Guest post: “The health and safety risks associated with a bakery business can be very serious”
Do you run a bakery business? In this guest post Natalie Dunn from the HSE talks about risks of sustained exposure to flour dust.
Senior Communications Manager at Health and Safety Executive
Posted on: Mon 21-Oct-19 15:32:06
(12 comments )
Bakers – it’s time to clear the air.
The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens and another group of bakers will be inspired to pick up a mixing bowl.
Some of you’ll be watching and thinking about how far you’ve come since the show first aired 10 years go.
Perhaps what started off as baking for friends’ birthdays, family parties, school bake sales or dance fundraisers has turned into a full time job, and word of mouth has turned your passion into your business.
Like many small business owners or flourishing entrepreneurs, you probably haven’t had a chance to stop and think about the bigger picture. There are so many things when running a business vying for your attention, it probably won’t have occurred to you to think about how your business could be affecting your health.
However, the health and safety risks associated with a bakery business can be very serious. Flour dust can cause asthma and result in serious long-term health problems.
Flour dust and baking additives, such as amylase are the second most common cause of occupational asthma. In this line of work, having your hands wet for hours on end can also cause dermatitis.
As well as workers in bakeries and flour mills, it can also affect workers in kitchens. But don’t worry, you can have your cake and eat it - you just need to be aware of the risks and manage them to stay safe and healthy in the bakery business. Like the dough for your signature bakes, you also knead (sorry) clean air to breathe.
So, what exactly is occupational asthma?
As you may well know, asthma causes symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, bronchitis and tightness in the chest. Occupational asthma is where this respiratory condition has been caused by your working environment. Repeated or long-term exposure to flour dust, as well as associated bread improver enzymes, can cause asthma if regularly breathed in, because these are respiratory sensitisers.
What started off as baking for friends' birthdays, family parties, school bake sales or dance fundraisers has turned into a full-time job and word of mouth turned your passion into your business overnight.
As well as occupational asthma, exposure to flour dust can also cause:
- Occupational dermatitis, resulting in redness, itching and blistering of the skin;
- Rhinitis, which leads to a runny nose;
- Conjunctivitis, resulting in watering, painful eyes.
When a worker becomes sensitised after exposure to flour dust, these symptoms can become so severe that they may no longer be able to work in bakeries, or in some cases, anywhere else at all.
Although the overall incidence rate of occupational asthma has decreased since 1999, the rate of new cases amongst bakers as reported by occupational physicians is now the highest of any occupation in any industry.
Substances that can be hazardous to health in baking include: flour dust; improver dusts containing enzymes etc; dusts from protein containing ingredients such as egg, soya;spices, citrus oils and flavour concentrates; cleaning and disinfectant products.
Research shows that bakers’ views of health and safety can be dominated by the concept of food health and safety as opposed to their own health and safety. But surely as a baker you should also be concerned about the quality of your life. Everyone should go home from work healthy, whether that is from your kitchen annex or office building.
What should you do to control the risks?
Some control measures include:
- careful working to avoid raising clouds of dust;
- dust extraction;
- vacuum or wet cleaning;
- respirator for very dusty tasks;
- skin checks.
If your business has grown and you now employ workers, you can provide equipment such as a dust extraction or personal protective equipment (eg respirator) to protect their health.
Reducing exposure to dust can be done whether you’re working at home or in a bakery. Dust clouds arise from a number of ways including throwing flour, disposing of empty flour bags and brushing, sieving, dough making and dusting tasks. Flour dust is defined as a hazardous substance and this means employers are required to ensure that exposure is prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.
This guidance gives practical advice on how this can be achieved as required by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.
If by chance your hobby has turned into a business or you’re looking at starting up your own business, our advice and guidance can help you Work Right. Whether you’re working from your kitchen or small shop, it’s short and simple and will help you run a safe and healthy workplace. You can sign up on our campaign’s website.
By Natalie Dunn
I was expecting this to be a guest post from a Radford.
Can owning a bakery make you ridiculously fertile?
My first thought was pies.
Why are we being told this?
Why are we being told this??
Because we’re women, and we have hobby jobs. For our running away funds😉
This is a bit disappointing really. The idea of WorkRight is good and very sensible, but why on earth do the whole post on baking?
It will immediately be dismissed as irrelevant to loads of people who could benefit from the guidance but don't have a hobby baking job for pin money.
A local baker died because of his daily. Prolonged contact with flour dust. It was very sad. This happened some years ago.
I thought it was interesting. Hadn't occurred to me that this was a hazard. I expect it's relevant to some here. Why knock it?
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
How many pies does it take to feed a family of 20+?
One miniature pork pie and a 3,000cm invisible one per week that they insist doesn't count because they made the smaller one themselves.
I know two people who run a bakery from home and it certainly isn't a hobby business, they make 100s of loaves a week! I think many people on here can benefit from a reminder about health and safety precautions for their business,even though I don't run a bakery this post gave me food for thought (so to speak!).
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