Case Study: Manor Fresh

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Its a key objective to make sure that the workplace is as safe as it possibly can be for our staff.

Its very important that we have the right sort of safety processes, risk assessments in place to ensure that that fast pace doesn’t cause any harm or issues for our colleagues.

Having some of our colleagues involved throughout the business in improving our health and safety has ensured that we’ve got a communication from my level, at the managing director’s level through my board colleagues right down through the management team to the staff on the shop floor and in the reverse direction as well which is very important so we get positive feedback all of the time.

If there’s a problem like they’ll come to one of us and say you know look can you have a look at this for me.

Obviously being a rep I’ll go and have a look and if I can’t do what I think is right then I would go to like either Shane or Jason and say look this is what, what’s been brought to me what should we do and either one will come and have a look straight away.

We’ve sort of promoted health and safety more out to the workforce as well they know who the reps are, they know who they can go to if they feel they’ve got any concerns or any suggestions whether it’s myself, Linda, other committee members and we will discuss things with them and if we’re not sure then we go to management to find the answers that we need and if there’s any improvements that can be made well then we act on them.

We run a class twice a week for a multitude of different nationalities to help them speak English and once we’ve empowered the workforce to be able to speak English to then come in and be able to communicate with the rest of the workforce is fantastic.

The last few months has been really really good because they’ve listened to what we’ve been saying and we’ve now got more involved, done more courses, risk assessments, committee members can go on to the main Manor Fresh site in the health and safety folder, log any issues and then obviously they’re dated so any other members who they concern can action them.

As a team now we work like as even with the management it’s like one because you don’t have to be on your own and instead of like getting brushed to one side you don’t it’s like right come on let’s sit down, let’s talk it through and that’s good, there’s no reward but there is a reward because you know that you’ve helped people that you work with all the way along.

No matter what happens to one person here it affects all of us.

As a manager our first responsibility is our health and safety and we soon recognise by talking and communicating with our shop floor that actually it was something that we needed to cover off so what we then did was sat down with that workforce through the health and safety committee and got their ideas of what they wanted.

The health and safety initiative has enabled us to see a significant reduction of seventeen percent plus year on year with our accident stats.

The key value of our business is continuous improvement and if we’re able to apply that to health and safety as well as all the other aspects of the business then that’s a very encouraging development from the work that we’ve been doing.

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Manor Fresh, of Holbeach Hurn, Spalding, Lincolnshire, was formed in April 2006 by the merger of DGM Grower Ltd and GeestQV. It packs vegetables for retailers such as Marks and Spencer, Morrison's as well as processors, wholesalers and other retail organisations in the UK and abroad. Turnover is about £50 million, with around 240 on-site workers, mostly in production, plus up to 30 temporary staff at key periods.

The problem

The merger meant a restructure of health and safety policy, with a need to reduce the number of accidents. Operations involved manual handling and workplace transport - activities with traditionally high accident rates - often carried out by temporary, unskilled staff and workers who spoke little or no English.

The solution

Operations Manager Shayne Tyler realised that the workforce was key to the solution. One of his first acts was to set up a collective agreement forum and a health and safety committee, representing management and the workforce.

The forum is open to the whole workforce and handles general issues and views, while the health and safety committee has 12 members from both management and the workforce. It is run without hierarchy, and meets every four to six weeks.

Committee member Linda Cousins has worked in the industry for about 30 years. She says: 'I'd just started to get involved with health and safety with Geest so I did have some experience. What I've found at Manor Fresh is a real commitment to worker involvement. There's strong communication between the management and workforce on safety.'

One example is the way 'management and worker' paired focus teams look at specific tasks. For instance, Murray Rankin (QA Manager) and Linda Cousins worked closely and equally on manual handling risk assessments.

But despite the new health and safety policy and a reduction in accidents, an employee suffered a forklift truck accident in 2009 which injured his hip.

Shayne said: 'We were very upset not only for the person concerned but because we felt we had taken a backward step on safety despite our efforts.'

He intensified safety procedures, delegating some of the workforce to take responsibility for specific areas such as manual handling and specialist equipment. He also asked local HSE inspector Judith McNulty-Green to organise a training day and workshops. Further improvements in safety led Judith to call this one of the best examples of worker involvement in her twenty years as an inspector.

Quality Control Supervisor Shelley Goldsmith said: 'After the accident we felt we needed to make a fresh effort. We became far more proactive. In the past we'd report something and wait for an engineer to put it right. Now if it's something we can deal with, we do it ourselves and report back at the next meeting.'

Key elements resulting from the worker involvement initiative:

  • English language courses for foreign workers. 45 per cent of the workforce - eight nationalities - comes from continental Europe. Twice-weekly courses are held in paid company time and are free to the employee. Signage in four different languages is placed in key areas around the plant. Another measure against language barriers is different coloured clothing to indicate where access is allowed on the shop floor.
  • The health and  safety team regularly attends courses such as COSHH and IOSH, and refers regularly to the HSE website when looking for new ideas, such as slips, trips and falls assessments and risk assessments. All  members of staff are encouraged to seek relevant information to assigned safety activity.
  • The company funds a helpline which staff can call to report any safety problems. Employees receive a credit-card-sized helpline card written in several languages on induction.
  • All accidents are reported, however minor. Photographs of health and safety representatives are displayed so employees know who to approach with a safety problem. Workers are encouraged to suggest new or improved practices and there are internal safety campaigns.
  • Health and Safety and Environmental Officer Rachel Hamilton was seconded. 'I'm very impressed. The workforce has a very pro-active approach to safety.'

The Results

Accidents have reduced from 78 to 48 over three years – a consistent falldrop of almost 20% a year.

Staff turnover has reduced. Sick leave is well below the national average. Forty employees (about a sixth of the workforce) were recently commended on their 100% no-sickness record during 2009.

Staff morale is high. Despite heavy snow and hazardous driving conditions during the winter of 2009/10, 99% of employees reported for work

Shane comments: 'Health and safety are our primary responsibilities, so costs are assessed and generally implemented with no regard to payback. We feel what has been achieved in improved safety and morale speaks for itself.'

The Manor Fresh ethos is 'Continuous Improvement'. Its aim is to make the workplace as safe as possible through continued worker involvement.

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