Tracey Graham is head of the personal injury department for Russell Jones & Walker, Manchester and specialises in claims related to occupational accidents including incidents involving food and drink manufacture or hospitality.

To start with some good news: the rate of accidents in the workplace for food and drink industry professionals has been in decline for the last 20 years. Following the ‘Recipe for Safety’ initiative – borne from a collaboration between businesses and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) during the early nineties – accidents that befall those working in food and drink manufacture have fallen by 50%.*

Nevertheless, the food manufacturing industry has a reported major injury rate which is almost twice that of manufacturing as a whole. Around 19,000 employees suffer ill health because of their job and, according again to the latest figures available from HSE, it’s most likely to be a back injury that occurs.

In my experience, high pressure working environments related to manufacturing and even catering, such as busy kitchens and loading or serving areas, see staff physically overexert themselves on a regular basis. Lifting or stretching beyond your means, or at speed, doesn’t just cause back injuries either; my office has seen a spate of cases from employees working at all levels of the supply chain suffering accidents which have been caused by loading or unloading goods. The injuries have been anything from a hernia to a torn arm muscle to a blow to the head from a falling coffee jug.

This isn’t to say that the injured party is at fault necessarily – hidden items in a stock room or poorly labelled produce might sometimes be to blame. Nevertheless, it’s important that, despite the high stress levels and demands of certain jobs in the industry, food and drink professionals remember to put their safety interests first.
Accidents: what to do next?

When it comes to accidents in the workplace, we’re pleased to report that our clients are becoming far savvier in documenting the circumstances that lead to it. The statements I take from a majority of injured claimants show that a full report is made to a supervisor almost immediately. One gentleman I’m working with at the moment fell several feet into a pub cellar and suffered injuries to his neck, hands and knees, but was still diligent enough to complete the accident book with the bar manager. This certainly helps support a claim for compensation, especially when employer’s liability is being determined.

Also, more and more injured people are starting to gather evidence related to their accident before they start to mount a claim. Thanks to the rise in mobile technology, people are taking photos and videos which have become admissible evidence. This foresight can help medical professionals with diagnoses, site managers address issues in the workplace and also help make a claim for financial support watertight.

* Information taken from