This article, although written about health and safety in restaurants also covers working in commercial kitchens, hotels, restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, pubs and clubs and those working as contract caterers to other industries, in fact the hospitality industry as a whole.
The Health and Safety Executive website and other stats tells us the main H&S areas which cause concern in restaurants are caused by slips and trips, contact dermatitis, use of sharp implements and manual handling accidents.
Slips and trips
Slips and trips are the single most common cause of major injury in the workplace. Every year there are hundreds of major accidents in the catering caused by slips and trips. Those most affected are kitchen staff and chefs.
Those areas that are likely to cause slips and trips result from spills from food or cooking; water leaks e.g. from an overflowing sink or a leaky pipe; damaged floors e.g. uneven tiles or floor carpets tiles with snags and other trip hazards e.g. bags left out by customers. It’s also important to ensure that areas are adequately sign posted when cleaning is taking place to avoid someone slipping on a wet floor.
Contact dermatitis, sometimes known as eczema, is one of the main causes of ill health for chefs, cooks and catering staff. The number of new cases per year is twice the general industry average.
Contact dermatitis occurs when you come into direct contact with a substance (either an irritant or an allergen) that damages the outer layer of your skin, causing inflammation, itching, and a burning or stinging sensation. It normally occurs on the hands but can also be found on forearms and the face.
Common irritants are soaps and detergents, cleaning products, disinfectants and water – especially water that is hard, chalky or heavily chlorinated.
To prevent dermatitis developing you should avoid contact with irritants where possible and protect your skin by wearing gloves.
Manual handling accidents
A part of many hospitality workers jobs involves manual handling. Lifting and carrying or pushing and pulling heavy items can lead to back pain or aches and strains of the neck, shoulders, hands and wrists. Back pain and other aches arising from manual handling injuries are common.
Back pain and other aches and strains can be minimised through training staff how to lift heavy items properly. A leaflet “Preventing back pain and other aches and pains to kitchen and food service staff” can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
Use of sharp implements
Accidents involving knives (and cleavers) are common in the catering industry. As with manual handling, training should be given in the safe use of knives and safe working practices when sharpening them.
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