The British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) has developed new guidance on how to test the suitability of footwear used in the frozen food industry so that workers avoid injuries such as frostbite.

Previously, there was no official guidance on testing cold insulative (C.I.) footwear below -17°C. Now, the BFFF recommendations have been assured by their primary authority partner, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, meaning they have legal standing and a listing on the primary authority register.

BFFF’s new methodology will allow industry members to test C.I. footwear and insulated sock combinations to check they are suitable for their cold store environment. In addition, the guidance provides considerations for completing or reviewing cold store risk assessments.

The request for BFFF’s involvement followed a successful civil claim case in which an individual working in a frozen cold store suffered serious frostbite. The legal team for the defending party in this case advised that the current testing method for C.I. footwear under the current EN ISO 20345 standard only tests footwear at -17°C. According to the BFFF, the tests therefore do not reflect the extreme cold temperatures adopted in the frozen food industry.

BFFF has been working closely with UK safety equipment supplier Arco and footwear testing company SATRA, as well as many of their members to produce an accurate, realistic testing method which reflects the industry cold store temperatures.

A copy of the guidance, can be found here.

Ensuring safety is paramount

Research began in 2019, after the BFFF was approached to investigate whether C.I. footwear was fit for purpose. In the frozen food industry cold store temperatures can be as low as -25°C to -40°C.

The BFFF said that due to a lack of thorough research, employees have been exposed to these very low temperatures, without being provided with the correct assessed footwear. This has resulted in cases of potentially serious injuries, such as frostbite.

Simon Brentnall, head of health and safety at the BFFF said: “Having first started this project four years ago, we are very pleased that it has now finally come to fruition.

“Ensuring the safety of workers in the frozen food industry is paramount, and our research into the suitability of cold insulative footwear has resulted in critical new guidance which will ensure the protection of employees working in cold stores below -17°C. It’s a crucial step towards ensuring the safety of industry workers and preventing future injuries.”