Health and safety responsibilities for restaurants

Reviewed for 2019.

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.

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 (HSE) 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.

Who needs a food hygiene certificate?

In the UK, food handlers don’t have to hold a hygiene certificate to prepare or sell food. However, businesses dealing with food carry multiple responsibilities. From food safety to hygiene and inspections, the best place to start for guidance is gov.uk’s food safety hub, as well as the Food Standards Agency’s business guidance.

Currently, employers are responsible for all staff hygiene training. This can be on-the-job and informal, or part of a structured programme, but ensuring it’s in place and appropriate for your line of business is a legal requirement.

Think about business insurance

Restaurants have unique requirements when it comes to insurance. In the field of health and safety the key policy to think about is 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 compensation claim. 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 legally 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.

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