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Safety in...

Butchery Premises

The following details highlight some of the hazards and risks that may exist in butchery premises and the steps you can take to prevent accidents. Many of the machines, hand tools and processes used in butchery premises are so familiar that it is easy to forget that they can be dangerous. This list can be used as a starting point in assisting you to complete a risk assessment.

Use of Knives, cleavers and handsaws

De-boning operations are particularly hazardous and have resulted in fatalities due to stabbing injuries. The younger and less experienced staff are at the greatest risk.

Managing the risk:

  • Provide correct tools for the task.
  • Train staff in the use and care of equipment, including the need to keep knives sharp.
  • Provide suitable protective equipment (chain mail apron/gauntlet and glove) for use during hand knife operations.
  • Ensure that protective equipment is worn, particularly for activities such as 'boning out'.
  • Provide a knife rack and instruct staff not to leave knives lying on work surfaces.
  • Ensure staff using knives have enough room to work safely.
  • Develop safe working procedures for the cleaning of knives.

Falls/Slips and Trips

Slipping or tripping while carrying a knife or falling against a dangerous machine (e.g. a bandsaw) could result in serious injuries. Slips account for most of the total slips and trips injuries, and in 90% of cases the floor was wet. Research has suggested that on average, there will be about 40 cases of a slip resulting in no or minor injury for every major injury accident which occurs. So all slips and trips need to be recorded no matter how minor, and employers must consider all incidents no matter how small - if the right action is taken a more serious accident may be avoided in the future.

Managing the risk:

  • Provide slip resistant flooring. (note that floors can be sufficiently rough to avoid/reduce slipping incidents and still meet food hygiene requirements.)
  • Introduce measures to ensure spillages and slippery materials are cleared up immediately.
  • Provide safety shoes where appropriate.
  • Clear up any spillages immediately and dry the floor.
  • Display warning signs when floors are wet.
  • Keep production areas and passageways clear of obstruction.
  • Take steps to prevent the build up of ice on chill room floors.
  • Provide adequate lighting.

Use of Machinery

A number of dangerous machines are used in butchery premises - many people have lost fingers when they have come into contact with moving blades. Examples include bandsaws, mincing machines, bowl cutters and slicers.

Managing the risk:

  • Provide adequate space around machines, particularly those with exposed blades.
  • Site equipment so that the operator cannot be accidentally bumped/distracted.
  • Display warning notices alongside machines to remind operators and others of the dangers they pose.
  • Ensure dangerous parts of machinery are adequately guarded, that interlocks are working and that they can be readily isolated.
  • Provide training in safe systems of work and adequate supervision, particularly for new employees.
  • Provide push sticks where necessary.
  • Maintain equipment in good condition.


Some chemicals used for cleaning can be harmful. Cleaning of machinery may involve removing guards and is particularly hazardous.

Managing the risk:

  • Provide safe systems of work and training and supervision in the use and storage of cleaning substances.
  • Ensure all machinery is electrically isolated before cleaning starts.
  • Ensure guards are replaced after cleaning.
  • Ensure trainees are supervised during cleaning.
  • Where wet floor cleaning is necessary, clean the floor outside normal working hours or dry thoroughly immediately.

Electric Shock

The wet conditions that may be present in butchery premises increase the risk of electric shock.

Managing the risk:

  • Ensure electrical equipment is maintained, examined and tested regularly by a competent person.
  • Fit a 30mA RCD to the electricity supply.

Manual Handling

Lifting, carrying and hanging sides of beef may cause back injury.

Managing the risk:

  • Avoid lifting of items that are too heavy - get help.
  • Train staff in manual handling techniques.
  • Think before handling/lifting
  • Keep the load close to the waist
  • Adopt a stable position
  • Ensure a good hold on the load
  • Slight bending of the back, hips and knees at start of lift
  • Don't flex the back any further while lifting
  • Avoid twisting the back or leaning sideways
  • Keep the head up when handling
  • Move smoothly
  • Don't lift or handle more than can be easily managed
  • Put down, they adjust
  • Avoid awkward lifts in confined spaces or those necessitating reaching up too high or down too low by reorganizing your storage arrangements.

Chill Room Storage

The main danger is exposure to the cold either while working or if accidentally locked in.

Managing the risk:

  • Introduce precautions to prevent anyone being locked in the chill room, e.g. emergency door release catches.
  • Ensure fan blades are adequately guarded.


People have lost their lives, others have suffered injuries as a result of accidents during maintenance work e.g. window cleaning, changing light bulbs, painting etc, or lift and equipment maintenance.

Managing the risk:

  • Do not overlook routine cleaning and maintenance work when considering health and safety. Develop safe systems of work for your employees.
  • Ensure there is nothing on your premises, which could pose a risk to the health and safety of contractors.

Working at Height

On average there are 515 injuries per year resulting from poor use of ladders, 11 of which resulted in a fatality. Falls from height are such a concern that new Working at Height Regulations are being devised.

Managing the risk:

  • Assess the job. Is a ladder suitable?
  • Assess the user. People suffering from some medical conditions or who have used alcohol or prescribed or non-prescribed drugs should not undertake ladder work.
  • Use the correct type and grade of ladder. Domestic grade stepladders are often used in a commercial setting where a more robust ladder is needed.
  • Check the ladder is clean and not defective. The rubber feet are a safety feature not an optional extra. Do not use damaged ladders.
  • Use the ladder as it is intended to be used e.g. make sure the platform of a stepladder is locked into position.
  • Set the ladder at the correct angle. 1 out for 4 up i.e. a 4m ladder should be 1m away from the base of the wall.
  • Make sure the base of the ladder is resting on a suitable, firm area.
  • Secure the bottom. There are devices to do this. A person is not always the best option. A person cannot stabilize a ladder that is 5m+.
  • Never over reach. It is quicker to get off the ladder and move it then spend time recovering from a fall.
  • When storing ladders, do not hang them by the rungs. Store them where they are unlikely to get damaged and where they will not have grease or other materials spilled on them.

Personal Protective Equipment

Injuries and fatalities can be prevented if operators wear the right protective clothing, in particular protective aprons and gloves.

Managing the risk:

  • Suitable protective aprons must be worn during all de-boning work or during other work where the knife is pulled with the point towards the body. The only exception is where a fully trained butcher is principally engaged in serving customers.
  • Aprons should be properly maintained - loose or missing links should be replaced immediately and straps and fastenings should be kept in good condition.
  • It is recommended that a suitable protective glove be worn on the non-knife hand during de-boning work.
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