The food industry incorporates a variety of different sectors including food producers, caterers, manufacturers, processors and distributors. In all, it is one of the largest business areas in the UK. The catering sector, which this article focuses on, for example includes restaurants, hotels, pubs and take-aways and employ more than 1.2 million people.
A huge proportion of the public come into contact with food businesses usually while going shopping, eating out or staying at hotels. Thus, employees need to protect the health and safety of their workers and the public. This responsibility includes the observation of CoSHH law which requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health.
For those working in the catering industry, certain hazards include the following:
Having wet hands for long periods of time can irritate the skin and cause dermatitis.
Certain food types and some cleaning product ingredients can cause skin allergies and asthma.
Cooking fumes can cause cancer due to some of the substances contained within the fumes.
Certain measures need to be taken to prevent ill health such as controlling exposure to hazardous substances.
Task based CoSHH risk assessments need to be carried out where needed. This will involve ensuring that all equipment is properly maintained and used. It will help an employer introduce safe systems of work for all activities. A member of staff will be nominated and given responsibility for health and safety and all staff will be made aware of hazards and given training in risk control procedures.
Further measures include:
Good working techniques should be adopted to avoid or minimize contact with harmful products.
Cleaning products should be stored safely to minimize leaks and spills.
The work place should have good ventilation.
Personal protective equipment (gloves, aprons, suitable footwear etc) should be easily accessible for certain jobs.
Suitable washing facilities should be provided. Skin cleanliness is critical. Hands need to be thoroughly washed to remove any contamination and then dried well. Skin creams should also be used and they should be fragrance and nut oil free.
Cooking apparatus should be used with an extractor hood or canopy.
Great care must be taken when undertaking certain operations. Such as, draining hot oil from catering apparatus, diluting / mixing cleaning chemicals and disassembling / cleaning catering equipment like food slicers etc.
Staff must be given appropriate training in the use of hazardous equipment as well as the dangers in using chemicals containing hazardous substances.
by Dale Allen