Health & Safety Priorities in Meat Processing Industry
Sheila Pantry, OBE
The meat processing industry is deemed to be a high risk sector. According to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the number of injuries sustained makes the Meat processing industry the fifth most risky out of 19 sectors of the food industry as a whole. And the meat processing industry is the 10th worst out of the 200 plus types of manufacturing industry. This is more than three times as bad as the average for manufacturing industry generally.
So, what is being done about it?
The UK HSE has recently issued Food Information Sheet No 15 Health and Safety Priorities in the meat processing industry which draws attention to the aspects of the meat industry working environment. It lists the main causes of accidents in order of priority and It also gives information on the types of situations and equipment involved and a safety checklist on handling slips, trips, falls, being struck by objects, machinery and exposure to harmful substances. Other useful information sources are also listed.
This is in line with the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions Report Working Conditions in the European Meat Processing Industry, which through a network of researchers in European Union Member States found that the main risk groups are slaughter-house workers, production-line workers and boners. Some of the problem areas are the working climate, biological agents, skin diseases and infections, musculo-skeletal loads and unsafe conditions.
Lack of training and qualification of both workers and management, and concern about the general qualifications for the job, as well as health and safety at work, were concluded to be the main deficits in the Meat Sector's working conditions across Europe. This is largely recognised by the social partners, other sectoral organisations and governmental bodies, and thus identified as a priority area for policy and actions.
Meat industry action
The European Consortium for Continuing Education in Advanced Meat Science and Technology (ECCEAMST) network in the European Meat Industry consisting of representatives from sectorial educational organisations in Denmark, United Kingdom and the Netherlands (Danish Slaughter School, the United Kingdom Meat Training Council, Netherlands Meat Training College, ECCEAMST Co-ordination Bureau) concluded that occupational health and safety is now a priority among the training needs throughout the European Meat Sector. Furthermore, all three national organisations are now very active with the development and/or implementation of national vocational qualification standards within the sector of their country.
A rationalisation process is now going on in the Meat Industry in various European countries, and is mostly due to 'common' developments in business such as increasing international competition, but in others it is additionally heavily influenced by the European Union legislation on hygiene and sanitary conditions in slaughter houses. This means on the one hand that the sector throughout Europe is under significant economic constraints, and on the other hand that hygienic conditions and compliance to regulations in this respect, play a crucial role in the surviving of Meat companies.
Since hygienic conditions and working conditions are largely related to each other, training and qualification with respect to health and safety at work can significantly contribute not only to proper hygienic conditions, and to good product quality but also to efficient conduct of business, and thus to guaranteeing employment and opportunities for career development of employees in the European Meat Sector.
A pilot project
The main factors described above gave rise to the development of a proposal for a pilot-project which has now started. The main objectives of this pilot project are:
- To improve the quality of both initial and continuing vocational training,
as well as the quality of facilities for life long learning facilities in the
European Meat Industry, by cross-nationally attuning and innovating the training
with respect to health and safety at work;
- To enhance the transfer and exchange of knowledge, experiences and information materials regarding training in health and safety at work throughout the European Meat Industry, so as to make more efficient use of existing expertise.
The main objectives of the project will be to produce:
- An cross-national overview (matrix) of the existing vocational standards;
the educational sectorial structure (the organisations that are active in this
field); the training programmes, levels and materials; the training needs; and
the marketing expectations with respect to occupational health and safety in the
European Meat Industry;
- A framework of internationally attuned vocational qualification standards
with respect to health and safety at work, covering the range from workers'
training up to training of middle management. Although the aim is
standardisation, this framework will leave room for tailor-made application in
- Educational material on health and safety at work, based on best training
practices in the Meat Industry in the various countries, covering the range form
workers' training up to training of middle management. Specific choices will
have to be made, based on the findings in the project, with regard to the sort
of vocational training and kind of materials that will be developed, e.g:
- training modules for initial vocational training, including accompanying teacher guides;
- training modules for continuing vocational training, including accompanying teacher guides;
- distance learning package for middle management (life longlearning);
- written materials, videos, interactive games (either multi-media or not);
- a European working conference to present the results of the project on a large scale, and in a dynamic way (e.g. workshops with interactive games, so as to make the participants 'experience' the project's results);
- marketing plans for each participating country ensuring a successful national dissemination and implementation of the framework of standards and the educational material developed;
- an expansion of the permanent ECCEAMST network with social partners in the Meat Industry across Europe, and with health and safety expert organisations active in the sector.
All the documents and materials will primarily be developed in English. For the purpose of the pilot-projects, documents/materials may be translated into national languages.
The project is being varied out by a partnership consisting of vocational schools, health and safety experts, meat companies, social partners, joint bodies, public authorities and a university enterprise training consortium, who between them have extensive subject expertise, much practical knowledge, and extensive experience in developing qualification standards and multi-media training materials. The Partnership covers ten countries - United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Germany, Portugal, Finland, Greece, Belgium, and Spain.
Partners from these countries form the Steering Group and Working Group of the project, and will thus carry out most of the activities in the various stages of the project. Project management is undertaken by NIA-TNO from the Netherlands.
Partners from these countries will be involved with:
- actively contributing to the Steering Group meetings;
- drafting of a marketing plan for the dissemination and implementation of the
project's products (or a selection thereof) within their country; this may
- translation of project's products;
- ensuring the marketing of the project's products within their country, either by activities from themselves, or by finding third parties to carry them out.
While the project is running they are free to decide to carry out a pilot-project within their country as well, but this will not be financed from the project's budget. The project is aimed to run for three years, from 1997- 1999.
- NIA-TNO: Netherlands Institute for the Working Environment, Amsterdam, The
Netherland Mrs. Sonja Nossent, Tel: + 31 20 54 89 477 Fax: + 31 20 64 62 310;
- ECCEAMST: European Consortium for Continuing Education in Advance Science
and Technology, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Mrs Hedwig Casteels, Tel: + 31 30 53
33 92, Fax: + 31 30 51 17 54;
- SVO: Meat Training College, Utrecht - the Netherlands, Mr. Wim Koster, Tel: + 31 30 71 71 21, Fax: + 31 30 73 33 74.
A search through the various databases, HSELINE, CISDOC & NIOSHTICS on the OSH-ROM CD-ROM and the full text OSH-CD shows an extensive rage of guidance and advice, training, videos, and scientific research investigations on health and safety in the meat industry. Links from our lists of links on this web site will take you to further information, such as:
- WorkSafe Western Australia, Safety and Health Solutions Manual Handling in
the Meat Industry - Reducing the risks:
- The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Working Conditions in the European Meat Processing Industry. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities ISBN 92 827 5543 6 ECU11.20;
The products mentioned in this article are available for a free trial. Why not try these for yourself and check out the contents of these exciting sources of information against your own workplace needs?