Taking Care of Safety During Challenging Times

Kate Thompson, Director Wales,The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) shares some tips for busy, preoccupied independent hospitality operators.

With Christmas looming, hospitality operators will be preoccupied with bookings, staff shortages, supply chain problems and other pressing issues.While these challenges will understandably be the ones they will want to tackle, there’s one operational aspect that must be top-of-mind at all times – health and safety, including food safety.

Every business has a legal obligation to protect their employees and customers from harm, but when health and safety is upheld to the highest standards, it can also help reassure both your staff and customers that you value them.

When staff feel they are valued they are more likely to stay – and recommend others join – which can help solve any recruitment and retention problems, while customers who feel secure and looked after will be more likely to return to your establishment.

Sounds simple, but if you’re busy fighting fires elsewhere, how do you make health and safety a priority? And where do you focus your attention to ensure you are getting everything right?

ASSESS AND MANAGE THE RISKS

The minimum you must do is:

• identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
• decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
• take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk

There is lots of information available, including templates, to help you carry out a health and safety risk assessment and record it on the Health and Safety Executive’s website https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/

Don’t forget about food safety.Wherever food is served, it is important to demonstrate the highest standards of food preparation, handling, storage and service.This is not only to ensure the safety of those who will be consuming the food, but also to comply with the law and to be assured of a food hygiene rating you can be proud of. Falling foul of the rules not only has the potential to put the public at risk but the success and reputation of your business. It is therefore essential that you, and the people that you work with, are equipped with the right skills and knowledge.You must put in place food safety management procedures based on the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).

HACCP is a system that helps you identify potential food hazards and introduce procedures to make sure those hazards are removed or reduced to an acceptable level.The Food Standards Agency has resources to help you on their website https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/managing-food-safety

CONSULT THE EXPERTS

Businesses who are unsure or need support should consult an environmental health professional, who can advise on best practice as well as legal compliance. Understanding the law and how it affects your business, as well as ensuring that staff are trained correctly will enable you and your staff to adhere to relevant regulations designed to uphold food and workplace safety.

TRAINING,TRAINING,TRAINING

Training staff in health and safety and food safety, including allergen requirements, will improve awareness and ensure compliance. Providing training at induction means staff will have the knowledge before they hit the floor and serve customers. Refresher training should also be considered for staff who have been with your business for a while, especially when new legislation is introduced, such as Natasha’s Law.

Choose courses wisely.The flexibility offered by online training, like that offered by CIEH, works particularly well when time is short or you need to work around shifts, for example.

GO THE EXTRA MILE

COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, but the virus is still in circulation and many consumers are still nervous about its potential spread. Reassuring staff and customers that you take these concerns seriously will have many benefits and show you are going the extra mile to keep everyone safe.

As the weather gets colder customers will naturally want to dine indoors. In enclosed spaces, infectious coronavirus particles can build up over time, remaining suspended in the air and increasing the risk of transmission, especially if there is no ventilation or fresh air helping to refresh the air being breathed.

With this in mind, you need to assess the risk of poor ventilation to help you identify spaces with poor ventilation and take action to improve it. Opening a window, even for just a short time, so fresh air can disperse and blow COVID-19 particles away helps to reduce the risk. Make sure you aren’t overcrowding spaces and if you can’t get enough natural fresh air, consider introducing a mechanical system.

With coronavirus still spreading, remember that the risk of infection is reduced when social distancing is maintained.Where staff cannot keep their distance, for example in small kitchens and staff rooms, transmission risk can be managed by wearing face coverings.

Other things to think about include cleaning more often, especially surfaces that people touch a lot. Staff and customers should be asked to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.

Guidance changes continually so keep up with the latest rules so you can filter this down to staff and customers. Government and the Health and Safety Executive websites are good sources of up-to-date information.