Health and Safety in Catering and Hospitality

Posted on March 08, 2013

Health and Safety in Catering and Hospitality

Following on from the article about Setting up a Cafe - what you might need... , here at The Workplace Depot, we decided that if you were planning to set up a cafe, you may need some tips on health and safety in the catering and hospitality industry and what risks there are and how to avoid them. From slips and trips to germs and cross-contamination, we have covered 4 main areas of health and safety in catering and hospitality.

Slips and trips

Slips and trips are the single most common cause of major injury in UK workplaces and every year there are hundreds of accidents in the catering and hospitality industry. The most affected workers are, kitchen assistants, chefs and waiting staff.

Food spillages, Water overflow or leak and Cleaning

Spills from food and water whilst cooking are the most common causes for accidents in the kitchen. Liquid products can create a serious hazard if not cleaned up properly, especially on a flat, smooth floor. Around food preparation areas and areas where water is used, place down rubber matting that can make wet areas safer to walk on. However, staff need to assess the hazard and be vigilant about there decision.

Cleaning needs to happen at the right time and has to be carried out in the correct way, using the right cleaning products and equipment for the job. If the floor still happens to be a little wet, then use wet floor signs to warn staff that the floor is still slippery and to take care.

When working in a busy catering environment, you will need to wear sensible shoes. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend that the shoes you wear must have good grip, that you keep the soles clean and make sure that the shoes fit well to avoid any slips.

Poorly maintained flooring and Trip hazards

Damaged floors are incredibly easy to trip over. If the flooring is poorly maintained, these accidents can occur all the time, such as: the floor peeling away , or the anti-slip coating is coming off, these can be serious hazards in a busy kitchen. If you spot an area that is damaged, report it straight away and arrange a time for it to be fixed. Don't try and put off the repair or do a bit of DIY. Temporary, put something down to highlight to damaged area and keep people away from it if possible.

When you are working in a catering environment, people can become lazy and clumsy and leave obstacles such as cables, boxes and bags in walkways and someone could easily trip over and hurt themselves badly. Storage units for personal belongings should be provided away from the kitchen area and cables should be tied, using cable management products and hidden away to avoid them becoming a hazard.

Personal Health

Personal health is also a factor of injuries or illness. Musculosketelatal disorder,dermatitis and injury by knives are the most common risk areas when it comes to personal health.

Musculosketelatal Disorder

Musculosketelatal disorder can affect muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling items can be a major cause of back pain and repetitive or forceful activities and poor posture can be linked to upper limb injuries. When you are about to carry out a task that involves any of these tasks, assess the practicality and your capability first. If the item is too heavy then use a trolley, or a sack truck. Anyone can easily prevent or minimise this type of injury by assessing the risk.


Work-related contact dermatitis is a skin disease, often called eczema which develops when the skin's barrier layer is damaged. The symptoms are redness, itching, swelling, blistering, flaking and cracking and can become severe enough to stop you from working. Dermatitis is one of the main causes of ill health for catering staff. Protect your skin whenever you can by wearing gloves when working with substance that can cause dermatitis such as, cleaning products, food and water Regularly moisturise your hands to replenish your skin's natural oils. Check your hands regularly for any signs of dermatitis e.g. itchy, dry or red skin, and report it to your supervisor - treatment will be much more effective when caught early.

Knives and other Catering Equipment

Accidents involving knives are common in the catering industry. The non-knife hand and fingers are the most likely to be cut when not taking care and cleaver knifes are commonly used for chopping. Every catering kitchen should have a catering first aid kit. If any thing should happen e.g. a cut or a burn, a first aider can quickly apply the correct first aid. Employers should be able to provide employees with basic first aid training so that everyone knows what to do if someone burns or cuts themselves.

When handling a knife, here are the do's and don'ts:

- Train employees on how to use a knife safely and how to sharpen them properly
- Use the most suitable knife for the task and food you are cutting
- Keep the knives sharp
- Cut on a stable surface e.g. flat
- Secure knives securely after use
- Use protective equipment as required. For de-boning, it is recommended that a suitable protective glove is worn
- Only use the knife as a knife - not a can opener
- Keep the knife low down

- Leave knives loose on the worktops where they can be accidentally pushed off
- Try to catch a falling knife
- Carry knives while carrying other objects or in your pocket
- Do not engage in 'play fighting' with a knife

Other Catering Equipment

Industrial ovens are incredibly different to your ordinary kitchen oven - they are bigger and go to a higher temperature. Most catering staff have probably had there fair share of burns during their careers. The most common types of burns are are electrical, chemical and thermal burns. Most staff burn themselves very easily on oven doors, shelves, trays, steam and hot food fat and in the worst case, some burns can leave permanent scars.

Tips for staff in the catering industry when it comes to handling hot equipment:

- Wear shoes that cover the tops of toes of your feet
- Use serving trays when carrying hot plates, this way you won't get burnt and you will not drop the plates
- Use hand protection such as over mitts and cleaning gloves when using cleaning chemicals
- Use the correct utensils when handling hot food items
- Be careful when putting food into hot oil, the oil may splash and come into contact with skin
- Stand to the side when opening ovens and steamers, you will avoid getting burnt by the steam or hot air when it escapes

Germs and Cross-Contamination

You cannot smell or see most germs that grow on your food, the food doesn't even change colour or texture when contaminated. Sterilisation of utensils, worktops and equipment and sanitising hands are the main ways of keeping germs at bay in a kitchen. Air purification system is a device which removes contaminants from the air. Sterilising utensils, work spaces and equipment is incredibly important when working with food, just simply washing the equipment properly and using the correct washing and sterilising products can stop germs and cross-contamination with food and people.

Cross-Contamination is the process whereby harmful germs are transferred from unclean areas such as toilets, waste, outdoor clothes, raw meats and vegetables to clean areas where food is prepared stored and served. To stop this from happening you need to take precautions when handling and storing food. Physically separate dirty and clean areas and equipment in the kitchen. Prepare raw meat, fish and vegetables on separate chopping boards with separate knives and clean and disinfect them after use. Store meat, vegetables and cooked food separately. If you only have one fridge, put the raw meat on the bottom, and the rest of the food at the top. You could also use plastic food containers to separate different meats and vegetables, at The Workplace Depot, we sell either a fully solid or ventilated version on the plastic food containers.


Posted in Health and Safety