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 of 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 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.
The absence of an effective maintenance regime for equipment or poor standards of maintenance are a significant cause of accidents in the catering industry.
Good maintenance by competent staff ensures that equipment performs well and reliably, and helps prevent accidents. The maintenance work itself must also 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.
A young person is anyone under the age of 18 (please see FAQ on employment of children for information on school age children).
Employers must assess and reduce risks, so far as reasonably practicable, for all employees (regardless of their age). You must tell them what the risks are and what steps are being taken to control them.
If you don’t currently employ a young person, have not done so in the last few years or are taking on a young person for the first time, you should review your risk assessment before they start.
Keep checks in proportion to the environment:
More advice on the health and safety of children and young people in catering:
A child is anyone who has not yet reached the official minimum school leaving age (MSLA). Pupils will reach the MSLA in the school year in which they turn 16. (Please see FAQ on young people for information on the employment of young people over the MSLA.)
The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and the Children and Young Persons Act (Scotland) 1937 state that children under the age of 14 should not be employed. Restrictions are also imposed on the number of hours that children can work. Local byelaws can make additional provisions or exceptions under certain circumstances so you should check with your local authority.
See the advice on the employment of young people – there are some additional things you need to do if you want to employ a child:
Children are only permitted to undertake light work. This means work, which by its nature or because of the conditions under which it is performed, is not likely to be harmful to their safety, health or development.
You can decide not to employ a child (or young person) if there is a risk of accidents that it would be reasonable to assume they can’t recognise or avoid owing to their insufficient attention to safety or lack of experience or training.
Factors to consider include:
More advice on the health and safety of children and young people in catering:
For the law regarding the employment of children see:
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 gas fired 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. Solid fuel appliances produce carbon monoxide as part of their normal operation and must have an appropriate extraction system that removes the toxic fumes. For more information on safety in the use of solid fuel appliances see CAIS26 Preventing exposure to carbon monoxide from use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens.
Further information can be found in Ventilation of kitchens in catering establishments CAIS10.