Food processing machinery

Injury statistics

In the food and drink industries machinery and plant causes:

  • over 30% of fatal injuries
  • over 10% of major injuries (eg requiring hospitalisation)
  • over 7% of all injuries (ie major injuries and over-3-day absence injuries)
  • almost 500 injuries per year reportable to HSE.

Main causes of injury

Analysis of injuries investigated by HSE in the food and drink industries over a four year period highlighted the main types of machinery involved:

  • Conveyors; 30%
  • Fork lift trucks: 12%
  • Bandsaws: 5%
  • Thermoform machines, pie and tart machines, palletisers/depalletisers, strapping/ banding/tapping machines and mincing/ grinding/mixing machines: 4% each
  • Food mixers, wrapping machines, dough moulders and depositors: 3% each
  • Slicers, dough dividers, derinders, drinks bottling machinery, roll plant and kegging plant: 2% each
  • Patty formers, cartoning machines, vertical thermoform machines, drinks labelling/marking machines, shrink wrapping machines and drinks process machinery: 1% each
  • Drinks crating/decrating machines, stamping/ punching / franking machines and drinks canning machinery: 0.5% each


  • Conveyors are involved in 30% of all machinery accidents in the food/drink industries - more than any other class of machine
  • 90% of conveyor injuries occur on flat belt conveyors
  • 90% of the injuries involve well known hazards such as in-running transmission parts and trapping points between moving and fixed parts
  • 90% of accidents occur during normal foreseeable operations - production activities, clearing blockages etc
  • Safeguarding of hazardous parts of conveyors may be by design (eg lift-out rollers that prevent finger trapping), fixed guarding (requiring a hand tool such as a spanner to remove) or hinged or removable interlocked guards (eg guards fitted with coded, magnetic interlock switches to prevent the machine running with the guard removed). In the food industry interlocked guards have the advantage of making the machine easier to hygienically clean on a frequent basis, however maintenance when subject to cleaning fluids may be higher
  • A safe system of work should be in place for daily and routine hygienic cleaning of the conveyor that ensures workers are not placed at risk of injury from unguarded moving parts. The system of work used should be formalised and workers appropriately trained.

Purchasing new machinery

When purchasing new machinery it is important to:

  • Select work equipment which is suitable for its intended use in respect of health and safety
  • Specify clearly the health, safety and hygienic design requirements for the supplier to meet (including noise levels)
  • Check that the equipment supplied meets your specification and the supplier has met their legal duties.

Further information can be found under European CEN standards and Further guidance below.

European CEN standards

The European Standardisation Committee (CEN) has produced a number of European CEN 'C' standards which set out safety requirements for certain types or groups of food machine. If there is a published standard relevant to a machine you are purchasing, this should be specified in the purchase contract. Some standards are still being drafted.

CEN 'C' standards implement the more generic requirements of harmonised CEN 'A' and 'B' standards. 'A' standards are the basic standards which apply to all machinery, an example being BS EN ISO 12100-2:2003, Safety of Machinery - Basic concepts, General principles for design. 'B' standards are group safety standards dealing with one aspect such as electrical parts of machines, or one type of safety-related device such as two-hand control devices.

A 'CE' mark on a machine is a claim by the manufacturer that the machine is safe and complies with the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) of the supply law (for example by complying with the relevant CEN standards). However machine purchasers still need to check the machine is actually safe before use and check the EC Declaration of Conformity provided with the machine.

Pre-CEN Standard machines

Old pre-CEN Standard machines (typically made before 2000-2005) are subject to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998. This requires machinery to be suitable for its purpose, properly maintained, and safe to clean and use.

The CEN standards referred to above should be used as a benchmark for these older machines. Where the standard of safeguarding on an old machine is lower than that for a new machine (as is usually the case), a risk assessment to determine the 'risk gap' should be carried out. If it is reasonably practicable to upgrade the safeguarding to the modern standard taking into account the technical challenges, frequency of use, cost etc. then this should be done. If upgrading is not reasonably practicable, then consideration should be given to replacing the machine within a reasonable timescale taking into account any increased risk of injury from using the machine, frequency of use, safe systems of work etc..

Further guidance

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Updated 2023-06-15