Award for life-saving Hunts onion alarm

A RAMSEY-based onion-packing factory has been recognised for developing a simple,but effective alarm system that could save a life in an emergency.

G’s Fresh Vegetables was named a runner-up in the National Food and Drink Health and Safety Awards last Tuesday, at an Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) event, in Harrogate.

A team from the company picked up the accolade for an alarm placed in an onion storage tunnel to prevent anyone who is injured or trapped going unnoticed.

The national food and drink health and safety awards are a joint venture between the institution and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They celebrate innovative projects that have produced a practical solution and made a positive contribution to a health and safety issue within the sector.

Neil Catton, chairman of the IOSH Food and Drink Group, which brings together health and safety professionals within the sector to share ideas and best practice, said: “I want to congratulate G’s Fresh - we had a number of really quality entries this year, and competition was tough, so to be named runner-up is a fantastic achievement.”

Based in St Mary’s Road, G’s Fresh’s onion packing facility stores onions in a tunnel through which warm air is forced, to help condition the vegetable and reduce risk of rotting.

To control air flow, a member of staff must open and close vents inside the dark tunnels. To tackle the health and safety and lone working risk to its workers, the company developed a simple alarm controlled by a light switch.

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Kieren Drane, G’s Fresh operations manager, who spearheaded the scheme, said: “We knew this was something we needed to tackle, because it would have caused problems if a fire started or if someone was injured or trapped and was unable to raise the alarm or get out of a tunnel.

“It’s really important to make sure staff working on their own are properly protected, especially in a potential emergency situation.

“This is a simple, effective, inexpensive solution that’s been quickly put in place by the team, and it’s great to know our workers are now properly protected as a result. We’ve even had the local fire brigade comment on how good a solution it is, and they now recommend it to other businesses they visit,” he added.

Mr Catton added: “Our judges were very impressed by the efficient solution G’s Fresh developed to solve a health and safety problem. This project really exemplifies the innovative thinking these awards are designed to recognise and it’s also a testament to the fact that good health and safety doesn’t have to represent a huge cost burden to businesses.”