Supply chain

The UK has left the EU, new rules from January 2021

The transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.

Health and safety issues

It has been recognised for many years that actions taken in one part of the food supply chain can adversely (or beneficially) affect another part.

For example:

  • raw materials suppliers selling product in heavy sack weights can cause an increase in manual handling injuries at their customer food manufacturers or retailers;
  • food retail customers specifying product presentation or food hygiene requirements can inadvertently cause injuries or occupational health problems at food manufacturers.

Precautions which need to be adopted

In order to reduce injuries in other parts of the supply chain, the following precautions should be considered.


The main problems usually relate to manual handling (which causes 35% of food industry injuries). For example:

  • can product be supplied in bulk (e.g. bulk bags) rather than in sacks or in drums etc. or, if not;
  • are products in sacks, boxes, crates etc supplied at reasonable unit weights (i.e. not over 25kg). If weights are greater than this does the customer have the necessary equipment to avoid manual handling;
  • are boxes, crates etc provided with suitable hand holds.

Food retail customers

Problems can occur when customers place requirements on suppliers in relation to buildings/equipment or process/production. For example:

  • are processing/presentation requirements causing unnecessary musculoskeletal injuries;
  • are hygiene requirements affecting safety issues (e.g. floor surface specification or cleaning regimes having an adverse effect on slips risks);
  • do changes in product at short notice allow adequate time for revising risk assessments;
  • are reduced workroom temperatures set for product purposes acceptable under health and safety legislation;
  • are there procedures in place to ensure safe reversing of delivery vehicles at larger retail premises.

Responsibilities for suppliers and customers to be aware of include:

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Section 3(1) - the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that those not in his employment, who may be affected thereby, are not exposed to risks to their health and safety;
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 11 - co-operation between employers, so far as necessary, to enable them to comply with legal requirements.

Working together

The key to reducing injuries to workers throughout the supply chain is close cooperation between suppliers, manufacturers and retailers.

Issues such as those highlighted above, which affect parties upstream or downstream, need to be discussed freely and action taken to minimise any adverse effect on others.

Doing so will ensure injuries to workers are reduced along with associated industry costs.

  • Food and Drink Manufacturing Forum
  • Federation of Bakers (FoB)
  • Craft Bakers Association
  • British Meat Processors Association (BMPA)
  • Dairy UK
  • Chilled Foods Association (CFA)
  • British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF)
  • Food Standards Agency
  • IOSH Food and Drink Group
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    Updated 2024-06-12