Do you know the risks and how to minimise them?
The restaurant industry in the UK is worth over £38 billion, with 1.7 million Brits visiting a restaurant at least once a week. It continues to grow and evolve as a result, currently employing around 988,000 from chefs through to waiting staff. But are all these restaurants following the correct legislation and advice on health and safety in the workplace.
We’re going to go through what legislation you should be aware of and the provisions that should be made to protect both staff and customers.
What is the Law?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 applies to all catering and food premises, however big or however small. The restaurant owners have the responsibility of operational procedures to ensure the safety and security of guests and staff, preventing the risk of physical injury or illness.
A risk assessment should be carried out to help identify which workplace risks are the most significant with the potential to cause real harm. This is often in the form of simple measures such as ensuring spillages are cleaned up as soon as they happen to avoid slipping.
According to health and safety law, you should have a safety policy and arrangements for achieving the policy. This must be written down if you employ five or more people.
Revisiting the risk assessment regularly is important to re-evaluate where your efforts should lie. Employees should be aware of the safety policy and trained to follow it, appoint a competent person to assist you, with health and safety. You also need to make sure there are procedures in the event of an emergency, like a fire.
The law does not expect all risks to be eliminated, but the Health and Safety Executive makes clear you are required to protect people as far as ‘reasonably practicable’.
What are the Main Risks?
The industry has major risks that you should take into consideration during your risk assessment, however, with proper staff training the risks can be greatly reduced.
The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO) is applicable to restaurants, fast food outlets and take away shops. It makes you responsible for carrying out fire risk assessments, improve your fire safety measures based on the risk assessment and review both regularly.
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Visit the HSE website for more detail on health and safety in the catering and hospitality industry.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Slips, trips and falls remain the most common cause of injury in UK workplaces, particularly the hospitality and catering industry where there are hundreds every year. It most affects chefs, kitchen assistants and waiting staff.
You should look at the potential risks during your assessment and take reasonable precautions. This may include cleaning up any spillages from food, water leaks or overflow, installing good quality flooring, keep spaces clear of obstacles such as delivery boxes and if you deal with deep fat fryers following the manufacturers instructions to avoid spilling hot oil on yourself or anyone else.
Accidents involving knives are very common and can involve cuts to hands, fingers but also the upper arm and torso if used incorrectly. To reduce the risk of knife accidents, staff should be taught the best practices for handling knives, sharpening them, using the most suitable one for the task and how to store them securely.
Other safety measures include, a stable surface to cut food on and make staff aware they shouldn’t leave blades on countertops in precarious positions. It also goes without saying, never try to catch a falling knife and when carrying it, always point the blade downwards.
PPE (personal protective equipment) may be required depending on the task the knife is being used for.
Lifting and Manual Handling
Back pain and other aches from manual handling are the most common occupational ill health in the UK. Without taking the proper precautions, many tasks in kitchens that involve lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling heavy items, pose the risk of back pain or upper limb injuries.
The risk can be reduced by providing employees with proper manual handling training, keeping your back straight and knees bent when lifting. As well as, providing trolleys for moving particularly heavy objects such as ingredients deliveries.
Contact with Hot Surfaces and Substances
Perhaps the biggest burn risks come from hot liquid spillage and accidental contact with hot surfaces. You should provide your staff with uniforms and equipment that will minimise the risk of being burned, thick aprons are one example enabling employees to remove it before the substance soaks through and gets their skin. High-quality oven cloths or gloves also are an effective resource to provide a layer of protection between employees and the hot oven or plates.
Contact dermatitis in the catering and restaurant industry has twice the number of new cases per year than UK industry averages. Steps that can help avoid dermatitis includes: using a dishwasher rather than washing by hand, handle food with utensils and provide gloves for employees when working with cleaning chemicals.
Every employee should check their hands regularly for early stages of dermatitis, itchy, dry or red skin. Any symptoms should be reported to a supervisor, treatment will be much more effective when caught early.
Without an effective maintenance strategy for the restaurant, it significantly increases the risk of accidents for staff and customers. This should come under the safety policy, ensuring a competent member of staff is assigned to carry out the maintenance work safely.
Employing Children and Young People
A young person is classed as anyone under the age of 18, as an employer, you should review the risk assessment to incorporate them and reduce risk where reasonable. This may include environments where they are not familiar such as industrial equipment.
Local byelaws in your area can make provisions or exceptions you should check with your local authority for the specifics.
Ventilation and use of Chemicals
Any time you use chemicals in restaurants, you will fall under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. The regulations are applicable to any hazardous substance including dust, fumes and germs.
You should assess the risk involved with the hazardous substance you use daily and how to reduce it where possible. If exposure to chemicals is unavoidable, PPE should always be worn.
Adequate ventilation is necessary to reduce fumes where possible and cool the kitchen, to avoid dehydration, fainting or the fumes being inhaled.
Food hygiene certificate courses are a good way to ensure compliance with food safety legislation. It will give you and customers the peace of mind that your employees know all the necessary food safety protocols.
To read more about food safety the Food Safety Act 1990, Food Safety Act 1990 (Amendment) Regulations 2004 and the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 are available online.
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