The food industry relies on harmful substances for sanitation, production, pest control and maintenance. Southalls’ skilled safety consultants explain the correct use of hazardous materials and highlight hidden compliance issues you might be missing.
- Start with Safety Data Sheets
Products should be purchased from trusted suppliers and catalogued in line with best practice and associated guidance of The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
Each chemical which is dangerous for supply requires an individual Safety Data Sheet, detailing the material’s risks and handling, storage and emergency protocols.
- Carry out COSHH risk assessments
Assess which chemicals you hold and which you actually use. Stockpiling redundant substances presents unnecessary risks, so safely dispose of old supplies.
Undertake COSHH risk assessments for all materials you use. Intrinsically similar products, such as oils and greases, can be grouped under one assessment. Assessments should include details on spill clean-up and storage and be regularly reviewed every 1-2 years or when changing products.
Higher-risk or potentially volatile chemicals may also require an assessment under the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) and/or consideration within fire risk assessments.
- Seek out safer alternatives
Under the Hierarchy of Control, you must demonstrate efforts to eliminate or substitute hazardous substances, always opting for the least harmful replacement available. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should only ever be used if other control methods cannot solely achieve the required level of safety. Where PPE is deemed a requirement, a PPE assessment should be conducted.
- Train your team
Staff awareness is fundamental to COSHH compliance. This can be achieved by delivering regular employee training across key areas, including:
- COSHH risk assessment controls and updates.
- Correct PPE use, such as safe glove removal.
- Emergency spill and accident procedures.
- Correct dilution rates, to ensure you still have an effective product (e.g. disinfectant).
- The location of Safety Data Sheets.
- Guidelines on decanting and labelling hazardous substances.
Cleaning and Disinfection
- Know your cleaning chemicals
Use chemicals that are compliant with relevant standards or achieve a recognised accreditation. Schedule cleaning tasks with safety in mind, avoiding the use of harsh materials during service periods.
Select the correct cleaning materials, using heat, steam or chemical disinfection where appropriate. Using the wrong products can have significant consequences, such as potentially tainting food. Ensure you know the contact times for substances to work effectively. For processes requiring stronger chemicals, like oven cleaning or decarbonising, follow strict operation and storage controls. Always obey established training and PPE guidelines.
Dispensers of concentrated products should be checked regularly for crystallisation to prevent misfiring, injuries and spills.
- Use substances designed for hand hygiene
To safeguard against dermatitis, provide effective, yet gentle, hand cleansers and share relevant information from Safety Data Sheets for any additional sanitisers you are introducing. Where excessive handwashing and use of sanitisers is required, consider the use of moisturisers and barrier creams to prevent dry skin.
- Minimise common food handling hazards
Regularly working with flowers, fruit and vegetables – particularly, chillies, citrus fruit and potatoes – can lead to dermatitis and other skin problems. Workers who suffer from sensitivities to latex may also react to apple and pineapple juices. Implement measures that help employees avoid direct contact with known irritants and ensure staff report symptoms to a supervisor as early as possible.
- Practice responsible pest control
- Consider the use of pesticides alongside a wider programme of baiting and proofing.
- Always assess the environment, reviewing what is attracting pests and whether improvements to housekeeping could eliminate the use of rodenticides or insecticides.
- Never use open tray baits in food rooms.
- Ensure staff are aware of onsite treatments and their locations.
- Seek guidance on emergency procedures, should spillages or treatment releases occur.
Ventilation and Maintenance
- Control cooking fumes
Good ventilation can reduce the potentially harmful effects of fumes. Your ventilation system should be sufficient for the food operation, including the satisfactory pull of greases and fats, and with an inlet supply of clean air enabling a minimum of 30 air-changes per hour.
Additional considerations may apply where solid fuel is used, such as local clean air initiatives, permitted fuels, extinguishing protocols, nearby residential properties and carbon monoxide (CO) build-up.
Ventilation and extraction control measures should include:
- Following manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and servicing.
- Understanding the flow rate and suitability of your extraction/ventilation system. If the commissioning certificate is unavailable, ask a competent person to reassess.
- Regular contracted cleaning of the extraction filter and ducting system, every 3-12 months, depending on usage and the standards identified in TR19.
- A weekly internal cleaning regime, including removable filters and the hood.
Installation of CO monitors, if required.
- Reduce machinery maintenance risks
While essential to smooth operations, equipment maintenance, upkeep and cleaning can present considerable risks.
Programmes of planned preventative maintenance, including statutory examinations for local exhaust ventilation and any pressure vessels on site, should be carefully scheduled. This will prevent issues with food preparation and service, and minimise risks of individual exposure and potential contamination from harmful substances.
For decades, Southalls have helped food operators elevate safety standards and achieve COSHH compliance. To learn more about specialist assessments and ongoing safety consultancy, visit www.southalls.com or call 0345 257 4015.