HSE Crack Down on Flour Dust During 2018

Wed, 28/02/2018

Flour dust poses a serious risk to workers who are exposed to high levels of it on a daily basis. We wrote extensively here about the risks of flour dust and how to protect your workers a year ago. The HSE have now announced that they will be focusing on the food sector and in particular, flour dust, throughout 2018. They will be visiting over 300 factories to carry out full inspections to check the levels of airborne dust, extraction equipment, safety wear and flour handling practices.

Are you ready for an investigative inspection at your factory/bakery?

This is not a matter to be taken lightly, if you are inspected and found to not be protecting your workers to a safe level or you don’t have correct safety procedures in place you could easily be shut down. The long term health problems that affect people working with airborne dust are very serious and in many cases have caused severe long term breathing problems. Read this case study for an HSE investigation at a bakery. The HSE want to promote a co-ordinated and sustained focus in this area to change behaviour, raise standards and reduce ill health in the workplace.

What are safe levels of airborne flour dust?

Flour dust can cause asthma or ‘bakers asthma’ when breathed in. Exposure levels must be reduced as far below the WEL of 10 mg/m3 as is reasonably possible. You are also required to follow COSHH health surveillance checks on your employees. This is checking for any adverse effects related to work, including checking skin for dermatitis or asking questions about breathing.

What can be done to reduce exposure levels?

Handling Flour

  • Not tipping flour from height when sifting, mixing or weighing – consider the use of a chute to eliminate clouds of flour dust.
  • Mixing in open mixers should be started at a very low speed until the flour is combined with the other ingredients.
  • Consider using an enclosed system to transfer the flour or a separate contained area for sifting, mixing and weighing.
  • Flour spilt on the floor should not be swept up but vacuumed. Perform regular cleaning of high level surfaces where flour dust will have collected.
  • Careful rolling and disposal of flour sacks, to avoid flattening or folding which would cause a plume of dust - empty flour sacks should be stored elsewhere, away from work areas.
  • Flour and other powder containers to have lids, which should only be removed when necessary.

Extraction Systems

  • Implementation of dust extraction equipment or LEV systems in very dusty areas.
  • Fit a manometer or pressure gauge near the extraction point, to show that the extraction is working properly and ensure that the system is on and functioning properly before work commences.
  • Consider extraction hoods and flexible arms for weighing areas.
  • Mobile dust extraction units may be necessary in some areas.

Work Wear

Personal respirator (RPE) should be considered for very dusty tasks in situations where dust extraction is impossible. Remember, RPE is the last line of defence and should ONLY be used ‘in conjunction with other engineering controls’.

Use Low-Dust Flour

Low-Dust flour is a revolutionary product which can significantly reduce the levels of airborne flour particles during handling. Special hydrothermic processes used in their production reduce dust development by up to 85% compared with all-purpose flour. Therefore significant improvements in the quality of room air can be achieved, with positive health benefits for bakery employees.

Benefits include:

  • Flour dust exposure reduction for manual and automated baking processes.
  • It is used to stop dough sticking to surfaces and also used as a dusting flour.
  • It reduces the amount of cleaning-up.
  • It is a cost effective, practical dust control solution.
  • When used correctly, there should be no need for RPE to be worn when carrying out dusting and lubricating tasks after substitution for low-dust flour is made.

Low-Dust Flour Video

Watch this video to see how low-dust flour produces 85% less air-borne particles when handled than standard flour.

How can Vent Tech help you?

Vent-Tech have helped many businesses to improve their systems of minimising harmful airborne dust. In some cases it can be as simple as process change, or perhaps supplying industrial vacuums. Here are the ways that we can help:

  • Initial site assessment.
  • Advice and technical expertise.
  • Monitoring and testing.
  • Equipment supply.
  • LEV systems – Design and supply.
  • Evaluation of your individual circumstances to ensure compliance and keep your workforce safe.

We have also installed dust extraction systems and LEV systems at many big food manufacturers including Aunt Bessies, Mission Foods and Greencore. To find out more about our process and what we can do to ensure you are ready for an HSE inspection, give us a call on  0117 964 7945.


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