Neil Jowsey, Joint-Managing Director at Arco, offers his guidance on affordable personal protection for the food industry

The food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector with an annual turnover of £70bn. Food represents around 20% of all consumer spending and there are over 500,0001 people employed by the UK’s food manufacturing and processing industries. Safety is a top priority, for two critical reasons; employees need to be provided with adequate protection and the food products and the processes involved in their manufacture must be protected from contamination. But at a time when every penny counts, there is an increasing risk of safety being compromised as companies look for ways to save costs.

We’ve been talking to our customers and the word on the lips of most procurement, technical and hygiene managers in the food industry these days is ‘value’ but value is not just about price. There are many places to source cheap products on the internet but users need to be confident about product quality and whether what they buy has been tested through the relevant EN certification processes and meets food standards. Unfortunately today we see cheap counterfeit goods spilling on to the market that have dubious claims about the authenticity of their labelling, putting users at very high risk of serious injury. So it’s important to look for reliable, trusted suppliers and be reassured about quality, performance and conformity.

Arco is member of the British Safety Industry Federation and accredited to its Registered Safety Supplier Scheme which offers the reassurance that you will only be supplied with genuine, appropriately approved product and that you will receive sound advice without any attempt to mislead you. As members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Arco is also committed to the principles of the International Labour Organisation and all of our trading partners receive guidance and instruction on the minimum and recommended standards acceptable in the manufacture of their products wherever in the world they are made. All of Arco’s factories, vendors and their subcontractors are required to meet these stringent standards and customers can be assured that, in turn, their brand will be protected.

We all know that there may be costly consequences for those businesses that fail to provide proper protection for their employees but unfortunately, there is a perception that managing safety is an additional financial burden on business owners. Whilst the top of the range, branded products are appealing they may be unnecessary where a lower specification, more cost-effective option would provide the correct protection. Safety managers and others in charge of procuring safety equipment may be surprised to find that good quality, fit for purpose, affordable safety equipment is available and Arco offers a complete head to toe range for those working in the food industry.


Reducing the risk of contamination

The food production process can be contaminated with human hair if the correct head protection is not worn and it is also important for those on the production line to be protected from oils, fats, chemicals and food products. Depending on the individual workplace risks and requirements, there is a choice of products available, ranging from snood caps that keep facial hair in place, to simple hairnets that protect food from contamination but still allow ventilation and mob caps that protect the product from foreign bodies. There are even detectable mob caps that combine protection with the ability to be detected by non-ferous metal detectors should the cap fall into the product during the process.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations stipulate that it is an employers’ responsibility to make sure that all workers who are exposed to noise levels which exceed their daily or weekly allowance are supplied with the correct hearing protection. In some food manufacturing environments hearing protection may be necessary and there are several affordable types of protection including ear muffs and ear plugs, with a detectable version to prevent issues of contamination.


Keeping hands clean and safe

Hand protection is one of the most important areas of safety management in any manufacturing workplace but in the food industry there are many potential hazards including temperature extremes, sharp tools and objects, grease, bacteria and chemicals. It is particularly important to select the right type of hand protection to guard against these risks and protect food products from contamination at the same time. Gloves range from disposable vinyl or blue nitrile gloves, latex palm coated knitwrist gloves, latex hi-vis gloves, anti-microbial cut-resistant gloves and baker’s mitts. When choosing gloves for food handling, it is important to choose a range that is compliant with the Framework Regulation EC 1935 / 2004, the regulation that stipulates what materials are suitable for food contact.

Hand hygiene and effective handwashing is extremely important to help prevent harmful bacteria from spreading from worker’s hands to food, work surfaces and equipment. It’s a legal requirement to provide adequate facilities specifically for hand washing and there are specific foodsafe skincare ranges to protect food products and equipment from contamination.


Body protection

If you are working in food storage and logistics, protection from the cold and foul weather may be a particular need. On the other hand, workers in food preparation may be exposed to extremes of heat. In either environment, once again, protecting the process from contamination is a crucial factor. From thermal long and short sleeve vests and long pants, to lightweight coveralls, body warmers and disposable aprons, quality cost-effective options are now available. If you are part of a hygiene crew, a washdown suit that conforms to BS EN14605:2005 is essential to offer protection from chemicals, fats and oils. Food industry coats that feature concealed studs, are made of durable and hard-wearing material and are specially designed for commerical laundry.


Preventing slips and trips

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury at work and the majority of accidents could be prevented through the proper use of protective and non-slip footwear. For those on their feet all day on the production line, it’s important to choose comfortable footwear that fits properly and provides good foot support. Often safety footwear is seen as a high-cost investment but compared to just a few years ago, employers have a much wider range of footwear to choose from, from cost-effective basic styles to top of the range branded footwear that all reach European slip resistant requirements and are fit for purpose. These include food sector safety shoes and boots, safety wellingtons, as well as disposable overshoes for environments where slips are not a risk but contamination is.


Workplace requirements

Keeping employees safe at work extends beyond body protection. In the food environment an employer must supply a First Aid Kit that complies with the minimum code of practice. Other workplace items, such as spill absorbents, cloths, hand towels and wipes, as well as anti-fatigue matting, are now all available at cost-effective prices to ensure that companies do not have to compromise on safety, whatever the economic outlook.


Affordable Safety – good for business

Arco partners with some of the biggest names in the UK food processing, storage and distribution industries, bringing an experienced understanding of the safety needs of their businesses. Every year, the industry as a whole spends a significant amount of money on safety products but this is a small percentage of the amount invested in machinery, premises and raw materials.  Investing in safety means good business and Arco is in a unique position to provide expert advice and guidance to help businesses find the best quality safety products at the best price.

The new Arco Essentials range has been developed to drive out unnecessary costs and enable our customers to achieve savings without compromising on safety. As I said earlier, value is not just about price, it’s about reliability, quality, conformity and peace of mind. Arco Essentials products are no frills products without unnecessary additional features, offering affordable safety with products that are fit for purpose and will do the job they have been designed to do – keeping people safe at work. For the UK’s food manufacturing industry, that must make good business sense.

Arco, the UK’s leading safety expert, can provide a one stop shop solution for the food and drink industry’s safety and hygiene needs. As well as offering an extensive range of over 170,000 quality-assured workwear and safety products including specific items that meet food industry standards, Arco is able to offer expert advice on safety in the workplace and also how to comply with the latest legislation. For further information on the Arco Essentials range please visit