Long hours, constant rush and a high-pressure environment: that’s the typical day-to-day life of anyone who works in the hospitality industry.
With this comes many dangers that can compromise the health of employees and customers. Take a look at these five big health hazards that can be found in the hospitality industry, and how you can help to minimise them.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Water, oil and fat can easily end up on the floor in restaurant kitchens – not to mention dropped food, glasses, and even cutlery.
If spills aren’t cleaned up straight away, they can represent a serious health risk for employees. Over one third of injuries reported in the hospitality industry are a result of trips and falls; making spillages the most common workplace hazard.
You can help to reduce this risk by clearly signposting slippery areas, and requesting that staff wear non-slip footwear. It’s also worth checking that your lighting is adequate, as dim lights can reduce your ability to spot spills and uneven surfaces.
Spreading of Germs
Germs have a nasty habit of spreading. Research has been undertaken in restaurants to see where the major hotspots are; and if you think it’s the bathroom, then you’re wrong.
Menus, seats and utensils all carry more germs than the toilet seat! Menus particularly encourage the spread of germs, as they’re passed from person to person; with each hand depositing bacteria.
Although there are many intensive cleaning solutions to seats and utensils, laminated menus can often hold hidden nasties which are tough to tackle.
All reputable businesses within the hospitality industry will already have a strict cleaning regime in place. However, some of the chemicals used can be hazardous, and can cause injury to those who are handling them, if not careful.
Bleach for instance, is a popular cleaning chemical, yet it can have harmful effects, such as burns and migraines. If mixed with an acidic substance such as vinegar, toxic fumes can be emitted into the workplace, which can be deadly.
Consider banning the bleach in favour of a non-toxic substance such as oxygen bleach – its active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, so it cleans just as well as chlorine bleach, but with less damaging effects.
If you do continue to use corrosive substances in your businesses, then it’s imperative that you educate your staff on how to handle them safely: personal protective equipment such as gloves, face masks and long-sleeves should be used, and chemicals should be stowed away safely when not in use.
Knives are perhaps the most well-known danger within the hospitality industry, yet they still represent a serious health risk for employees.
Cutting food and cleaning knives can both lead to painful cuts; and it’s essential that employees learn the importance of knife safety. Whilst advice such as not leaving knives lying around on kitchen counters when not in use, and holding them down when walking may seem simple, they can be very effective in reducing the number of injuries.
You should also ensure that your knives are sharp, as they will cut food much easier. A dull knife requires more pressure, presenting a higher chance of an employee harming themselves.
Finally, you should always have a first aid box to hand, and a certified first aider available should any employee cut themselves. HSE provides a variety of recommendations when ensuring knife safety in the kitchen.
Long Working Days
The hospitality industry is always busy, but this is particularly apparent in the run up to Christmas, with the never-ending stream of celebrations and parties.
Naturally, most employees will be working long shifts; and when you’re busy, it can be so easy to skip breaks either because you feel you don’t have enough time, or you simply forget.
You don’t want your staff overworked, as this is a hazard in itself. Encourage staff to take their designated breaks so they have time to relax and eat.
Skipping meals can affect the function of the brain; and if one of your employees hasn’t eaten, then it can result in loss of concentration and even fainting – especially if they’re working in a hot kitchen. Your staff’s welfare and happiness should always be of great importance, and in busy times it’s especially important to check in with them all and see if they have any concerns.
Like all industries, the world of hospitality has its own set of hazards. The most important thing you can do, is to make yourself aware of these risks, and actively take steps to reduce the possibility of them occurring.