Health and safety considerations for cold chain logistics

By Ed Smith, freelance journalist.

When we head to the supermarket to do our shopping, it’s likely that most of us don’t stop to think about where the produce has come from or how it got there. But the food supply chain plays a crucial role in what we eat and when we eat it. Without it, our stores would be empty and so would our cupboards.

Government data reveals that around 45% of food consumed in the UK in 2019 was imported and those increased distances only serve to add another layer of complication to the existing challenges within the food supply chain.

Another logistical issue surrounds the transportation of produce that requires careful temperature control. Chilled and frozen food, for example, needs certain conditions to remain fit for use once it hits the supermarket shelves. But what are some of the health and safety considerations for businesses in the temperature-controlled logistics industry?

Working in cold environments

The need to keep chilled and frozen food at the right temperature inevitably means employees will be expected to work in cold environments. However, this does pose a few potential hazards – such as slips on frozen surfaces or illness from prolonged exposure to extreme conditions. There are health and safety guidelines for employers to follow and all members of staff who are likely to operate in these locations should be issued with work fleeces to maintain a consistently warm body temperature.

Disruptions in the chain

If the cold chain is broken, any food is likely to spoil more rapidly and could therefore be deemed unfit for human consumption by the time it reaches the point of retail. This break in the chain could be due to faulty equipment, a power outage or even human error. For example, failure to lock a container door properly would allow warmer air to creep in and disrupt the carefully controlled environment.

Heavy machinery

Many stages of the cold chain involve the use of heavy machinery or goods vehicles, which in themselves pose a hazard. It’s vital that all employees have undertaken training and have obtained the required licences to operate them in a safe and secure manner. Regular maintenance of lorries, trucks, forklifts and other heavy machinery should help to ensure a consistently smooth operation. Any issues should be reported immediately and those vehicles that do show any faults or defects ought to be taken out of circulation until they can be fixed.

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