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Olive oil mills in Spain think to health and safety management

There are very few publications on occupational health and safety in the sector, and there are even less on the managerial issues concerned. Management policies fail to meet some important requirements adequately, such as those concerning noise exposure risk, and emergency measures

Spain is the world’s leading olive oil and table olive producer, well ahead of Italy in second place. The land area devoted to olive farming in 2007 was 2,470,162 ha (with more than 300 million olive trees) of a total of 17,397,000 ha of farm land. In other words, more than 14% of the Spanish farm land is devoted to olive groves or, alternatively, over 25% of the world’s olive groves. Of these, 2,299,322 ha (over 93% of the olive groves) are devoted to the production of olives for the almazara (olive oil mill in Spanish), that is, for olive oil production. Production records for the 2007/2008 season were as follows: 5,701,679 tons of olives for the oil mills and 1,192,664 tons of virgin olive oil (i.e., an approximate average yield of 21%, according to the data provided by the Spanish Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino (Anuario de Estadística, 2008).
According to the Código Nacional de Actividades Económicas 15,411, which officially monitors the number of olive oil factories in Spain, in 2010 there are 1744 olive oil mills producing non-refined olive oil. Of the 32 million direct daily wages generated by the olive oil sector, olive oil production absorbs around 15 million daily wages annually (Agencia para el Aceite de Oliva, 2010). According to the last estimations issued in December 2009 by the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino, olive oil represents 6% of the Spanish agricultural income.
Spain is also the world’s leading olive oil exporter. About 47% of the Spanish olive oil production is exported. Over 80% of this produce goes to the EU member states and the rest goes to other countries such as the United States (5.3%), Australia (3%), Japan (2.3%), Brazil, Russia, Canada or Switzerland (International Olive Oil Council, 2006).
As these figures clearly show, the olive oil sector is of fundamental importance to the economy not only of Spain, but also of a large portion of EU and non EU countries. A large amount of research work conducted by different institutions with variable competences has already highlighted this fact. These papers have dealt with topics such as the sector’s technological development and its possible impact, competitiveness factors, intellectual capital, resource consumption and emissions derived from olive oil production, or waste management, etc. Unfortunately, there has been no work done either on occupational health and safety in the olive oil mill industry or occupational health and safety management in the sector. However, we would like to mention our recent paper on the occupational accident rate in the olive oil mill industry.

However, there are very few publications on occupational health and safety in the sector, and there are even less on the managerial issues concerned. Such studies can help define and implement better health and safety strategies and actions.

After visits, inspections and interviews carried out in three olive oil mills, we drew up a questionnaire. With the collaboration of the Labor Authority, during the two-year research period, 2009–2010, we put questionnaires to the managers of 184 olive oil mills. Our survey aimed at a statistical analysis of the production and prevention organization of the companies, with special interest in the health and safety management policy.

The number of workers fluctuates enormously throughout the year in the olive oil mills. Three quarters of the companies have someone in charge of liaising with the outsourced prevention services, in most cases an administrative clerk. Most of the olive oil mills have an Occupational Risk Prevention Plan and all of them have a Risk Assessment Plan and a Preventive Action Plan. However, management policies fail to meet some important requirements adequately, such as those concerning noise exposure risk, and emergency measures, labor representatives were elected in only one in three olive oil mills.

by R. T.
03 february 2014, Technical Area > Olive & Oil

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