Health and safety laws apply to all businesses, no matter how big or small. Though, in the hospitality sector, where food safety and hygiene are concerned, it becomes all the more important. Businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and cafes must enforce strict guidelines in the workplace and carry out regular health and safety checks, in order to ensure the safety of both employees and customers.
According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), cross-contamination is one of the most common causes of food poisoning. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also revealed that each year, businesses in the catering and hospitality sector report many major injuries. And as reported by The Times, 15,000 restaurants in Britain are putting customers at risk, and 566 of these scored a zero in their food hygiene rating. Aside from the risk to human health, such detriments also cost businesses in a number of ways, whether it be reduced customer satisfaction or staff being off sick.
Would you feel confident if an Environmental Health Officer walked into your hospitality-based business right now? Do you have up-to-date records to prove you’re being compliant? Or are you simply not sure where to begin? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve created this piece to help you keep on top of compliancy for all aspects of health and safety, so you can protect your team, customers and business.
The General Health and Safety Law in the UK
The overall foundation for UK health and safety law can be found in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It ensures not only the hospitality sector, but all industries create an experience that all customers can enjoy and feel safe in, as well as ensure employees feel adequately protected to carry out their job effectively. If your restaurant, hotel, cinema and so on fail to comply with these regulations, you could face fines or even prosecution. But above all, failing to follow health and safety law puts everyone involved at greater risk, from loyal customers to committed employees.
Although the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 covers the general principles of health and safety, it’s also accompanied by more in-depth guidelines which are more specific and cover a variety of areas. These include the following:
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 – employers must provide a safe and healthy working environment for customers and employees.
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – employers must assess and manage risks in the workplace.
The Benefits of Health and Safety Compliance in Hospitality
It’s your moral and legal obligation to ensure your employees return home safe and healthy at the end of every working day, as well as customers who visit your premises. However, there are also several other important benefits that come about as a result of health and safety compliance. For instance, by protecting your personnel, not only will you reduce absences, but you’ll also establish a working environment that’s more efficient and productive. The Financial Times makes a case, that if businesses want to increase productivity, improve profitability or enhance workforce wellbeing, they must focus more on occupational safety and health. In fact, according to a recent study in Occupational Health Science, employees’ health and safety are key aspects in helping a business reach their optimum levels of productivity and efficiency. Not only that, but by lowering down-time due to illnesses or accidents, your business will also be disrupted less.
Non-compliance can also be exceptionally costly for your hospitality business. Without effective risk management measures in place, you could increase the chances of claims being made against your company. It could be the case of a customer suffering from a minor slip in your cafe due to staff forgetting to put out signs. Or perhaps one of the chefs at your hotel’s restaurant burns themselves due to the correct PPE equipment not being provided. Regardless of what the situation may be, no matter how big or small, it’s crucial all in the hospitality sector take the necessary steps to improve risk management.
The Main Areas of Health and Safety Compliance in Hospitality
1. Food Safety
The Food Safety Act 1990 outlines all food legislation in England, Wales and Scotland. Under the act, the main responsibilities for businesses where food is involved include:
- Do not include anything in food, remove anything from food or treat food in any manner that would be detrimental to the health of the people consuming it.
- The food businesses serve, or sell, is of the nature, substance or quality which consumers would expect.
- Food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not false or misleading.
For hospitality businesses where food is involved, food safety is a make-or-break matter. Whether you’re serving picky bits at a cinema, or a full-blown menu at a restaurant, food safety should be a priority. For a hospitality business, maintaining customer trust is above all. A bad experience with your food, for instance with a case of food poisoning, could not only mean one lost customer but potentially more if they spread the word. Damage to brand image caused by food safety problems can be destructive, especially since the pandemic, where consumers are now more conscious and aware of germs and cleanliness. Not only that, but the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that the workplace and its “furniture, furnishings and fittings therein shall be kept sufficiently clean” – therefore practicing good hygiene becomes even more imperative. Through a planned maintenance program, your hospitality business can be kept up to quality hygiene standard regularly, ensuring you benefit from a safer working environment to prepare food in.
Furthermore, across all industries, not just hospitality, consumers are demanding for increased transparency from businesses. When it comes to the hospitality sector, supply chain transparency and food traceability are key motivators of acquiring the trust of customers. Today, people want to know where their food has come from, how it’s been handled, and how long it’s been in transit before it reaches their plate, whether that’s at home, in a restaurant, or hotel. In fact, research by Paymentsense of 350 British restaurants owners and 2,085 consumers, revealed that 66% said that ethical considerations matter when picking where to eat. In addition to this, 28% said they’re more likely to go to a restaurant if the origin of the food is clear.
2. Slips, trips and falls
Whilst there is no specific legislation for slips, trips and falls, there are general regulations that cover these risks:
- The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act (1974)
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992)
- The Work at Height Regulations (2005)
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992)
Businesses in the hospitality industry have many operational challenges, particularly when they’re at capacity. Considering this, slips and trips become an even bigger cause for concern. Most slips and trips are a result of poor housekeeping. For example, wires, cables, bin bags and other items left in places they shouldn’t be, are a trip-disaster waiting to happen. Or failing to clean up a food spillage immediately could cause someone to slip. That’s why in hospitality, housekeeping becomes all the more important. Extra efforts must be taken to ensure areas of public footfall are free from situations that could cause trips or slips.
It’s also important to focus on back of house areas, to protect staff too, as they’re often the ones rushing around, and therefore more likely to be involved in an incident. Good housekeeping, appropriate footwear, training staff to be proactive in using signage when a spill occurs, and good lighting are all practical steps that can be taken to prevent slips, trips and falls.
Electrical hazards can be found all over in a business, and a hospitality setting will be filled with everything from small to large electrical equipment with varying voltage supplies. Such equipment poses a daily occupational risk if not managed, and failure to maintain and use correctly, can lead to serious harm.
Under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, hospitality businesses must prove compliance through Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR), to ensure electrical systems correspond with IEE Wiring Regulations (BS7671). As well as this, Fixed Wire Testing, carried out every 5 years (ensures electrical installations/circuits are in line with latest wiring regulations) need to be conducted.
Services such as M&E (mechanical and electrical) programs will guarantee your hospitality business continues to be compliant with electrical regulations detailed in health and safety legislation. Such programs also include designing and installing electrical systems that accommodate your company requirements, the relevant EICR, as well as undertaking electrical tests such as:
- Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) – tests electricals that can be moved e.g. fridges in a restaurant, or TVs in a hotel room.
- Microwave Emission Testing – testing for microwave radiation leakage.
- Thermal Image Testing – measures surface temperatures via infrared video and still cameras e.g. faulty air conditioning.
Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, you must ensure gas systems are safe and suitable for use. Some of the duty’s employers have when it comes to gas safety, include being responsible for the annual servicing, and ensuring inspection and certification of all in service gas boilers and any other type of gas burning equipment. All of the aforementioned must be done by a registered Gas Safe Engineer and performed in line with HSE’s ACOPs.
Outsourcing to a facility management company like MSL for all your gas compliance related matters will mean you will receive everything from Gas Safety Inspection and Certification to Gas Appliance Servicing and Maintenance. Whether you have a café or hotel, remaining compliant with all the legalities that come with gas safety, will mean a safer environment for both employees and visitors.
Government statistics provide evidence which suggests that fires are fairly commonplace in the hospitality industry – 2,764 fires in hospitality premises throughout 2020/21. Hotels appear to be one of the most vulnerable type of hospitality business, with 263 out of every 1,000 suffering from a fire incident from September 2012 to September 2019. The statistics for pubs, restaurants, and takeaways stands at 89 fires per 1,000 buildings throughout the same period.
Everything from cooking equipment to faulty equipment could cause a fire. However, following all fire safety and fire management regulations under the Regulatory Reform Order 2005 can contain or stop a fire from taking place. The law requires that fire safety be overseen and managed by the business employer, manager or owner. You must put in measures for a number of fire safety reviews and preventions, including:
- Performing fire risk assessments to spot hazards and risks.
- Consider all at risk in the event of a fire e.g. employees, guests, contractors and customers.
- Remove risks as much as possible and put safety procedures in place to deal with any remaining risk.
- Ensure flammable materials are safely stored.
- Put an emergency plan in place and regularly review the plan and any results.
Facilities management companies like MSL can ensure you remain compliant by managing a range of important fire related systems in your hospitality business, such as:
- Fire alarm systems
- Sprinkler systems
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire risk assessments
- Fire door servicing and maintenance
- Fire safety and escape signage
6. Manual Handling
All employers must comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. This becomes even more crucial in the hospitality sector, as those who work in bars, restaurants and other fast-paced hospitality environments, will at times have to handle heavy items like tables, deliveries, and luggage. Incorrectly handling these can cause musculoskeletal injuries, for example to the back, knees, and elbows. Plus, if the work staff are carrying out is repetitive, like moving kegs or barrels, the damage can build over time and cause more serious harm. Therefore, staff should be trained with the correct lifting and carrying techniques, along with being provided mechanical aids where possible to move heavy loads.
7. Hazardous Chemicals
The purpose of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) regulation is to reduce the risk of becoming ill due to being exposed to harmful substances. Hazardous chemicals can be found in cleaning agents, but they can also take the form of less obvious substances like carbon dioxide gas. Commercial kitchens use a lot of cleaning substances, and it’s also common in hospitality for pressurised gas to be used for dispensing drinks. In mind of this, certain guidelines need to be followed when handling hazardous substances. Some measures that can be taken to ensure the COSHH regulation is complied with include:
- Provide training to staff so they’re able to recognise the common hazard symbols, as well as understand the manufacturer’s instructions before use.
- Store chemicals safely in a lockable area and secure them when they’re not being used.
- Ensure that safety data sheets are available where hazardous chemicals are stored and used.
8. Outdoor Dining
Since the pandemic, outdoor dining has become an increasingly popular pastime for people, and now, most restaurants also have an al fresco area for the British public to enjoy. Still, in order for the public to enjoy these spots safely, there are rules and regulations that the hospitality sector must comply with.
Under the Health Act 2006, smoking has been prohibited in all enclosed and largely enclosed work and public places throughout the UK since July 2007, as exposure to smoke is harmful to health. However, as of July 2020, an amendment to the Business and Planning Bill, meant that now hospitality businesses must ensure their outdoor premises offer separate seating for smokers and non-smokers. As well as this, those operating in Manchester, Newcastle, Durham, Northumberland and North Tyneside, should be aware that these councils have completely banned smoking on pavements outside venues like pubs, cafes and restaurants (rules apply where outdoor seating is provided by the business). However, for those who fall under councils that will be enforcing separate outdoor seating for smokers and non-smokers, there are health and safety rules that must be complied with:
- The designated outdoor areas must have clear no-smoking signs.
- The designated outdoor areas must have no ashtrays present on tables that have been assigned as smoke-free.
- The designated outdoor areas must have a minimum two-metre distance between non-smoking and smoking areas (where possible).
As of 19th July 2021, social distancing guidance is no longer compulsory, and therefore hospitality businesses are not required to implement social distancing rules. However, they do still have a legal duty, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to manage the risks that may come about from their outdoor areas. This must be carried out with health and safety risk assessments, and then taking reasonable steps to mitigate the risks identified. Outsourcing to facility management companies like MSL, can ensure your outdoor dining areas remain compliant with regulations like this.
Proactive health and safety management is integral when it comes to a hospitality business – and a compliance maintenance program can ensure you meet all legal obligations.