Individual workplaces will, of course, exhibit their own patterns of risk, but the main causes of accidents and ill health in the catering industry are:
A risk assessment is an important step in protecting your workers and your business, as well as complying with the law. It helps you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace - the ones with the potential to cause real harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks, for example ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly so people do not slip, or cupboard drawers are kept closed to ensure people do not trip. For most, that means simple, cheap and effective measures to ensure your most valuable asset - your workforce - is protected.
The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as 'reasonably practicable'. More information on risk assessment is available at the HSE's Health and Safety made Simple site.
As an employing caterer, you must:
Slips and trips remain the single most common cause of major injury in UK workplaces. Every year in the hospitality industry there are hundreds major accidents caused by slips and trips. The occupations most affected are kitchen assistants, chefs, and waiting staff. The slips and trips in catering webpage provides information for those managing or working in kitchens. It contains free information to download in guidance leaflets, posters, and case studies. There is also information on choosing appropriate flooring and anti slips footwear.
Many different types of hazardous cleaning chemicals are used in the hospitality industry. They include washing-up liquids, dishwasher detergents and rinse¬aids, drain-cleaning products, oven cleaners, disinfectants, toilet cleaners, bleach, sanitisers and descalers.
Advice on assessing the chemicals which you use, and controlling the risks posed by them is available in Safe use of cleaning chemicals in the hospitality industry CAIS22.
Back pain and other aches arising from manual handling injuries are the most common type of occupational ill health in the UK. In kitchens there are many tasks that, without proper controls, can cause back pain or upper limb injuries that can affect hands, wrists, shoulders and neck.
Lifting and carrying heavy items or pushing and pulling can be a major source of back pain, while forceful or repetitive activities and poor posture can be linked to upper limb injuries.
Advice on preventing back pain and other aches and pains to catering staff can be found in Musculoskeletal disorders in catering and hospitality and Preventing back pain and other aches and pains to kitchen and food service staff.
Work-related contact dermatitis is a skin disease caused by work. It is often called eczema and develops when the skin’s barrier layer is damaged. This leads to redness, itching, swelling, blistering, flaking and cracking. The most susceptible parts of the body are the hands, followed by the forearms and face. It can be severe enough to keep you off work or even force you to change jobs.
Contact dermatitis is one of the main causes of ill health for catering staff (chefs, cooks and catering assistants) with the number of new cases per year being twice the general industry average. Work-related ill health can cost more than twice as much as an accident causing the injury.
You can prevent dermatitis developing with a few simple measures:
More information on knife safety including some case studies can be in Safe use of knives in the kitchen.
Poor standards of maintenance are a major underlying cause of accidents in the catering industry. Including accidents that occur during maintenance work itself and cleaning, nearly two-thirds of accidents investigated in catering stem from maintenance in one way or another. In some cases the problem is a lack of any maintenance at all.
All these accidents can be very costly, both in financial terms as well as in pain and suffering.
Most accidents resulting from poor maintenance involve equipment, but maintenance of the fabric of the building is also involved.
Good maintenance by competent staff ensures that equipment performs well and reliably, and helps prevent accidents. The maintenance work itself must be done safely.
General advice on maintaining catering equipment can be found in Maintenance priorities in catering CAIS12. Specific advice on maintaining gas equipment can be found in Gas safety in catering and hospitality CAIS23.
The law requires employers in hospitality and catering premises to ensure that gas appliances, flues, pipe work and safety devices are maintained in a safe condition. They should be inspected by a competent person in accordance with current industry practice. Periods between inspections may vary depending on the equipment and its use and should follow manufacturer's recommendations, but as a general rule annual inspections will be a reasonable minimum frequency.
All hospitality and catering employers using contractors for gas work should take reasonable steps to check that contractors have a current relevant certificate of competence. This can be checked by asking to see an individual's Gas Safe identity card.
More information on maintaining gas powered equipment can be found in Gas safety in catering and hospitality CAIS23.
You must assess and reduce risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, for all employees (whatever their age) and tell them what the risks are and what steps are being taken to control them. You must consult employees on health and safety matters, either directly or through elected safety representatives.
Additional laws apply to young people below the age of 18. You must:
You do not need to repeat this every time a young person starts work but you should always review the risk assessment if there are any changes to the work.
More advice on the health and safety of children and young people in catering can be found in Health and safety of children and young people in catering CIS21.
Kitchen ventilation is required to create a safe and comfortable working environment. Catering and cooking can produce significant quantities of fumes and vapours as well as large amounts of heat. Ventilation is necessary to remove these and discharge them to a safe external location. This is usually achieved by mechanical extraction via a canopy hood installed over the cooking appliances. The ventilation system should also provide general ventilation throughout the kitchen.
It is particularly important to provide adequate makeup air for gasfired appliances. The lack of an adequate supply of air, and/or incorrect flueing arrangements can lead to incomplete combustion and the accumulation of combustion products such as carbon monoxide.
Further information can be found in Ventilation of kitchens in catering establishments CAIS10.