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HSE’s open letter to the food industry

A screenshot from our Food Safety & Hygiene Level 1 course

In an effort to help organisations through fast-moving and unprecedented circumstances caused by the Coronavirus, the HSE has written an open letter to the food industry to offer support and guidance in order to protect Britain’s workforce.

They open up with the issues surrounding occupational asthma and how flour dust can be a significant risk factor to employees working with it. Acknowledging that there is currently a restricted supply of face masks (PPE) across the food industry. The HSE reiterates the fact that suitable control can be accomplished by implementing effective work practices that don’t require employees to wear face masks.

However, the HSE has confirmed that regardless of the current circumstances they will still be investigating reports of increased cases of occupational asthma. With that being said, they cannot guarantee that they would not prosecute, or take one of the other enforcement actions open to them.

Prosecution isn’t a certainty though. The HSE state:

Employers that can demonstrate effective control of risks with the appropriate combination of good working practices, engineering control and PPE are not likely to face enforcement action


The letter continues to address the temporary unavailability of PPE in the food industry due to COVID-19.

The HSE goes on to state the options to protect the health of workers in the presence of flour. Their first option is to use PPE with an assigned protection factor (APF) of at least 20 (e.g. FFP3, reusable respirator with a P3 filter or a TH2/3 powered air respirator).

Their next option addresses that this PPE may not be available in this current climate. Therefore, if employers are unable to source another supply, then they must carry out a risk assessment as per the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

They list a variety of additional measures that could be implemented. You can see a more detailed description of their advice on their press release.

The HSE then went on to reiterate the importance of compliance with COSHH. Here’s what they have to say:

All control measures must be determined through risk assessment and applied to the extent where they are reasonably practicable. Exposed workers should wear the most practical PPE with the highest APF, necessary to control exposure to flour dust. If PPE with an APF of at least 20 cannot be sourced, PPE with an APF of 10 used in a combination of the above measures may control exposure to ALARP, achieving compliance with Regulation 7 of COSHH


Finally, they leave us with some notes on how to be conservative with stocks of PPE. They advise that PPE should only be provided to workers who actually need it, the PPE should be issued specifically for the level of risk associated with a task, and providing employees with instructions to prolong the life of the PPE.

How iHASCO can help address these concerns

In this open letter, the HSE touches upon three key topics: Risk Assessments, PPE, and COSHH Regulations.

With a course library containing over 100 approved courses, we offer training on all three of the listed topics.

Our PPE Training is designed for people whose job requires them to wear PPE frequently. It highlights the importance of wearing the PPE which has been provided, how to wear it correctly, and looking after it properly.

Our Risk Assessment Training teaches the user both what risk assessments are, as well as how & when to use them. The course also provides the user with an understanding of the benefits of comprehensive risk assessments.

Our COSHH Training covers all aspects of chemical and hazardous substance safety in the workplace and is essential training across a range of industries. This course is suitable for all levels of employees who work with or around hazardous substances.

You can claim a no-obligation free trial to any of our courses today!

You can also browse our full range of Food Hygiene courses including Food Hygiene Level 1 training, Food Hygiene Level 2 training and Food Hygiene Level 3 training.