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Health and safety in the catering industry

Health and safety in the catering industry is a very broad subject.  There are many aspects you need to consider, and many provisions that should be made, both to protect customers and your own staff. Our guide takes you through what you need to consider to make your business safe.

Vital initial considerations

As the catering industry deals with a great  many customers each day, there are some considerations that should be  taken in advance. As there are significant risks in the catering industry, you - as an employer - need to ensure you have sufficient employer’s liability insurance.

Health and safety in the catering industry

If one of your employees is injured at work, having a health and safety policy in place covers both you and the staff member(s) financially. This cover is not just something to consider; it is your legal obligation as an employer, and the failure to have a policy in place can lead to fines of up to £2,500 for each day that you’re uninsured.

Similarly, you should be prepared for the risks that may be posed to customers at any point that they’re on your premises – for example, if they contract food poisoning, or slip on a wet floor. You should take out public liability insurance to protect your business if this should happen. While there are no fines for not having cover, the costs of a customer making a claim could be extraordinarily high.

Common major risks

The catering industry has several major risks to keep in mind at all times. As a

fast-paced industry where efficient service is paramount, it can be easy for any staff member to slip and injure themselves. To reduce this risk, there are several things you can do. For example, the kitchen will be a high-traffic area in most catering businesses, which is why restaurant kitchens often have dedicated entrance and exit doors parallel to each other. This helps to reduce injury-causing collisions that may occur during busy periods.

Other common risks can include:

  • Cuts
  • Burns from ovens or boiling liquids
  • Musculoskeletal disorder
  • Dermatitis

Thankfully, the risk that each of these could pose to staff can be minimised by providing sufficient training and equipment.

For example, to greatly reduce the risk of knife accidents, you should ensure that you provide stable surfaces to cut food on, and ensure your staff are taught best practice procedures for handling their knives and keeping them sharp. Things to avoid when using knives include leaving them in precarious positions on countertops and reflexively attempting to catch a falling knife. Other severe cut and injury risks can develop through neglecting equipment and allowing it to fall into disrepair.

Hot liquid spillage and accidental contact with hot surfaces are the biggest burn risks. By providing uniforms and equipment that is fit for purpose, these risks can be minimised. Thick aprons can protect the uniform and give the employee time to remove it before the hot liquid soaks through to burn them. Similarly, high-quality oven cloths provide a layer between the employee and the hot metal in an oven.

In a kitchen, you should also have ample steps in place to prevent fires, a kitchen should be well maintained in order to prevent accidental fires and steps should be taken to prevent as many open flames being present as possible in order to reduce the additional risk of burning from a busy kitchen.

Heavy lifting can lead to back injuries, shoulder and neck injuries, or hand and wrist injuries. Your responsibilities when it comes to handling and moving heavy objects are to minimise the need to do so as much as possible. Where unavoidable, you should reduce the risk of injury instead. One way to do this is to provide trolleys for moving heavy objects. When lifting, you should keep your back straight and knees bent in order to reduce injury risk. This is particularly important to keep in mind when moving wholesale bulk ingredients and deliveries to the kitchen each day.

Dermatitis is the last major risk in the catering industry. The requirements of the job mean hand and forearm skin can become irritated and cracked. Fortunately, the solutions for minimising this risk are simple. Use a dishwasher rather than washing by hand, provide utensils for every occasion to minimise physical contact with food, and provide gloves and moisturiser for when your staff need to make use of cleaning chemicals.

Usage of chemicals and correct ventilation

Any time you use chemicals, you fall under Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, or COSHH, regulations. These regulations apply to any hazardous substance. Dust, fumes and germs are equally hazardous and must all be managed  the same. 

To assess the risk, think about what hazardous substances you use, the damage they could cause, and how to reduce the risk of harm as much as possible.

For example, this could simply be by swapping one kind of cleaning product for a less hazardous one. If exposure is unavoidable, then you are obligated to provide personal protective equipment such as gloves, protective footwear, or eye protection.

Ventilation is  important for reducing fumes as much as possible, as well as cooling the kitchens. Working in hot and poorly ventilated kitchens may lead to dehydration or fainting, and certain fumes may be directly hazardous to inhale.

Food safety

Though not a legal requirement in the UK, one useful way to ensure compliance with food safety is to put your staff through a food hygiene certificate course. Doing so can provide peace of mind by guaranteeing that all staff know about industry-relevant safety protocols.

Food safety training covers a range of topics, including how to avoid the risks of cross contamination,  avoiding the food temperature “danger zone” (between five and 60 degrees Celsius), hygiene best practices, and safety requirements for cooking and storing the different food groups.

How FSB can help

Ensuring your business operates as efficiently as possible, without sacrificing the safety of your customers and staff can feel like a large undertaking, with lots of considerations.

FSB offers a health and safety advice service to help you through every step of making your business as safe as possible. We provide you with:

FSB Health and Safety Advice from FSB

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