Alison Barrass: Progress eliminating safety risks

7 June 2016

The food and grocery industry is making significant progress in eliminating safety risks across the supply chain, says Griffins Foods Chief Executive Alison Barrass. She was speaking in the latest FGC Leaders Series video.

Health and safety legislation encourages industries to eliminate risk, as opposed to mitigating or managing it, and that’s “a really challenging aspect for the grocery industry, where a significant amount of risk is caused by the manual handling of volume of product”, she says.

“The moving of cartons, the cutting of cartons, the merchandising and shelf stacking is all very manual work, and it all puts stress and strain on people. And over time, inevitably, where there is a lot of manual handling you get injuries.

“To eliminate that risk completely would result in a significant change to the way stock is moved about, and I think that’s a long way away. There’s a large investment required to make those kinds of changes.”

But she says what is happening now is an acceleration of the commitment to changing the bar on health and safety in the industry.

“There’s still work to be done, but what we are starting to see is a real move towards smaller cartons, to shelf-ready shippers where product is much more easily merchandised and easily handled.

“I think increasingly what you’re going to see is a movement of cost into the supply chain in order to improve the handling of product and eliminate risk, and I think that’s something that all suppliers within the industry are going to have to deal with moving forward.”

She points to Store Safe as an example of how the industry very early on identified an area of high risk. “It very quickly put significant structure, training and rigour around the risk mitigation factors to make sure people working inside supermarkets were actually safe.”

She says that for there to be a significant change in health and safety, leadership needs to come from the top of any organisation.

“I think it’s incumbent on people who run companies to take full ownership of that cultural change that needs to take place.”

The Alison Barrass video can be viewed here.