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Dealing with health and safety inspections at your pub or restaurant

3-minute read

Josh Hall

Josh Hall

25 November 2009

Enduring your first health and safety inspection as a pub landlord or restauranteur can be a daunting experience. However, as long as your establishment is run in a safe and hygienic way, you really have nothing to worry about.

Environmental health officers are not there to make your life difficult; rather, their job is to encourage good practice. Broadly speaking, the purposes of an inspection are:

  • to ensure that your business is in compliance with the law;
  • to ensure that all food is safe and is prepared in a hygienic manner;
  • and to offer you advice on improving your practices.

There are a few things that you should remember in order to ensure that your first inspection goes off without a hitch.

Request an inspection

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is often a good idea to pre-empt the council by requesting an inspection yourself. It is generally suggested that restaurants and pubs should contact their local environmental health office before opening day.

You can request an inspection at any time before you open. This will enable you to iron over any issues well in advance of you beginning trading, while also helping to build a good relationship with the environmental health office.

Once you are open your restaurant or pub will be considered a ‘commercial venture’ and, as such, will be subject to regular inspection and sanction if you are found to be in contravention of the law.

Compulsory inspections

You will be subject to a compulsory inspection during your first year in business. During the course of this inspection the officer will ensure that your establishment is run in a safe and responsible way. Many of the requirements are simple common sense; implements should be clean, food should be stored in an appropriate manner, and so on.

However, the inspector will also be looking to make sure that your pub or restaurant is living up to claims made in marketing literature. For example, if you claim that all of your vegetables are fresh, the inspector will want to make sure that is the case.

In most cases the inspector will decide that the establishment is up to scratch, and will give you a clean bill of health until the next inspection. However, if they find something of concern they will arrange a follow-up visit to ensure that the problem has been rectified.

If your business is in one of the 100 local council areas participating in the Scores On The Doors scheme, the inspector will also compile a score for your business. They can legally publish this; indeed, your score will appear on the Scores On The Doors website. You will also be offered a sticker or poster to display on your premises showing how well your business performed.

Record keeping

While most of the requirements of restaurateurs and pub landlords are, indeed, common sense matters, there are numerous responsibilities that you may not immediately consider. For example, it is vital that you keep accurate and comprehensive records in your business; this is a legal obligation and will be assessed by the inspector.

Your record keeping responsibilities will generally revolve around storage and stock control. The inspector will want to see evidence that your stock is rotated efficiently, in such a way as to ensure that out of date produce is never at risk of being used. They will also want to see evidence of temperature control in your refrigeration systems; you will be expected, for example, to take regular temperature readings.

In addition to this you are also required to carry out a risk assessment. This involves identifying potential hazards in your establishment, and mitigating any risks that may arise to as great a degree as is reasonably practicable. You may wish to read our guide to risk assessment for further information.

In general, you should retain at the forefront of your mind that the job of health inspectors is not to go round shutting down businesses. Rather, they are there to encourage you to develop and maintain good practices. Do not be scared of health and safety inspections, but do be prepared; as long as you run your business in a safe and reasonable manner, and keep accurate records, your inspection will be quick and painless.

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