Seen but not heard? Frontline workers still face a battle to be listened to on issues that matter most to them

The majority of American, Australian, and British frontline workers (67 per cent) say that they are never, rarely, or only sometimes listened to on topics that matter to them the most  – operations (54 per cent), safety (46 per cent), and health/wellbeing (49 per cent) – according to new research by SafetyCulture.

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Fall protection takes centre stage at 3M’s Fall Protection Open Day

Falls from heights are an ongoing safety concern in all industrial environments.

According to the Safe Work Australia report, Work-Related Injuries and Fatalities Involving A Fall From Height, in 2010–11, 7730 claims for serious injury were lodged due to a fall from a height. This means that 21 employees each day lodged a claim for a falls-related injury that required one or more weeks off work.

Given the importance of preventing falls from height, 3M, the leader in safety, and Capital Safety, the leader in fall protection, are now connected for a safer future – 3M Fall Protection.


To be held at the 3M’s Fall Protection headquarters in Sydney on Thursday, October 27th, the day will feature many informative activities that demonstrate that the importance of fall protection.

  • Visit the custom-built fall protection Training Centre where you can learn about how to prevent falls from heights and dangerous workplaces and how to create a safer work environment.
  • Watch as 3M tests its products on its purpose built product Testing Tower!
  • View the disastrous consequences of a fall from height so you and your company can avoid them in future. Fall protection goes virtual with 3M’s new virtual reality experience, which is available all day!
  • Learn about new arc flash technology and the product life-cycle concept where you are taken through the R&D process of prototyping and testing, through to the manufacturing assessment and into mass production.
  • Go on guided tour of the production floor where you will see how a harness gets constructed from raw material through to the finished
  • See live, hands-on training demonstrations such as Dropped Objects and Pick-off Rescues on 3M’s mobile Road Show Demo Truck.


Key info

Date and Time: Thursday 27 October 2016, with two sessions: a morning session (9am to 12pm) and an afternoon session (1pm to 4pm).

Address: 3M Fall Protection 95 Derby St Silverwater NSW 2128.

Inclusions: Lunch is provided for all guests in both sessions, between 12pm to 1pm.


Contact: If you have any questions, please call 1800 245 002



Safe and fearless for Safe Work Month

Every October, Safe Work Australia Month is held to raise awareness of the importance of workplace safety. In 2013-14 there were 106,565 serious workers’ compensation claims made  and tragically, 190 workers lost their lives while working in Australia in 2015 . Workplace health and safety is of vital importance for all employees and employers, yet some professions face additional risks that can be difficult to prepare for. Fearless™ is a personal safety system that helps keep workers safe wherever they are. It is of particular benefit to ‘lone workers’ such as mobile staff, nurses, construction and salespeople.

Developed by Calamity, Australia’s highest-rated security monitoring provider, Fearless offers mobile protection to staff and helps businesses quickly comply with some of the toughest WHS requirements. Fearless is accessed through an app on a piece of technology everybody already carries – their smart phones. In a dangerous situation, or when staff fail to ‘check-in’ as expected an alarm can be raised through the app. Calamity’s 24/7 monitoring centre is alerted and has access to the user’s location as well as using the phone for audio and camera evidence, allowing live operators to initiate a suitable response. The alarm can either be activated manually or automatically when a countdown timer reaches zero. The system is cloud-based so even if the phone is destroyed or stolen the user can be protected.

Professions that require employees to travel offsite regularly, or who work irregular hours can face added occupational risks that can be difficult for management to prepare for. A survey of health professionals, teachers and police working in rural and remote Australia found that 57% had experienced verbal abuse from community members in the past 12 months and 21% had experienced physical violence . In situations that can compromise a person’s feeling of safety, such as finishing a nursing shift late at night or needing to visit a stranger’s house for an appointment, Fearless can offer much needed peace of mind.

While travelling, Journey mode can be activated on the app, providing live updates to emergency contacts or employers if necessary. Meeting mode can be set for a potentially risky meeting or while alone. An alert is raised if a countdown timer reaches zero without being reset by the user. In situations where injury or personal immobilisation is a possibility, such as off-site construction, Man-Down is a function which offers additional protection by flagging any sudden deceleration, non-movement or impact.

Fearless has been purposefully built to assist in emergency situations and to dispatch help as quickly and efficiently as possible if needed. Businesses owners and managers feel at ease knowing that their staff are prepared for the worst case scenario or simple day to day risk. “Fearless has far-reaching applications in so many workplace scenarios,” says Daniel Lewkovitz, CEO of Calamity and designer of Fearless. “It has been carefully constructed to ensure employers can comply with Work Health and Safety requirements and offers peace of mind to anyone who may feel unsafe in their personal or professional life. Fearless takes a proactive approach to safety, as users can switch it on before any potentially dangerous situation, such as travelling to a meeting, and it will let others know you arrived safely without anyone needing to remember to ‘text their boss’. The technology is the best on the market and this tool saves lives.”

Technology is the most effective way to ensure staff feel safe and is essential for collecting evidence of sound, image and location if needed. As jobs have become increasingly flexible and more people work irregular hours and at different locations, Fearless is the most efficient tool to protect staff.


Solution to workplace safety in Sydney

The largest workplace health and safety event in Australia will gather at Sydney Showground Olympic Park on 6-8 September 2016.

More than 4,000 Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) professionals across manufacturing, government, construction, healthcare, transport, distribution and engineering will attend Safety in Action, a three day event featuring over 20 free seminars on insights and priorities for employee safety.

“Already this month, 109 Australian workers have been killed at work, highlighting the urgent need for national improvements to prevent the number escalating,” says Keith Barks, General Manager at Informa Australia.

Running parallel to Safety in Action will be the Safety Institute of Australia’s National Convention, a two day conference featuring global and Australian safety leaders who will address the theme of “Disruptive Safety”. The convention program will include presentations from Bernard Salt and challenge leaders to change their thinking about safety.

A free Safety in Action seminar series will feature keynote speakers, discussing this year’s theme “Keep your workplace safe”. Speakers include: beyondblue, Coca-Cola, SafeWork NSW, Myosh, OzHelp Foundation, AccessEAP and Aframes Safety.

Companies exhibiting include: beyondblue, Myosh, ATOM, Mix Telematics, Royal Life Saving, Chemical Safety International, Sydney Safety Training and SAI Global. A full list of exhibitors can be found here.

Exclusive to Safety in Action will be Australia’s largest cleaning and hygiene show CleanScene. Presented by the National Cleaning Suppliers Association (NCSA), the co-located event will feature a number of exhibitors catering for cleaners, commercial, industrial and facility managers and government agencies.

Where: Sydney Showground Olympic Park, 1 Showground Road, Sydney

  • Tuesday           6 September 2016 10am – 4pm
  • Wednesday     7 September 2016 10am – 4pm
  • Thursday         8 September 2016 10am – 4pm

Roadmap to guide the way to workplace safety

SafeWork NSW has launched a new work health and safety Roadmap for NSW which sets a number of ambitious targets to reduce the rate of injury, illness and fatalities in NSW workplaces.

The Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022 is a six year plan to make the lives of NSW workers and business owners healthier, safer and more productive.

Under the vision ‘Healthy, safe, and productive working lives’, the Roadmap aims to reduce work-related fatalities by 20 per cent, serious injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent and serious musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent through engaging and empowering workplaces to manage health and safety more effectively.

The manufacturing sector has been identified in the Roadmap as one of the State’s highest risk industry sectors and Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said they will implement targeted programs to reduce the number of injuries and illnesses within the industry.

“Over the last ten years, fewer people are being seriously or fatally injured in NSW workplaces,” Mr Dunphy said.

“There has been a 49 per cent decline in fatalities and a 39 per cent decline in serious injuries and illnesses which can be attributed to a number of factors, including changing attitudes towards work health and safety, as well as the development of best practice, industry transformation and technological developments.

“And while NSW had made good progress towards meeting national safety targets, the rates of work-related of injuries, illnesses and fatalities were still too high.

“Over the last three years there were 14,886 major workers compensation claims in the manufacturing industry.

“And when we consider that the more than 30,000 serious workplace injuries and illnesses last financial year cost the NSW economy more than $17 billion or 3.7 per cent of gross state product, it’s clear that we must do more.

Mr Dunphy said the Roadmap focussed on building the ability of businesses to better manage work health and safety.

“Over the next six years SafeWork NSW will develop and deliver a range of innovative initiatives in partnership with employers, workers, peak bodies, associations, and community leaders to protect workers and increase the competitiveness and confidence of NSW business,” he said.

“This will be underpinned by a number of elements, including good safety practices supported by committed leadership, consultation, workers who look out for each other and safe design.

“We will seek to limit musculoskeletal injuries, mental health disorders and exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials.

“We are also committed to significantly reducing the number of injuries involving quad bikes, forklifts, machine guarding, working at heights and electrocution.

“These innovative programs will be developed through data driven insights and information sharing with stakeholders so that practical solutions to current work health and safety risks can be found.”

Mr Dunphy said NSW was the nation’s leading economy and the manufacturing sector should be the safest in the country.

“While our workplaces are amongst the safest, healthiest, and most productive in the country, the Roadmap challenges us to look out for each other and improve workplace health and safety across the State.”

New workplace health and training centre opened in New Zealand

A new workplace health and training centre has opened in Hamilton New Zealand, the first dedicated location in the region.

Vertical Horizonz provided training in the Waikato area since its beginning in 1998, with its services also provided throughout New Zealand, the Middle East, and Australia.

The centre features a large training area, two classrooms, and confined space units to train a wide range of skills including pole and rope rescue, first aid, gas testing, and construction health and safety.

Training Quality general manager Phil Hokianga said the company sought to develop a purpose built training facility in 2018 to further demonstrate what they can do, in a report by Stuff.

“This is just a temporary measure for us. We want to provide training as realistic as we can have it to the environment people will be working in,” he said.

Hokianga went on to say that business had increased following changes to New Zealand’s Health and Safety Work Act. The legislation, enforced in April 2015, which heightened responsibility of all levels – from contractors to directors – to enhance the health and safety of their workplace.

More than 17,000 people were trained last year in categories ranging from industrial safety, transport and crane, first aid, professional development, and rural operations.

More than 40 hospitalised after chlorine exposure

A suspected faulty water pipe led to more than 40 workers from the Baiada Poultry factory in Beresfield being hospitalised on Monday after they were exposed to chlorine dioxide.

The Environmental Protection Authority, the meat packers union and Baiada have all launched investigations into the cause of the exposure, believed to have occurred after a fault with the system used to keep the factory’s assembly line clean.

It is understood to have caused workers to be sprayed with the chlorine solution, leading to complaints of nausea, irritated throats and eyes, and breathing difficulties.

More than 200 employees at the factory were evacuated at about 8.30am after workers reacted to the chemical, and 43 were transported to three hospitals across the Hunter.

Paramedics and Fire and Rescue both attended the factory, treating a number of workers at the site.

Inspector Brett Crotty from Fire and Rescue NSW said the cause of the exposure was a “chlorine solution used to disinfect the assembly line and keep everything clean”.

“There’s one tank with chlorine, and one tank with water, they both go through a pipe and mix together to dilute the chlorine, then they’re sprayed over the assembly line,” he said.

“There has been either a blockage or a fault in the water tank [which has] meant that chlorine has sprayed out over the assembly line.

“It wouldn’t have been for a long time, you know pretty quick if you come into contact with a straight disinfectant.”

Baiada could not confirm how many staff were affected or what had caused the malfunction, a spokesman saying that staff were being “monitored”.

“Our concern is for the well-being of our staff, and we will be conducting a thorough investigation of the cause of the leak,” the spokesman said.

“In the coming days we will be able to provide more information on what has occurred.”

Unaffected staff returned to work after the site was declared safe.

The Environmental Protection Authority visited the site after the evacuation, and has since requested a detailed incident report from Baiada as part of its investigation into the incident.

A spokesperson confirmed that chlorine dioxide was the chemical that leaked at the Beresfield plant.

“Once the site was declared safe by NSW Fire and Rescue HAZMAT crews, EPA officers carried out an inspection of the premises to determine the extent of environmental impacts,” the spokesperson said.

“No offsite impacts were identified.”

Hunter New England Health said all 43 workers, who were taken to Calvary Mater, Maitland and John Hunter hospitals, were in a stable condition.

By about 4.30pm 33 of them were still hospitalised.

A spokeswoman for health saying their status was being “reviewed” and could not confirm whether any would stay overnight.

Neighbours said they did not hear an alarm prior to the evacuation and were not notified by anyone from Baiada of the chemical leak, which is being investigated by the Environment Protection Authority.

On Monday afternoon, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union said that its officers were also on site “investigating the incident”.

Grant Courtney from the union said union officers had been at the site on Monday, and would conduct interviews with staff on Tuesday.

“We’ll be speaking with them to find out firsthand what happened,” Mr Courtney said.

“At the moment our concern is our member’s health.”

He said the union had been unable to confirm a number of details from the company, including how many people had been hospitalised.

“All they have said is that they have complied with their health and safety obligations, but we’ll be conducting our own investigations,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation, chlorine dioxide can be used as a disinfectant agent or for treating water.

It exists as a gas at room temperature but can become explosive when its concentration in the air is greater than 10 per cent.

How to reduce your audit costs

Time is money, and while audits are part and parcel of being a food manufacturer, you should be striving to make them as efficient and cost effective as possible, writes Martin Stone.

With the increase in requirements for demonstrating compliance to a given standard, audit costs are steadily rising across the industry. The ultimate cost of a food safety audit is based on the amount of time an auditor spends on site plus a travel component, also based on time. Typically, that total time is multiplied by a rate to yield the total cost. The trick to reducing auditing costs therefore, is to reduce the time of the audit.

There are three areas that I regularly see as having potential for reducing audit time, all of which are under the control of the auditee. These include the evidence provided to the auditor, preparation for the audit and activities on the audit day itself. Here are some practical tips to ensure you are minimising your audit costs:


  • Auditors base decisions on evidence. The better the evidence, the less time an auditor will take to make a decision. The best supporting evidence consists of relevant documents that get to the heart of a matter. 

    Documents should be titled, signed and dated.  Photographs should be headed and dated. Cross references should be logical and easy to follow. Make it easy for the auditor to join the dots and come to a correct and timely decision.

  • Remember that facts are quicker for an auditor to respond to – compared to opinions. The provision of hard, concise and  factual evidence will save auditing time and money.


  • Read the last audit report carefully. Consider recommendations or any issues requiring close outs at this audit and be prepared with the chain of evidence that will be required. Expect the auditor to want to investigate any anomalies raised at prior audits and again, have relevant information at hand to provide to the auditor.
  • Pre-audit yourself. Imagine the non-conformances or questions that could be raised. Be prepared with an answer and chain of evidence to support your assertions. By anticipating the questions to come from an auditor, you can be ready with the answers.
  • Many facilities have lengthy induction/site entry programs which are underpinned by the requirement for visitors to read and respond to lengthy documents. Consider if some of the induction programs for visitors can be conducted off site. A system that allows an auditor to complete some or all of an induction program prior to arriving on site will reduce site time of the audit.

The audit day

  • Ask the auditor "Can we proceed quicker if possible, what can we do to reduce the time required?" Let the auditor know that you wish to keep audit time to a minimum and will do what you can to facilitate this. Ask the question at the start of the audit and again, for next time, at the closing meeting.
  • Get a plan for the audit and ensure the relevant people are available at each stage. If a key person is not available at a particular time, alter the audit plan to suit. Do not get in a position where you are waiting for a key person to finish a meeting before interacting with the auditor.
  • Have someone available for the auditor to access at all times. Think 'assistant auditor'; assigning someone like this can save you a lot of time. This person should be someone who knows where all the references are and how to find any auditor requests. The idea here is to ensure the flow of information to the auditor, rather than receiving a big list of requests that results in dead auditing time while the required information is retrieved. 
  • Ensure complete access to the plant is available for a single plant inspection. Having to go to and from the plant because one section or another is closed or in wash down or 'starting up later' wastes time. Tour the facility in a logical commonsense manner. Start with receivals and end with dispatch. This makes the process easy to understand and will speed transit through the facility. Guide the auditor, tell them where key monitoring takes place and point out 'places of interest' and those locations relevant to the program being audited. Again, do everything you can to ensure the tour is a 'one-pass'. Coming back to the plant to check on something that was not observed in the first pass wastes large amounts of time.
  • Develop a one page index of your system so that an auditor can find a relevant section quickly and easily. A diagram of the system component parts is also great to help an auditor who is unfamiliar with your system.Of course your system always takes some audit time, but you can minimise this.
  • Provide somewhere quiet, tidy and cluter-free for the auditor to sit and review. A big desk or table that they can spread out on is essential.
  • Ensure your records are organised, chronological and complete. Check this yourself if you rely on others to put the records together. Missing records will waste time. If you discover missing records that cannot be located before the audit, determine a cause and be prepared for questioning by the auditor. If the records have been misplaced, ask the auditor if you can send them for review on a later date rather than making the auditor wait as you conduct a sweep of the operation.

I recently reviewed a report where an auditor returned on a second day to complete an audit and logged only one hour of audit time for this day. They also logged an additional two hours of travel time for this second day. By staying back another hour, the additional travel time could have been avoided. Ask your auditor "Can we stay back to complete this rather than you coming another day?"

Above all, try to eliminate the 'waiting for' moments in an audit – waiting to see this item, waiting to find that document or waiting to see that person can be dead audit time which ends up costing your business money. Like most things in food manufacturing, planning really is central to minimising time and costs.

Let's face it, every year you should be getting better at audits, so having shorter audits as an objective is a worthwhile and achievable target. Try setting the auditee team a KPI of reduced audit time and see if you can actively reduce your audit costs.

Good luck.

Martin Stone is a director of HACCP Australia, a leading food science consultancy. He is an accomplished food safety auditor and undertakes audits for legal, insurance and certification requirements. For more information visit


Taste Master fined for failing to maintain extruder machine

Taste Master has been prosecuted and fined after a worker sustained serious and permanent injuries when working on an extruder machine.

Taste Master manufactures flavours for use in the manufacture of food and beverage products and also fragrances used in cosmetics, hair care products and candles.

SafeWork SA prosecuted Taste Master and Andrew Fotheringham, the sole director and responsible officer of Taste Master, for failing to provide and maintain the plant in a safe condition; and also failing to ensure that the plant was operated safely.

The South Australian Industrial Court fined Taste Master $41,250 plus legal fees for an incident which occurred in March 2011 at Lonsdale in South Australia.

The court heard that the extruder machine used to melt sugars and mix flavours comprised of a cutter component with four fan-like blades.

When it was installed the cutter had an interlock device fitted which prevented the blades operating unless the cutter head was closed. At some point the interlock device was disabled and was no longer operational during the manufacturing process.

The employee released the clip which secured the extrusion head against the cutter blades to clear a blockage. The cutter blades continued rotating at 4500rpm whilst the employee attempted to clear the blockage with heat from a propane torch and then a scraper.

The employee sustained a complex injury when using the scraper in his right hand and his left hand came into contact with the spinning cutter blades. Injuries to the workers hand included skin lacerations, the loss of soft tissue and tendon as well as bone fractures.

The employee’s ring finger was nearly amputated and his little finger sustained severe tendon damage. The employee underwent reconstructive surgery and has been left with a permanent impairment.

The second defendant, Andrew Fotheringham, was fined $11,250 plus legal fees for failing to ensure that the plant was not being operated when the safety interlock supplied with the cutter was disabled.

Bryan Russell, Executive Director of SafeWork SA responded that “a major cause of workplace injuries in South Australia arise from the lack of adequate guarding that enables people to remain safe when working with moving parts”.

“It is the responsibility of employers to be vigilant in checking that safeguards manufactured to protect employees are in place and are well maintained”.

[Image: Taste Master]

New app aims to tackle food manufacturing’s injury rate

In light of research indicating that the food and beverage manufacturing industry records the highest incidence of workplace accidents in Australia, the Group Training Association of Victoria has released the Safety First App to help promote workplace safety in the lead up to Christmas.

Recent Safe Work Australia data shows that employees in the food and beverage industry, particularly workers in meat manufacturing, are the most likely to injure themselves at work, and November and December are the most dangerous months for manufacturing, transport and construction workers.

To help ensure the safety and apprentices and trainees and improve their understanding of OH&S, the Group Training Association of Victoria has developed the Safety First App.

Gary Workman, executive director of the Group Training Association of Victoria, said “Our members employ 8500 apprentices and trainees across Victoria and are committed to ensuring their staff, particularly those that are on new worksites, or equipment and plant, have handy access to the safety information checklists they need.

“Now apprentices have the safety questions they should be able to answer right in their pocket.”

The app will bring technology-enabled features into the traditional OH&S documentation, streamlining it and ensuring it is more site-specific.

It will provide instant feedback to apprentices with links to further information and a “percentage completed” indicator that will highlight how much information each individual knows for each worksite.

From an employer point of view, the app will provide a permanent compliance record for each employee on every worksite they attend, with the ability to produce electronic certificates of OH&S induction completion levels

Dyson claims food safety title at Food mag awards: video

With two entries in this category, it was Dyson's Airblade Tap that came out on top and claimed the Food Safety and Innovation in Non-Food category at this year's Food magazine awards.

The Airblade Tap is a touch-free appliance that combines hand washing and hand drying in one unit. The product is the result of nearly three years' intensive R&D by a team of 125 Dyson engineers and an investment of $60m.

Dyson says the Airblade Tap is the fastest, most cost- and environmentally-efficient way to wash and dry hands hygienically, with its compact design also providing a space saving solution for food manufacturing facilities.
In the food sector, the Dyson Airblade Tap is one of only two products approved by HACCP Australia for use in food environments as a hand drying alternative to costly paper towels. 

In terms of its sustainability credentials, the Airblade Tap produces 5.8g of CO2 per dry compared to 17.8g of CO2 per dry for other hand dryers and 15.5g of CO2 per dry for paper towels. 

Another impressive feat for the company, the product's V4 digital motor is the world's smallest, most efficient, power dense and comprehensive 1600W motor ever developed. 

The Airblade Tap also eliminates a number of safety hazards in the workplace including water on a facility's floor, created by users moving from the tap to the hand drying area; the paper towel supply running out; and having overflowing bins of soiled paper towels. The touch-free operation of this all-in-one tap and hand dryer also means the potential for micro-organism transference is reduced.

"Our Dyson Airblade Tap is a fantastic new technology that really looked to solve the problem of things like water on the floor in bathrooms," said Tom Davie, finance and operations director for Dyson in Australia and New Zealand.

"What we did with the Airblade Tap is use the fantastic technology that we'd already developed for our Dyson Airblade product, and integrate it within the tap. So therefore you don't have that situation where you're dropping water on the floor, now you can do it all in one place," he said.



Workplace injury costs SA winery $68,000

SA winery, Kahlon Estate Wines Pty Ltd has been fined $68,000 for a workplace safety breach resulting in the amputation of an employee’s leg.

The winery entered an early guilty plea for failing to ensure the safety of employee, Indian student, Sukwant Virk, in early 2011 who was working as a cleaner at the estate.

Virk who was a temporary Australian resident at the time, had his leg trapped in an unguarded metal auger, resulting serious injuries and later leading to the amputation of his leg, The Advertiser reports.

Industrial magistrate Stephen Lieschke said that the winery demonstrated negligence as they had never carried out a risk assessment of the auger.

‘There is an additional factor in this case of the victim being a vulnerable young foreign student from a nation without similar occupational safety focus,” he said.

‘As such it is not surprising that despite the warning Mr Virk had stepped up onto the edge of the hopper in order to check the effectiveness of his work and to no doubt demonstrate what an efficient employee he was.”

Lieschke also added that the incident has dramatically impacted on Virk’s future employment prospects in India as the country has a tendency to demonstrate a “lack of acceptance and facilities for amputees.”

Lieschke said that the risks associated with the unguarded auger were obvious, and could have resulted in death.

“The maximum risk included a fatal injury,” said Lieschke.

“That was a real possibility in this case due to blood loss…There was also a possibility of both legs being trapped and crushed.”

Lieschke issued the winery an initial fine of $85,000 but reduced it to $68,000 on account of the company’s early guilty plea and co-operation with the investigation. Lieschke added that under normal circumstances, a fine for such a serious breach would be far greater, but adjusted it on account of the winery’s poor financial situation.

“The normal expected level of fine for such a serious offence will be a far greater penalty than would usually be expected for a business of this nature and size,

“I have taken this factor into account as a minor mitigating circumstance.”

In addition to the fine, the winery has been ordered to undergo immediate workplace training and to publish a warning relating to the dangers of unguarded augers in the Australian Wine Industry Journal. 


Don’t let pest management eat away at you

Pest management is a dirty word for some food manufacturers. They don't like to talk about it, and they don't like to admit that it's an integral part of their business. But let's face it – if you're a food brand in Australia worth your name in salt, then you must have a pretty serious pest management plan in place.

Having a strategy for keeping creepy crawlies out of your facility, as well as one for removing them if they find their way in, is indicative of a proactive, responsible business, not a negligent one.

But, like a lot of regulation in the food manufacturing industry, knowing exactly what an effective pest management strategy looks like can be difficult.

There are a wide array of pest management standards that a brand can adhere to, depending on what products it manufactures and where those products will be sold.

Eighteen months ago, the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association (AEPMA) penned a Code of Practice for pest management in the food industry in Australia and New Zealand.

David Gray, national president of the AEPMA, says "With the industry Code of Practice, we didn't create anything new, really. We just took the benchmarks that were there and, in a nutshell, if someone is setting up a pest management program in a food manufacturing facility and they set it up to the Australia and New Zealand Code of Practice, then they will meet the requirements of all the existing standards or codes that are out there."

The Code, which aims to define best practice in managing pests in food manufacturing, is a go-to guide not only for food brands, but also for auditors and pest management companies.

"We've added some additional value in the sense that auditors usually come from the food industry. Their expertise is in food, some of them have some experience in pest management but most don't. So we've developed this Code equally for their benefit, so they can look at it and then audit the pest management program against the Code. It gives them some KPIs that they can measure against, rather than just going in and approaching it blindly," Gray told Food magazine.

"It also includes the downstream suppliers to the food industry, so the suppliers of raw materials, and things like packaging. Often the packaging plants and packaging materials come under the same stringent requirements because they're supplying into the food industry."

Abiding by the AEPMA's Code of Practice means food manufacturers will not necessarily have less regulatory I's to dot or T's to cross, but will at least know what systems and processes it needs to have in place to ensure everything's kosher, so to speak.

Stephen Ware, national executive director at the AEPMA, says "In the pest management industry, everyone knows they need pest managers, but the food manufacturers haveproblems because auditors turn up and different auditors have different ideas of what should happen as far as, for instance, where to put down rodent baits and traps. The Code of Practice has helped to clarify that.

"That's why [the Code] has been pretty well accepted by both the pest controllers – who don't really want to argue with everybody about where he should put the bait – and the food manufacturer – who doesn't want to have to sit down and have an argument with every auditor that comes in."

A multi-faceted approach
Paul Moreira, service manager for Victoria at Adams Pest Control, says the two fundamental pillars of pest management are hygiene and maintenance.

But this isn't as straight forward as it may sound, he insists.

"In the food industry there's a requirement to integrate a pest management approach which is multi-faceted. So rather than just focusing on applying a pesticide, it's about identifying proofing issues, harbourage issues, alternative food sources. All of those things link into the site's pest management program," he said.

Safety of the end product, obviously, is a high priority in pest control in the food industry. Manufacturers need to be very careful about where and how they fight off pests, and there are a number of options available to them, Moreira says.

While toxic bates are available, which are consumed by rodents and kill them five to 10 days later, Moreira believes that in the coming years the industry will move award from these chemicals.

"Another approach is to have a monitoring block, which allows you to assess activity. So the pest controller goes around and has a look at if the block has been consumed or not,and if it has you obviously have a problem and you have to go down the path of getting rid of the infestation," he says.

This approach means there's no risk of contaminating the product being manufactured, but on the other hand it's purely an information gathering exercise – it doesn't treat the problem at all.

It's for this reason that the American Institute of Baking (AIB), which has an internationally recognised standard, is moving away from the use of non-toxic chemical blocks internally, instead recommending the use of mechanical traps.

"It's all about minimising pests within the site by hitting them outside, and then inside your treatment becomes a non-toxic approach. According to the AIB's standard you have to use a mechanical trap. You can't use a monitoring block … because all that does is feed the rodent. You haven't addressed the issue of having the rodent there."

While Adams Pest Control's latest product, Baitsafe, can be used with toxic baits, it's like nothing else on the market as it allows food manufacturers to use pesticides in cavities in a safe, controllable way, Moreira says.

"What Baitsafe allows us to do is put a device in that cavity and then apply the pesticide in a very secure way. It looks like a fire alarm. It's flush against the ceiling, but it doesn't have to be in the ceiling. It can be in the splashback of the kitchen, it can be in the kickplate of a bench or in a wall, but it sits flush against it.

"We have a key, we place it in the device, open it and the pesticide is on the other side, or we can even apply a monitoring block or a sticky board to allow us to gauge the activity levels of, say, fruit flies or cockroaches, then we close the device.

"So as far as anyone on this side of the wall, where people work, are concerned, all they see is a tiny little circular flat planel and they can't access the pesticide that's on the other side," Moreira says.

Money well spent
Food manufacturers need to be proactive with their pest management strategy. It goes without saying that it's much easier – and more cost effective – to prevent an infestation from occurring than it is to have one treated.

So while regular inspections and a detailed pest management strategy might seem like an unneccesary expense, it's money well spent, says Simon Lean, Australian technical manager at Rentokil.

"Pest control isn't free but they [food manufacturers] do get good value for money. It's always something you have to have on your books and something manufacturers often want to get done for as cheap as possible, but generally, if people are chasing cheap pest control they get a cheap job, and if they get a cheap job they end up with pest problems.

"That's the last thing they need because all these food manufacturing companies are very particular about brand protection. The last thing they want is for someone to see a rat in a loaf of bread or something like that," Lean told Food magazine.

"A PR disaster can really hit these companies. But it's not just PR. If they've got a contaminated line in their manufacturing, just imagine if they have to close that line down because it's either riddled with pests or simply broken. The cost of that line being down could be thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands a week, in lost production. Whether that be because of pests or an engineering concern, it gets very serious and it really does hit their bottom line."

Regular inspections are critical for any food brand, especially those in older facilities that may not be able to keep pests out as effectively as new buildings can.

Having said that, regular – and thorough – hygiene and maintenance schedules go a long way in pest-proofing your business, and therefore minimise the likelihood and cost of treating infestations, replacing equipment or – heaven forbid – dealing with product recalls.

"If you keep things clean and in good working order, it's going to be easier to inspect for any pest problems, and you're not going to have as many pest problems because it's clean and you don't have any food for the pests or harbourage where they can hide and breed," Lean says.

"That's why inspections are so critical in food manufacturing."


Dairy company fined over cheese shredding accident

The Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Company has been fined $35,000 following an incident at the companies Allansford facility where a worker had his finger severed in a cheese shredding machine.

According to a statement on the Work Safe News website, the worker was in the process of cleaning out the cheese shredding machine when he fell forward and connected with the operating button.

The man’s hand became trapped, resulting in several injuries including the loss of his index finger.

The chute where the worker placed his hand was not fitted with an interlock switch. An interlock switch should have been fitted to prevent the machine from operating during cleaning.

It was also reported that Warrnambool failed to conduct an adequate hazard identification risk assessment of the machine.

Adam Rogers, Worksafe’s region director emphasised that employers need to understand potential risks of every machine in the workplace.

Assessing the risks associated with dangerous machines, and then dealing with those risks, is a fundamental requirement of employers.” he said.

“Thousands of Victorians are injured every year because of dangerous machines. Too often, the risks are known but not acted on.

“Whether it’s trying to remove a simple blockage or performing scheduled maintenance, people maintaining, repairing, servicing or cleaning machinery have a high risk of being maimed through inadvertent operation of machinery they are working on.

”If risks aren’t managed, and a worker is injured, the company involved will face serious charges. Worse still, it means an employee could be facing a lifetime of pain and suffering.”


Man dies in meat blender accident

A 41 year old man died on Friday night at a meat distribution plant in Oregon, USA following a fatal fall into a running meat blender.

Hugo Avalos-Chanon appeared to have died from “blunt-force injuries and chopping wounds,” according to the medical examiners statement in The Oregonian’s report via the Huffington Post.

Interstate Meat Distributors plant, where the accident occurred had recently come under fire for “serious” violations regarding lax safety.

Avalos-Chanon was said to have been cleaning the blender at around 11.45pm when the accident happened. Efforts from a fellow worker failed to save the man as they did not activate the emergency switch in time to stop the machinery.

A spokesperson from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration told local news outlet, KGW, that both the plant and Avalos-Chanon’s employer, DCS Sanitation Management was being investigated over the incident.

They also stressed that it was too early to conclude if the violations were connected to the accident.

President of Interstate Meat Distributors, Darrin Hoy, said that the death was “extremely unfortunate” and that the company is cooperating with investigators.