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Safety at Work: Catering Industry

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 31 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Catering Safety Rules Regulations Food

When you start your own business, the health and safety aspect can feel daunting - there's so much to remember. With catering, although specific rules and regulations will apply, depending on the type of business and how many staff you're employing, there are six main areas that you need to pay attention to:

1. Slipping and Tripping:

It's probably the most likely accident you're going to come across in catering - slipping on spillages, tripping on things that aren't where they should be…

Look out for leaks, make sure that you and your staff know to mop up any dropped or spilled food immediately, and be extra vigilant about uneven or bad quality flooring that could cause trips. Boxes, bags, cabling, these are all hazards that could quite literally ruin your day, so be aware of them when you're rushing around trying to get things organised.

2. Knives

It might seem flippant, but when you work in an industry that uses sharp implements you really do have to be a bit careful. The essentials with knives are:
  • Training - which knife to use for which task, safe working practices and sharpening
  • Carrying - don't carry knives with the blade pointing upwards
  • Protection - use gloves and protective aprons for tough jobs like de-boning and be careful when you're washing up
  • Storage - store knives safely, and don't leave them lying on worktops

3. Musculoskeletal problems

You and your staff could be at risk of back injury if there's a lot of lifting and carrying involved in your day to day duties. It's essential to get staff up to scratch on proper lifting and carrying techniques to avoid injury.

Repetitive work such as chopping, grating, slicing and kneading can also lead to problems with upper limbs, which can affect wrists, arms, shoulders and neck too. You can download a free advice sheet from the Health and Safety Executive that will give you tips on minimising the risks of musculoskeletal disorders in the catering industry if you need more guidance.

4. Burns and Scalds

When catering staff are in a hurry, and dealing with hot surfaces, it doesn't take too much imagination to work out what could go wrong. The best way to avoid the risk of nasty burns is by using gloves and being careful around hobs, ovens and grills.

5. Dermatitis

There's a lot of cleaning and washing up involved in a catering company and the chances of you or one of your staff members coming into contact with something that might cause a reaction are pretty high. Dermatitis is considered one of the risks of the job, but the chances of a nasty reaction are reduced if you take the right preventative measures.

  • Keep your hands away from direct contact with food, water and cleaning products wherever you can. Use a dishwasher rather than washing up by hand, if you do have to wash items by hand, always wear protective gloves. When you're handling food, use the right equipment and utensils rather than picking up with your fingers.
  • Wear protective gloves whenever you come into contact with chemicals or substances which might irritate your skin. Keep your hands well moisturised too, to make up for the effects of frequent hand washing and sanitising.
  • Keep an eye on your skin, especially on your hands, for any signs of a reaction. If you notice dry, red or itchy skin, you should report it to your doctor and a supervisor if you have one, and always try and treat the symptoms as soon as they appear.

6. Where to go for advice

You can find advice on everything from emptying fat fryers to the safe handling of knives on the Health and Safety Executive website. The comprehensive list of resources includes links and downloads to guides and occupation specific publications.

You can also find plenty of help with food safety issues - making sure you also keep your customers healthy and safe - from the Food Standards Agency. They have produced a really helpful leaflet that tells you everything you need to know about setting up a catering business, which is free to download.

You should also contact your local council Environmental Health Office, where you can be assessed and given a Food Hygiene Rating. Many local councils offer free food hygiene training which is essential if you want to make sure that staff are kept up to date on all the regulations and guidance.

Case Study - Vintage Feast

Of course, staying safe at work encompasses more than legal obligations and minimising injury. It's an on-going task, making sure that you and your staff members stay healthy, happy and safe in their work. Christina set up two catering businesses, Vintage Feast (www.vintagefeast.com/index.php) and Feast Food, in London.

"We cater for events. Feast Food focusses mainly on corporate catering, supplying clients with anything from small sandwich lunches to doing full catering for conference of 1,000+ delegates.

"Vintage Feast specialises in afternoon teas, and we have just launched a picnic menu too. I have been running my own catering company in one form or another (previously as part of a partnership) for just over a decade and as Feast for the last five years. At the moment I have three employees on PAYE, several freelance chefs and numerous casual staff who work the events.

When I decided that I wanted to go into catering, the first place I went to for advice was my local environmental health officer. I asked her to come along to the unit we were intending to use as our kitchen and she was very helpful, giving me lots of good advice on ventilation and general hygiene requirements, what was absolutely necessary and what we could do to keep costs down.

Risk Assessment

"I had also researched how to do a food hygiene risk assessment online and I'd carried one out for the business. I went through this with the EHO which reassured her we knew what we were doing.

I wasn't really daunted by all the rules and regulations that applied to catering, it all seemed like common sense to me. I was very thorough in my research, and I found that my local EHO was more than happy to offer advice when I needed it.

Outside Catering

"We have an environmental health folder to help us when we're working from other people's premises, which as you can imagine is something we do a lot of the time. We take the folder along to every event we cater for. All our food is transported in our chiller-van in thermal boxes with chiller blocks so we are quite self-sufficient! We make sure we have a probe with us and carry out random temperature checks on all foods. Of course everything is a bit more complicated when we're out of our premises as often we just don't have the space to do things the way we'd like, but generally speaking we manage just fine!

No Power on a Sunny Day!

"We've only ever had one incident to deal with, and that was when we'd set up a stand at a food festival. When we arrived there wasn't any power, it was a sunny day and we needed to get our fridge plugged in to keep everything chilled down. We didn't panic - we simply bought bags of ice and packed the fridge out with them to keep everything cold until the power came on.

As far as my own health and wellbeing go, stress is probably my main complaint as running my own business can be extremely stressful at times, especially when dealing with cash-flow and staffing issues. I have also had back problems from working long hours on my laptop.

I make sure that I work out at the gym at least four times a week and we have regular staff nights out to help with morale and relaxation. The last one was when we went bowling and to karaoke! My number one words of advice for anyone who wants to go into catering are: Do lots of research and do your costings before you do anything else!

Catering accidents can happen to anyone

No matter how many training courses you send people on, accidents do happen, and they happen to the best establishments, too. A waiter at the Savoy was given £9000 in compensation after he slipped on a greasy kitchen floor, while he was carrying a tray of drinks, and damaged his foot, leaving him only capable of working a few hours a day. If it can happen to the Savoy, it can happen to you, so be careful!

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[Add a Comment]
My daughter is 16 and just started her first part time job. Her place of work have her cooking meals for kids party’s, burgers, hotdogs chipscutting meat and veg etc and cleaning down the kitchen; and all this unattended. Is this ok...????? Any advice is very welcome thank you.
Coxy - 31-Oct-17 @ 12:12 AM
Manso - Your Question:
For 2 an half years I have been putting 6 ft tables an chairs up to 700 people in rooms,changing set ups every day mostly on shift myself,5 large rooms,nightshifts on own,pulling large trollys up to 100 kgs,carring steal tables up stairs,constantly complaining it's to much I need help,finnly my lower back has give in and I'm forced on the sick and can only walk for about an hour a day,have to lie down the rest of day,would you say this is fair on me,when I first started there would have been at least 3 men on the shift I was made to do alone.

Our Response:
If you feel that your job is the cause of your injury, you should consider making a claim against your employer.
SafeWorkers - 25-Nov-16 @ 12:13 PM
For 2 an half years I have been putting 6 ft tables an chairs up to 700 people in rooms,changing set ups every day mostly on shift myself,5 large rooms,nightshifts on own,pulling large trollys up to 100 kgs,carring steal tables up stairs,constantly complaining it's to much I need help,finnly my lower back has give in and I'm forced on the sick and can only walk for about an hour a day,have to lie down the rest of day,would you say this is fair on me,when I first started there would have been at least 3 men on the shift I was made to do alone.
Manso - 24-Nov-16 @ 10:01 AM
I work as a chef for at least 8 hours a shift. And the kitchen temp. Is 45-50 degrees is legal.
Nib - 23-Jun-16 @ 11:55 PM
I work in a care home with 40+ residents. I am a cook. I am ledt alone from 8am to 6pm. I do cooking job also all the cleaning and washing up. Is this legal for me to do all this plus work alone. Lifting heavy pots weighing up to 30KG. Please help. Thank you.
teddy - 14-Mar-16 @ 6:37 PM
As an apprentice in a cafe can I and one other apprentice be left one our own all day to open up run the cafe all dayand close the cafe at the end.can anyone help with the legal side of this please
Phil - 4-Mar-16 @ 6:38 PM
I work in a works canteen on my own ,is this legal or should there be another member of staff with me
jonnybgud - 29-Oct-15 @ 8:46 PM
Larry - Your Question:
My son recently injured his thumb quite badly whilst sharpening a knife in his place of employment. The method of sharpening was quite new as previously his employer had used an outside firm to do this but as a cost-cutting exercise had installed their own equipment.The only training offered (and given) was on-line. Is this legally sufficient or should some form of supervision also have been offered?

Our Response:
You'd have to consult with a legal professional over this as we do not have sufficient detail as to the type of knife or the sharpening equipment. The Health and Safety Executive may be able to offer advice/information. Here is their information on knives
SafeWorkers - 25-Sep-15 @ 10:42 AM
My son recently injured his thumb quite badly whilst sharpening a knife in his place of employment. The method of sharpening was quite new as previously his employer had used an outside firm to do this but as a cost-cutting exercise had installed their own equipment. The only training offered (and given) was on-line. Is this legally sufficient or should some form of supervision also have been offered?
Larry - 24-Sep-15 @ 11:46 AM
@sarah. Yes as long as any relevant risk reducing measures are in place and you have a good safety procedure.
SafeWorkers - 29-Jul-15 @ 12:48 PM
Is it safe for one person in a kitchen to work on their own? Is this legal?
sarah - 28-Jul-15 @ 12:43 PM
@fleetypops. Not that we are aware of, especially if inside seating is available for you to use. Check with your local council to see if there are any locally implemented conditions.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jul-15 @ 12:13 PM
@fleetypops. Not if inside seating is available for you to use.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jul-15 @ 12:07 PM
Does a restaurant which provides outside eating areas have to provide some area of shade in the hot weather?I regularly frequent a restaurant with an outside patio.They have black tables and chairs and the tables get so hot in hot weather that you can't touch them.Worse still there is no shade provided by means of large umbrellas or otherwise.Are they obligated to provide some form of shelter from the heat of the sun?
fleetypops - 7-Jul-15 @ 4:03 PM
@mummsie. There is no legal maximum safe working temperature. The only requirement is that workplace temperatures in buildings should be "reasonable". Read our article on safe working temperatures for more informatinon
SafeWorkers - 1-Jul-15 @ 12:46 PM
I would like to know when it would be classed that a kitchen is to hot and unsafe to work in especially in the hot weather.
Mummsie - 28-Jun-15 @ 1:31 PM
@Dawn. She needs to ask to see the employer's risk assessment. If she is unhappy withany of the measures in place to reduce risk or feels that all risks have not been identified, then she should raise this with the employer. There is more information in this article which may help
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-15 @ 11:29 AM
My daughter is 17 she works at a well know sandwich shop Saturday through to Sunday 12-6pm,I am concerned because she works alone for all of this time operating ovens,tills ect she has no break as there is no one to take over. Is any of this lawful??please help any advice is great thank you
Dawn - 18-Mar-15 @ 4:24 PM
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