Health and safety in the hospitality sector

Health and safety often receives a lot of negative coverage in the press, with reports of overzealous officials forcing kids to wear goggles to play conquers and office workers being banned from putting up Christmas decorations.

But such stories can disguise what is actually a very important issue, with health and safety standards vital to protect both workers and customers, while also benefiting businesses by helping them avoid compensation payouts and fines as well as a tarnished reputation.

This goes for those in hospitality employment as much as anyone else, with employees and employers both needing to be aware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to health and safety.

Sarah Daniels is a chartered practitioner at the RedCat Partnership, which helps businesses with health and safety and food safety compliance through consultancy and training services.

She acknowledges that health and safety has something of an image problem, but warns that failure to pay it proper consideration can lead to big problems for businesses.

"If businesses do not take health and safety seriously, the bottom line is [the risk of] incidents, accidents, cases of ill health and unfortunately fatalities to their staff and also to people using the business – like visitors and guests, et cetera – [will increase]," she said.

"However, the softer side is that employees who believe they are cared about will be more productive – and that is what is needed in this economy."

To maintain good health and safety standards, firms need to train new recruits as soon as they start and maintain a positive health and safety culture throughout, says the expert.

"It is important that [all levels of] staff undergo a sufficient induction and then are appropriately trained to do their tasks safely.

"It's about the culture of the organisation – everybody knowing where they fit and what's expected of them. Health and safety [needs to be] taken seriously and not just [being about] a box being ticked."

But, in the hospitality sector in particular, good health and safety practice goes beyond just protecting staff, it is also an essential aspect of good customer care – those in catering jobs or working in restaurants, pubs or bars, have the added responsibility of making sure that the food they serve is safe to eat and prepared in a hygienic environment.

Those that fail to do this could well find themselves receiving unwanted attention from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), possibly leading to a fine or even closure.

However, poor food safety standards can have an even worse impact on businesses in the hospitality sector by costing them their reputation.

Abiye Cole, owner of Big Apple Hot Dogs, is all too aware of the importance food safety standards can have on public image.

"My whole business lends itself to food safety. We don't use any high-risk foods at all," she says. "It is essential that Big Apple Hot Dogs distances itself from all the dodgy vendors who have given 'dawgs' such a bad name."

But good health and safety and food hygiene practice does not have to be complicated for those in hospitality jobs, as simple, commonsense steps such as thoroughly cleaning your hands before and after food preparation, checking foods are fully cooked before serving and regular cleaning are often all that's required.

And demonstrating you see health and safety as a priority could help you impress employers and find hospitality work.

"I am always on the look-out for workers who have a slight tendency to compulsive cleaning," said Ms Cole. "Cleaning makes all the difference in image as well as public safety."

Find hospitality employment with Berkeley Scott, the specialist hotel, hospitality and catering recruitment agency