Flour and ingredient dust significantly affect the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in bakeries and therefore, constitute a potentially serious hazard in the industry. In March 2017, the Federation of Bakers updated their guidance on controlling dust within bakeries.
“The most important message for employers and people working in a place where they might be exposed to flour and ingredient dusts is that dust in bakeries can harm health. To reduce the risk of respiratory ill health, measures need to be taken to reduce the amount of dust people breathe in.” Federation of Bakers
COSHH lists the following to be substances hazardous to health in baking:
- Flour dust
- Dusts from protein-containing ingredients such as egg, soya
- Improver dusts containing enzymes etc.
- Spices, citrus oils and flavour concentrates
- cleaning and disinfectant products
So what health issued are caused by flour and ingredients dust?
Bakery dust can cause dermatitis and asthma (‘bakers’ asthma’) when breathed in. In fact, flour dust is the second largest cause of occupational asthma and is, therefore, one of the 500 substances that is subject to Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs), as established by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The exposure level to flour dust must be as far below the WEL of 10 mg/m3 as possible and employers must carry out regular COSHH health surveillance checks on employees, including breathing and skin checks, to reduce instances of work-related ill-health in bakeries. Read the outcome of an investigation by the HSE into an instance of bakery workplace related asthma here.
What measures should be taken to reduce exposure levels?
There are a range of measures that can be implemented to reduce workers’ exposure to flour and ingredients dust in bakeries. These include the following:
1. Use lidded containers
Store flour and other fine ingredients in containers that have lids, and only remove the lids when necessary.
2. Mix at low speed
Open mixers should be started at low speed to reduce the amount of flour escaping into the atmosphere. Once the flour has combined with other ingredients, the mixer can be speeded up.
3. Use a chute
Rather than tipping flour from a height in order to weigh or sift, for example, using a chute will help to eliminate clouds of flour dust.
4. Vacuum and wet clean
Flour that has spilt onto the floor should be vacuumed up instead of swept up, and surfaces should be wet cleaned to prevent raising a cloud of dust.
5. Use an LEV system
For very dusty bakery sites, dust extraction equipment, such as an LEV system will help reduce dust levels and maintain health and safety guideline compliance. Near the extraction point, a manometer should be installed to monitor the effectiveness of the extraction and to check that the system is operating correctly. In some areas of the site, mobile dust extraction units may be necessary, as well as flexible arms and extraction hoods.
6. Provide respirators
Employees should be provided with a personal respirator (RPE) for very dusty tasks, to be used in conjunction with other engineering controls and only as a very last line of defence.
Our accredited engineers (to BOHS P601 – W201) provide a dust extraction and LEV testing service to bakeries. We also offer workplace air monitoring, site surveys, spares and new installations with compliance to HSE and HSG258.
If you are responsible for health and safety in a bakery, get in touch with one of our dust extraction experts today for more information on how we can help you safeguard your employees health and stay audit compliant. We offer a FREE dust extraction site survey. For more information about our dust extraction service, please click here.