Worrying Health & Safety Trends for the Manufacturing Sector

Ridwaan Omar
Ridwaan Omar

Published: February 28th, 2023

7 min read

The manufacturing sector features as one of the industries which accounts for a high percentage of workplace accidents. The latest HSE annual work related ill health and injury statistics for 2021/22 noted that the manufacturing industry was the second highest for number of deaths, with the number of workers killed in work related accidents totalling 123.

For non-fatal injuries, the most common injuries were slips, trips and falls (30%); handling, lifting, or carrying (18%); being carried by moving object (11%); Acts of violence (9%) and falls from heights (8%). There were reported to be 565,000 workers who sustained non-fatal injuries at work, a significant increase from 441,000 in 2020/21 and 61,713 which were RIDDOR reportable.

Over the past 6 months, we have seen an increased number of reported HSE prosecutions against companies in the manufacturing sector where significant sentencing fines have been imposed on companies - due to breach of health and safety legislation and regulations.

One high-profile enforcement case was against Nestle UK Ltd who pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 11 of Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and were fined £800,000 after an incident that occurred when a maintenance technician was investigating an issue with a conveyor belt. His sleeve caught in a roller which then dragged his left arm into the machine. Findings showed no properly assessed risk and a failure to guard the roller. Nestle received a significant fine of £640,000 in January 2021 when a similar incident took place at one of their other production sites. The HSE contended that despite this incident, they had failed to take appropriate action.

Entanglement in machinery is one of the highest risk activities in the sector and is likely to result in enforcement action against companies. In the food and drink industries, machinery, and plant cause over 30% of fatal injuries and over 10% of major injuries according to the HSE. In December 2022, a food production company was subject to a significant fine of £858,000 when an employee had an arm amputated after his right hand and arm were drawn into the machine when removing filling ingredients from a paddle mixer. The control measures in place were ineffective and the interlocking system was non-operational.

Lack of suitable risk assessments and ensuring that there is safety guarding around dangerous parts feature in each case. Bernard Matthew's Food Ltd were subject to fines totalling £400,000 for two separate incidents where employees were seriously injured.

A company in Scunthorpe was subject to a £70,000 fine when an employee's ponytail became trapped in a machine's rotating shaft causing horrific injuries to the head area. Again, post-accident there were failures identified in relation to suitable guards and lack of assessments.

The manufacturing industry by its very nature of production is generally a high-risk sector, therefore, companies need to ensure that there are safe systems of work in place. Employees need to be trained and instructed on how to undertake their tasks safely and machinery should be subject to regular proactive maintenance checks. Suitable and sufficient risk assessments need to be carried out routinely to ensure that there are appropriate control measures in place.

What risk assessment checks are made on the physical attributes of an employee? Could your employees encounter a foreseeable risk of injury in undertaking their tasks? These are questions that the manufacturing industry as a whole should be asking.

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