Cut down on risky business
Published:  08 October, 2008

Workplace hazards can be costly for small firms, so it's vital that butchers know the score and are covered for all eventualities. Here's how to play it safe

The first step in managing the risk of serious accidents is to identify the hazards around the workplace. In a typical year, according to the British MeatProcessors Association (BMPA), there are around 200 major injuries and 3,000 other injuries from work-related accidents within the meat industry - and that is without taking into account unreported incidents.

The meat industry relies on the manual skills of its workforce in the majority of its processing tasks that involve lifting, the use of machinery and knife work.

Statistics from the Health & Safety Executive show that most serious accidents, including tragic fatalities, occur during the de-boning of meat. The very sharp knives used for this task are pulled through the meat towards the operator and an accident may occur if the knife slips or skids on the bone. De-boning is carried out in every type of premises, from the butcher's shop to large meat preparation plants.

In small premises, de-boning may only be one of many hand-knife operations carried out by an individual. In larger premises, several employees may work full time de-boning meat.

In addition to the often life-changing effects of accidents on staff, the fallout can become time-consuming to resolve, and have a costly impact on your business and ability to trade.

It is important to take the correct steps to protect yourself; preventative measures are best, as well as ensuring you have the correct cover should the worst happen.

What actions can you take to assist in reducing your risks?

1. Carry out a Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a way of identifying what may potentially harm people on your premises. It will identify the chance of harm occurring, who may be affected and measure whether current precautions are adequate. It will facilitate carrying out improvements, where current precautions have been identified as unacceptable.

Guidance on how to carry out a risk assessment can be found on the Health & Safety Executive website, www.hse.gov.uk (NB: a risk assessment does not cover compliance with food safety and hygiene legislation). Once you have identified your risks, it is your responsibility to assess them actions can be taken to improve safety at your workplace, to prioritise and carry out the required actions in order to reduce them.

2. Ensure adequate training procedures

Under UK legislation, all employees must receive training to ensure understanding and competence of health & safety issues within their job. The table (right) outlines some of the main hazards associated with the meat industry and the staff training required.

3. Insure yourself against potential risk

If you have neglected to take out appropriate and adequate insurance, the cost implications of an injury claim could lead to the failure of your business. You need to ensure that you have cover against all the risks you identify - if you have not done so recently, you should review your policy documents and make sure that, in the event of an accident, you do the following:

Never admit liability, whatever the circumstances, but make a clear note of the events and the facts.

Record the details of the person injured (name/address), full details of what happened and the extent of the injury.

Record details of any witnesses.

If there is a trained first-aider on site, arrange for them to deal with the injury in the first instance.

If the injury is serious, call an ambulance.

Phone your insurance company at once and advise of a potential claim, giving as much detail as possible.

Collecting as much information as possible is critical, with CCTV always useful to capture what has happened. Any potential witnesses who can substantiate the chain of events, can also make a big difference.

The Meat Trades Journal insurance scheme offers butchers public liability cover to insure against claims.

Given the serious nature of potential accidents, (the table below outlines some of the main hazards associated with the meat industry and the staff training required), MTJ Insurance offers a comprehensive combined policy to insure against potential incidents and claims, and can cover any or all of the following: buildings, shop front, shop contents, stock, perishable goods, public and products liability, employer's liability, goods in transit, laptops and mobile phones, loss of income, reinstatement of data, loss of money, and personal accident (assault).

Brought to you by One Business Insurance Solutions, an independent insurance broker, the company will access its extensive panel of insurers, which include the UK's leading insurance names.

Their insurance specialists are on hand to discuss your requirements and to build a policy for your business, incorporating a selection of covers to suit individual needs. Most importantly, they aim to provide the service at a cost to suit.