Health and Safety in Catering

November 1, 2017
Contributor: Shoes for Crews

Catering Safety Tips

Working in the catering industry can be an exciting prospect, as the limitations placed on you – as opposed to a restaurant – arguably make it a much more challenging task but that also means there’s little room for error. It’s your chance to impress and exceed expectations, and hope that the guests who have attended an event you’ve catered for will seek your quality service down the line.

However, safety is imperative in catering and one tiny mistake can trigger a domino effect and result in many more errors. Many mistakes and hazards are avoidable if given proper attention and planning, so you should take great measures to ensure not only your safety, but the safety of the staff and your guests as well. Here are some tips you should take into consideration when it comes to catering safety.

Know The Hazards

Whether you are running your catering business from home, from a professional restaurant, or if you’re going to be catering at a mobile location, a risk assessment is vital. If you are doing an off-site catered event then it’s especially important to visit the site beforehand and know where it is you’ll be catering and conduct a risk assessment. This is because you don’t want any dangerous surprises springing up when it’s time to cook, and some hazards in that situation can be unavoidable which puts your health at risk. Sometimes, it’s difficult to actually notice a potential hazard until you’re there, so undertaking a risk assessment beforehand is a good first step to catering safety.

Chef plating
Source: Pixabay

This way, you’ll be able to thoroughly check the venue, your clothing and even the equipment you’ll be using to scout any possible dangers and potentially rectify them in time so nothing will pop up as a major surprise. This also assists catering safety because it gives you enough information to know whether you’re able to transport large pieces of equipment safely, such as mobile wash basins. So, consider pathways and walkways so there’s enough space for everyone to move around safely, without creating other hazards such as tripping.

As hazards can occur at any time, consider having first-aid kits and fire extinguishers on hand as a safety precaution, as it’s better to be prepared in that situation. If you’re catering at a remote location as opposed to mobile, then regularly updating safety plans and having multiple first-aid kits on-hand is vital, and it’s even better if you or someone else in your team is trained in that department.

Always Maintain Your Equipment

For catering safety, equipment maintenance is crucial as you need to ensure everything is both safe and fully functioning. This can be to check whether the knives are sharp enough to making sure that gas appliances you’re using are maintained in a safe condition. These are the types of factors you, as a chef, should consider before catering as it gives you valuable time beforehand to prepare and replace any damaged equipment which can turn into a major hazard.

While you’ll lose valuable time, it could also be a danger to you, the rest of the kitchen staff as well as the guests, as their safety also needs to be taken into consideration. Although you’ll be working inside of a kitchen, there’s still a big risk you could be turning towards the guests – food poisoning. It’s your job to make sure you’ve safely stored and transported any and all of the food you’ll be cooking, as poor storage results in poor hygiene. Food labelling and meat storage are other factors you need to consider as well, so you’re not contaminating the food before you even get to start cooking.

Along with this, as the chef it’s important you communicate with the rest of the kitchen staff and make them aware of the food danger zone (food sitting between 4 to 60°C for more than four hours allows bacteria to multiply at dangerous rates), to ensure that none of your guests get food poisoning from eating improperly cooked or reheated items, or food sitting out on warmers or ice.

Injury Prevention

Health and safety comes before anything when you’re catering, so it’s important to know the types of injuries that can occur to you or anyone else in the kitchen, along with the correct measures you should take to avoid them, or at least know what to do if the injuries do occur. Think about kitchen ventilation as the HSE has made it clear that kitchen ventilation is required to create a safe and comfortable working environment. As catering and cooking produces significant quantities of fumes, vapors and heat, ventilation is necessary to remove these to keep you safe when working under such conditions.

Catering safety
Source: Pixabay

Physical injuries are also a common occurrence in catering. You’ll be expected to do a lot of heavy lifting and carrying items which can cause back pain and other aches, especially if repeated continuously. To combat this, it’ll be more beneficial if you make more trips rather than trying to carry a heavy load at once, as this is less strenuous on your muscles and joints while getting somebody to help can also help, and increase productivity. Receiving proper training, and providing it to less experienced kitchen staff can also maintain catering safety, such as eliminating knife accidents by training staff on safe working practices when using, sharpening, and carrying knives.

This can be extended further, as catering safety also needs to prioritize the different types of hazardous cleaning chemicals that are used to maintain cleanliness, and this can cause damage should it come in contact with your skin and that means handling any food could cause further contamination.

Safe Clothing

To round it all off, another important aspect of catering safety is to ensure you always have safe equipment on hand, so you avoid putting yourself in any danger while cooking. As scalding is one of the most common injuries in the kitchen, ditching long, flowing sleeves is a good first step as it’s a recipe for disaster if they’re dangling over a burning flame. Synthetic clothing is also a hazard as it can potentially melt on your skin if it catches fire, so choosing an alternative material is a beneficial step to take – such as wearing a chef jacket featuring cotton buttons instead of plastic.

Whether or not you & your crew use cutting gloves is also a crucial safety decision, as the repetitive use of knives inevitably results in someone getting cut sooner or later. Additionally, dermatitis is one of the main causes of ill health for catering staff. With hands being the most susceptible part of the body, dermatitis can be severe enough to keep you or a crew member off work. To avoid that extreme, wearing cut-resistant gloves can eliminate two big risks and ensure catering safety.

As you’ll be standing throughout your shifts, it’s always a tiring process so you’re going to need comfortable, slip-resistant shoes so you’re able to stay on your feet throughout the day and not be at risk of falling due to spills. Ensure your clothing isn’t a fire hazard, anti-slip rubber mats can also be beneficial, especially in a fast-paced catering environment.

Ensuring total safety for catering might be a time-consuming process, but the benefits of taking great and detailed measures to remain safe will only result in bigger benefits down the line.


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