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The purpose of this bulletin is to provide information for employers, apprentices, employees and managers to identify risks and suggest possible control measures to assist bakeries in meeting their obligation under the Act.
Employers have a responsibility under Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (the Act) to provide and maintain a safe working environment in which employees are not exposed to hazards. This responsibility includes providing information, instruction, training and supervision so that workers are not exposed to hazards. It also includes addressing any health risks such as occupational asthma that could arise at the workplace. Additionally, employers are required to consult with safety and health representatives (if any) and employees on safety and health matters.
Employees have a responsibility under the Act to take reasonable care for their own safety and health and that of others.
The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (Regulation 3.1) require employers to carry out a risk management process at the workplace. This involves a three-step process to:
The third step in the risk management process is to implement control measures to eliminate or reduce the risks from hazards. An additional step is to ensure the measures are monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis to check that they are working.
Manual handling related injuries account for more than half of the total lost time injuries/diseases in the bakery industry. Most of the injuries occur when lifting, handling or reaching and most commonly result in sprains and strains of muscles and joints.
The Commission for Occupational Safety and Health Code of practice: Manual tasks outlines a three-step approach to control manual handling risks:
Many bakeries require workers to carry out manual handling tasks above shoulder height and below knee height where baking trays, flour and other stored items are kept. When reaching for items above shoulder height, the back is arched and the arms act as long levers, making the load difficult to control and significantly increasing the risk of injuries such as falls, sprains or strains.
Heavier items and more frequently used items should be stored between knee and chest height. If this is not practical, workers should be provided with adequate means to retrieve and place items in storage areas without lifting above head/shoulder height.
Bending forward to pick up loads from a low level may cause strains, particularly to the lower back. To reduce the risk of injury, review storage systems in the bakery.
The risk of injury increases, as the load or arms are held further away from the front of the body. This is most evident when workers reach into display cabinets and ovens. Consideration should to be given to size and accessibility. For example, display cabinets are available with a side opening and completely removable doors. Using baskets in chest freezers will minimise the reaching involved.
Awkward and static postures are a hazard, especially when working at benches or sinks for long periods of time, and particularly if the surfaces have not been set at appropriate heights. Such tasks include scrubbing dishes in troughs that are too deep and preparing food at benches that are either too low or too high for the worker. It is not always practical or feasible to provide adjustable surfaces. Individuals can raise themselves up by standing on low, stable platforms to work at surfaces that are too high. Platforms on the floor should be placed in a position/area where they are not a trip hazard.
Moving large baking trays and tins is a high-risk task. They may be heavy, bulky and often hot. Where practical, this task should be eliminated by using trolleys or modifying the load by using smaller trays. When removing hot trays from the oven, long gauntlet gloves protect forearms.
Many bakeries receive bulk deliveries of goods. Handling bulk deliveries is another high-risk task. Where possible, the deliveries should be placed near where they will be stored. If this is not practical, place the goods where they will not cause a slip, trip or fall hazard.
When placing stock into storage, heavier items and more frequently used items should be stored between knee and chest height. If that is not practical, workers should be provided with a stepladder or safety step to reduce reaching above shoulder height. Consideration should also be given to using bulk storage bins for products such as flour.
Stock levels should be managed to ensure there is adequate room to store items in shelving and storage areas.
The bakery should be designed for ease of movement, work flow and work activity.
Repetitive movements are associated with occupational overuse injuries. Where possible, repetitive tasks should be limited by having varied tasks, job rotation and frequent cycle breaks. There are many other risk factors associated with overuse injuries, such as constrained and/or awkward postures and forceful movements.
Long and unusual working hours may contribute to physical and mental fatigue. Duration of work periods and work rosters organised are two such factors which may be monitored and modified to reduce the risks associated with fatigue. For further information read the Code of practice: Working hours.
Time constraints and increasing demands are potential risk factors for manual handling injuries and slips, trips and falls in the workplace. Workers may be pressured to work too quickly or carry/move increased loads to meet demand. Staff numbers and rostering relative to work demands should be monitored and modified accordingly to reduce such risks.
Where possible, eliminate or minimise manual handling by using appropriate equipment, such as suitable trolleys.
The workplace needs to be kept tidy to minimise slip, trip and fall hazards.
Workers should be made aware of manual handling risk factors and how to use the risk management approach to minimise such risks.
Identify slip, trip and fall hazards and possible controls Slips, trips and falls are among the most common hazards in the bakery industry. Most of the injuries
occur from falls on the same level and are due to slippery floors and obstructions resulting in fractures,
sprains, bruises and cuts.
In the bakery industry, floors with flour and/or water spills are the greatest cause of slip, trip and fall injuries. There are several simple ways of minimising the risk of slips and falls.
Sinks and troughs should be designed to avoid water dripping onto the floor.
Install non-slip floor surfaces:
Cleaning floors - effective scheduling and adequate frequency.
Transporting fluids - where mechanical aids are not practical, fluid should be transported in a suitable container, such as a bucket with sturdy handle and secure lid.
Appropriate footwear - to be used by workers.
There are several simple ways of minimising the risk of trips and falls as a result of changes in floor levels. These include:
Although it is not always practical to eliminate a change in floor levels in an existing bakery, as part of a redesign or refit, eliminating this risk factor would be the preferred control option.
Small ramps may be an effective way of graduating the change in floor levels, to reduce the risk.
Bright markings and warning signs are examples of how changes in levels may be clearly indicated.
The risk of injury becomes much greater when changes in floor levels are combined with changes in surfaces, slippery floors or inadequate lighting and manual handling tasks. This risk can be controlled by ensuring that the lighting is good and the floor levels have non-slip tiles and non-slip mats. These areas should be kept clear of fluids or any obstruction that might cause a person to slip, trip or fall.
There are several simple ways of minimising the risk of trips and falls as a result of obstructions. These include controls such as:
Providing appropriate storage design and space:
Frequently breathing in flour dust may lead to occupational asthma. Minimising flour dust in the air can reduce the health risk.
Breathing in flour dust frequently at work can lead to some people developing a health condition known as occupational asthma. This condition can cause long-term or life-long health problems.
Asthma is a condition of the lungs where the airways to the lungs narrow and cause coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath. The cause is unknown but it often starts or is made worse because of a number of factors in the environment.
Occupational asthma develops when a person becomes very sensitive to a specific substance, such as flour dust, which they frequently breathe in at the workplace.
In the baking industry, dust from baking flour is a factor in the environment that may cause occupational asthma in some workers.
When baking flour dust is identified as a potential hazard at the workplace, the ways to reduce the potential health risks for workers include:
There is a period from several weeks to many years when there are no symptoms. When the symptoms start developing:
If you suspect you have symptoms of occupational asthma, or you have a condition that might increase sensitivity to flour dust, talk to your employer, a safety and health representative (if there is one at work), a union representative, if you are a member, and/or your doctor.
If the cause of occupational asthma is not recognised, or you continue to work while suffering symptoms, there is a risk that the asthma will continue, even after leaving the job.
Further information on the manual handling risk management process can be found in the: