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October 4, 2010

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Bakery’s noise reduction research reaps big rewards

A bakery has won a prestigious health and safety award after an invention saved the company over £100k a year by reducing noise levels.

Leicester firm Bradgate Bakery won the top prize at the IOSH National Food and Drink Health and Safety Awards following modifications to its sandwich cutting machines. The project was spearheaded by the company’s health, safety and environment manager, Neal Davis, who identified that the sandwich cutters, which cut two million sandwiches every week, were the loudest machines at the factory.

In response to the findings, engineer Brian Worth suggested the machine’s metal bearings and shafts were changed to plastic. The modifications have resulted in noise levels being reduced from 87 to 76 decibels, which means workers are no longer legally required to wear earplugs.

Neal revealed that the changes have saved time, money, and reduced work-related incidents of ill-health. He said: “The benefits have been fantastic – the machinery is more reliable, we are able to increase productivity because we don’t spend as much on maintenance, and we have fewer occupational health problems related to stress, tinnitus and headaches from the noise.

“Initially, we didn’t really consider the difference it would make to the bottom line, but we have worked out that we are currently saving £10.5k each month from the reduced hearing protection, machine parts and numerous other hidden costs. It’s completely changed the atmosphere and has changed the way we work.”

The awards were part of IOSH’s annual Food and Drink Manufacturing Conference held at Oxford’s Belfry Hotel on 28 and 29 September. Bradgate Bakery received a trophy, a certificate, and a £500 cash prize following its win. 

IOSH Chair of the Food and Drink Group, Neil Catton, added: “This year the competition was really tough for the health and safety innovation award.

“They are about people sharing ideas and projects that have actually made a real difference and improvement to the way people work. And our winners have shown how changes to procedure, innovative alterations to machinery, or completely new systems can benefit others by reducing incidences of occupational ill-health, and wasted time and money.”

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