Main causes of injury
- Manual handling and lifting - especially lifting heavy and awkward loads and pushing wheeled racks
- Slips and trips - mostly due to wet or contaminated floors
- Falls from height - off ladders, stairs, work platforms, plant and vehicles
- Struck by an object (eg hand knife) or striking against an object (eg plant)
- Machinery - conveyors, wrapping machinery, pie and tart machines, dough brakes, moulders, mixers, roll plant, pinning rolls/belts
- Transport - including fork lift trucks and vehicles at loading bays
- Exposure to harmful substances and hot objects, eg splashes/vapour from cleaning chemicals, contact with hot equipment
- Entry into silos - risk from engulfment, lack of respirable atmosphere, mechanical hazards (eg sweep augers)
Main occupational ill health risks
- Musculoskeletal injury from manual handling, eg of sacks, bags and product
- Work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) from repetitive work, eg tin loading, lidding, cake decorating, packing operations
- Noise induced hearing loss from noisy areas, eg depanning, bread slicing, dough mixing
- Occupational asthma and respiratory irritation from exposure to flour dust.
Flour dust can cause:
- irritation to the eyes (conjunctivitis) resulting in watering, painful eyes;
- irritation to the nose (rhinitis), resulting in a runny nose;
- occupational dermatitis, resulting in redness, itching and blistering of the skin;
- asthma if a worker becomes sensitised, resulting in breathlessness, tightness in the chest, wheezing and bronchitis.
Flour dust is a hazardous substance as defined under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 (as amended). Although the overall incidence rate of occupational asthma has decreased since 1999, the rate of new cases amongst bakers as reported by occupational physicians is now the highest of any occupation in any industry.
Flour dust has been set a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) comprising a long-term exposure limit of 10mg/m3 (averaged over 8 hours) and a short-term exposure limit of 30mg/m3 (averaged over 15 minutes). Exposure to flour dust should be reduced as far below the WEL as is reasonably practicable. Published guidance on engineering controls and good working practices to prevent dust becoming airborne is available from the Federation of Bakers (see address below).
Some bakery additives/bread improvers contain enzymes (eg fungal alpha amylase) which are potent sensitisers, so exposure to them should be minimised. This may be achieved by using improvers in liquid, paste or dust suppressed powder form.