these injuries even though many of the falls are from heights less than 2 metres.  An analysis by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has discovered that falls from height most likely take place involving:

  • Ladders – 40%
  • Vehicles – 17% (of these 35% from the back of a lorry (!), 31% from FLT forks, 13% from cab steps, 9% from the top of a vehicle and 4% from tanker steps)
  • Machinery and plant - 10%
  • Work platforms – 10%
  • Stairs – 8%
  • Roof/false ceiling – 7%
  • Scaffold or gantry – 4%
  • Warehouse racking – 4%

The activity or task being carried out when a person fell depended on the place from which they fell.  Falls from machinery or plant were generally associated with cleaning, checking and sampling activities whilst falls from scaffolds, roofs and ladders were usually suffered when maintenance work was being undertaken.

If you’re a business owner or employer in the food and drink industry, there are some measures you can take to prevent falls.  One of the most important things you can do is to prevent the need for access to height wherever possible:

  • cleaning of plant and machinery can be carried out from ground level using a foam jet cleaner
  • on plant, machinery and road tankers any sampling, checking and control operating points can often be located at ground level.

However, for tasks where access to height is unavoidable, then permanent safe access arrangements should be in place.  For example, if access is needed to plant or machinery, look at whether a platform with handrails is appropriate.

Many falls from height happen when an employee slips (from the top of plant or from the rungs/steps of a ladder).  All surfaces that workers have to stand on should be kept clean and dry at all times.
Stairs should also be kept clean and dry at all times to prevent some of the most common fall injuries.

Make sure that employees don’t stand on FLT forks or on pallets mounted on forks to reach areas that are not readily accessible.

One of the most essential things you can do for your employees is to ensure that they are fully trained in all aspects of health and safety at work.  Work from Height training is available (and essential) here in the UK as is ladder safety training.  Arranging the appropriate training courses from a qualified provider is the responsibility of the employer.  It is also the employer’s responsibility to minimize risks in the workplace and ensure that health and safety guidelines are followed at all times.