Health and safety considerations in catering industry

Health and safety must be an important consideration for anyone who is working in the catering industry. Whether you are in the kitchen, working machinery or in the front of house of a restaurant it is important that safety and risk reduction are always at the front of your mind. Unlike many other industries, customers entrust their lives to people in the catering industry and with such a great number of potential risks and hazards, health and safety should be at the forefront of everything that is done.

Although some risks in the kitchen are obvious – the improper use of knives, burns and kitchen hygiene, for example – there are also other risks which could be less obvious. So, what can you do as a caterer to help to ensure that you are not putting people at risk and complying by the health and safety regulations that we have?

Stay informed

As new machinery comes out, technology changes, trends move forwards and standards change, there are always new issues that should be considered. It is important, therefore, that you stay up to date with the rules and regulations with regards to health and safety in catering.

It is a good idea for all staff to start off with a NEBOSH certificate. A NEBOSH course will teach you everything that you need to know about health and safety in the catering industry, ensuring that you are not only aware of the risks and hazards that can occur, but also that you know how to deal with them and are armed with the tools to deal with any fresh risks.

Once that you have gained your NEBOSH certificate, it is recommended that you then continue to stay informed about any changes in law or regulations that come into effect.

Common risk areas

According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) there are four main areas of risk in the catering industry:

  • Slips and trips – This covers a range of issues such as loose flooring, spillages of food or water including after the floor has been cleaned, and the potential to trip over obstacles in corridors and other areas. It is important to reduce slip hazards, clear up or clearly sign post any spillages and make sure that anywhere that people are walking is free from obstacles which could be tripped over. Employees should also think about using non-slip shoes if they will be in an area which is susceptible to spillages of food and water – such as a kitchen.
  • Knives – Knives and other kitchen equipment can be hazardous if they are not used and stored correctly. It is important to ensure that all employees are trained in knife use and safety, including carrying and cleaning them to help to reduce the risk of nasty cuts. As an employer it is recommended that you make available a range of knife sizes which are kept sharp at all times to encourage the correct use of knives and make them easy to use. Make sure that you have kitchen equipment in good working order to reduce the risk of injury. It is also important to know how to clean and store kitchen equipment.
  • Physical injuries – Whether it is straining the back through heavy or awkward lifting, or repetitive injuries from daily duties, the risk of musculoskeletal disorders is very high for people who work in the catering industry, In a high pressure environment when time and quality is of the essence, it can be easy to push the body too far. It is important that the potential for these situations is reduced to ensure comfort in the work place and no long term damage to employees.
  • Skin complaints – Another common hazard that people face when they are working in catering is skin complaints. Whether it is a burn or dermatitis from cleaning chemicals, it is important to try to eliminate these as much as possible. As an employer, it is important to give employees the correct PPE to help to prevent injury to the skin as well as choosing cleaning products which are least harmful to the skin.

Hygiene and cross contamination

Another major health and safety consideration in the catering industry concerns hygiene and preventing cross contamination. It is important that strict hygiene standards are kept all of the time in the kitchen to prevent contamination and health risks to both employees and customers. There are guidelines about hygiene regulations on the Food Standards Agency website.

Ensuring the health and safety of both employees and the customer is essential and should be central to how you run a catering company. There are many potential hazards in and around the kitchen and by making everybody aware of what the risks are, you can ensure that everybody is vigilant and does everything in their powers to reduce the chance of accidents happening.

By Ella Hendrix

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