Honeytop Speciality Foods – one of Britain’s biggest bakery firms – employs hundreds of people at its factory in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. The company are facing probing after an undercover investigation revealing health and safety failings putting employee’s health at risk on a daily basis.
The company claim that “We put the health and safety of our team at the core of our business” despite an investigation at the factory claiming a fire exit was blocked, signs for the exit were obscured and no fire drill training being given. This is despite the fact that there have been three fires at the factory over May and June this year.
One fire saw more than 30 fire-fighters tackle a blaze where an oven that was used for baking naan breads caught fire. These claims are all set to feature in a new documentary ‘Supermarkets: The Real Price of Cheap Food’ launched on Channel 4. The documentary is set to showcase these working conditions.
The Health and Safety Executive currently have no open investigations or complaints against the company, but that might all change. A HSE spokesperson said “We have not seen the footage from Channel 4’s investigation but if they would like to send it to us we take any complaints of this nature seriously” and they added “If any of the employees wish to make a complaint to HSE this can be done anonymously”.
The fires have all been caused by a build-up of debris from production and the company themselves said that “The service has been dealing with the company, which has now instigated a more stringent regime of cleaning in these particular areas. We will be interested in the findings of the documentary, and will take any appropriate action”.
Fire safety isn’t the only concern raised in the footage: secret filming shows workers risking serious injury. This includes a man who clambers over a conveyor belt and climbs into a machine to keep production lines running. When he was asked if it was safe to do he replied “No, no it’s not, but if we don’t do it, no-one else will. It’ll just be like that forever”.
The documentary sees an undercover reporter working within the factory who did not receive any safety training. They were not given ear protectors or hard hats despite signs telling workers to wear them. And the documentary also shows workers handling food with their bare hands which is a direct breach of food hygiene guidelines.
This isn’t the first time Honeypot has come under scrutiny: workers at the factory were being exposed to dangerous levels of flour dust: almost six times the legal limit. This can cause occupational asthma and despite the company being warned about the levels five years prior had not acted upon it. In 2012 they were fined more than £9,000 for breaking health and safety laws.
In June 2011 six illegal immigrants were arrested at the factory after a raid by around 100 police and UK Border Agency officials.
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Date Published: August 4, 2014
Author: David Brown