Last reviewed January 2018.
Owners of restaurants and other businesses operating in the catering and hospitality sector deal with a unique set of risks and responsibilities. It is vital that you have suitable health and safety arrangements in place to minimise risks.
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Health and safety in restaurants: the basics
All businesses should carry out a regular health and safety risk assessment. This involves looking at your business and identifying potential hazards that may affect staff or members of the public. Your risk assessment should tell you whether you are doing enough to mitigate these risks.
Restaurants require a particularly rigorous risk assessment process. The number of hazards in the workplace is almost endless; ovens and deep fat fryers all pose obvious risks, but hazards can also be more subtle. For example, are steps clearly marked, particularly if they are likely to be used by waiters carrying hot plates?
The Health and Safety Executive has published guidance for businesses carrying out their first risk assessment. It includes standard layouts for risk assessments and health and safety policies which you can simply fill in with the relevant information. Alternatively, many restaurants choose to hire a health and safety specialist with knowledge of the catering sector to carry out a risk assessment for them. This can be beneficial in the long term, as a professional with dedicated knowledge of the sector may well be able to point out hazards and risks that you would otherwise have missed.
Health and safety best practice is, in many cases, simple common sense. It is likely that you already run, or are planning to run, a safe restaurant by nature. However, it is important that you develop a comprehensive health and safety policy that demonstrates to your staff how hazards and other issues are to be dealt with, and that you are able to produce this policy for an inspector in the inevitable event that you receive a council visit.
There is a variety of qualifications and certificates that you and your staff must hold in order to run your restaurant legally. Primary among these is the Food Hygiene Certificate, which must be held by every individual member of staff that handles food.
The Food Hygiene Certificate is issued after individuals pass a test that covers a number of issues including their legal responsibilities, the means by which food can become contaminated, the impact of food borne illnesses, and methods of preventing contamination.
There are many Food Hygiene Certificate providers that allow you and your staff to take the test online. This can take just a few hours, and normally costs around £20 per test. It cannot be stressed enough that there is a legal necessity for each relevant member of staff to hold a certificate of this kind. The certificates must be on display to the public on your premises.
Again, many restaurant owners choose to have a health and safety professional visit them to assess their legal requirements. This can be a good investment for the future, given the significant fines doled out by councils for non-compliance with regulations.
Think about business insurance
Restaurants have unique requirements when it comes to insurance. In the field of health and safety there is one major policy type that you could buy - public liability insurance.
If a member of the public suffers illness or injury and your business is deemed to be liable, you are likely to be faced with a hefty bill. Restaurants have borne the brunt of a number of significant compensation claims in recent times. Without proper public liability cover a single claim, arising for example from a case of salmonella, could cause you serious financial problems.
You should also remember that your business probably needs employers’ liability insurance if it has at least one employee. It protects you and your staff, giving them an avenue for compensation should they suffer injury from an accident at work. Most employers are required to have at least £5 million of employers’ liability cover, or face a fine of up to £2,500 per day (although there are some exceptions to this rule). Simply Business gives you the opportunity to build a business insurance policy tailored to the needs of your restaurant and compare a range of quotes.
Health and safety responsibilities are important, and the costs of ignoring them are extraordinarily high. But, as long as you make sure you are aware of your responsibilities and fulfil them from the outset, you can help guarantee the long-term stability of your business.