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Cheese maker says informed staff are safe staff over trip fears

By Neil Merrett , 17-Mar-2009
Last updated on 17-Mar-2009 at 14:11 GMT

Concerns on how the economic downturn may impact worker safety in dairy manufacturing has been played down by one UK cheese company, which says that strong communication remains the key to protecting staff from accidents.

The Northumberland Cheese Company, which supplies a range of cheese from its operations in the North of England, said that ensuring workers were informed of potential trip hazards was crucial in preventing damaging falls during processing.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a government agency working to reduce accidents at UK working environments, says that more than 1000 serious injuries occur each month as a result of slips, trips or falls in the UK workplace.

Last month, the agency said it was extending its Shattered Lives campaign, designed to play up the potential long-term consequences to workers of tripping or falling on the production floor, in a bid to cut down on such accidents.

Jacks Riley, dairy manager for the Northumberland Cheese Company told DairyReporter.com that the unique nature of dairy processing meant there were a number of threats to workers in the segment relating to trips and falls.

Informed focus

Riley said that a large number of processing pipes as well as potential traces of water and dairy by-products like curds at dairy plants created a slippery environment that had many dangers for ill-prepared staff.

The dairy company, which had earlier this week invited the HSE to witness its commitments to reducing the risk of trips and falls at its premises, said that even in the economic downturn industry-wide fears over profit had no relation to meeting safety requirements.

“The economic downturn hasn’t affected our company from a health and safety point of view,” said Riley. “At the end of the day, there isn’t a great deal of investment that can be made in reducing the risks of tripping over at work beyond keeping staff informed of how to stay safe during production.”

Besides commitments to staff training, the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents food manufacturing in the country, said that it was nonetheless concerned over how cost may influence the wider safety of some workers.

In order to offset concerns over budget cutting and worker safety, the FDF said it was discussion with its members and the HSE on maintaining minimum regulatory standards over the downturn.

“Despite the current challenges of the economic climate, FDF members of all sizes are committed to ensuring that their employee’s safety should not be placed at risk or ill health as a result of employment within the UK food and drinks industry,” said the group.

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