When you walk into a bar, a restaurant or your local all you can eat catering establishment the first thing you think about is COSHH and chemical safety, right?
Unfortunately, it's often the case that the establishment itself also overlooks many risks associated with catering work and the chemicals used later to ensure the place is thoroughly cleansed.
What are the risks?
Many of the products used in the catering industry contain something that could potentially cause adverse health affects, but it's important to note that these substances aren't the only risk:
Having wet hands for prolonged amounts of time or frequent hand washing is known to cause skin irritation that could lead to dermatitis if not properly controlled.
Fumes of any kind have the potential to irritate the respiratory system - Cooking fumes often contain many irritating substances. Some of the oil used to cook rises in a mist along with possible smoke and carbon monoxide fumes created through cooking with gas-fired equipment. Fumes from cleaning products are also a risk. Many of these fumes contain ingredients that can cause cancer.
There are ingredients in some foods and cleaning products that are known to cause allergies of the skin and asthma.
How do I control those risks?
All of the risks that come with working in the catering industry can be avoided by properly assessing the hazards present and then implementing the correct control measure, if one is needed:
First, and most importantly, encourage good work techniques throughout your kitchen. This will minimise leaks and spillages of substances that may be harmful or flammable.
Ensure the area is well ventilated and that there are extractors positioned above each cooking station.
Provide personal protective equipment where it is necessary. This equipment should be of a grade that is acceptable for use with food stuffs. Cleaning staff, especially, need access to PPE for protection against hazardous ingredients in cleaning products.
Encourage good skin care by providing food grade hand cleansers, towels and skin creams. The creams should contain no nut oils, for example.
Sit down and talk your workers through the hazards, the risks and the control measures that you have put into place. Knowledge of the process and the risks will help minimise incidents.
Where do I store those hazardous substances?
Transporting and storage of chemicals is often the time when spillages occur so its important to take a few things in consideration when storing your chemicals
Any person transporting, using or storing chemicals should use the protective equipment recommended.
That person should also be properly trained in the use and storage of those chemicals. Ensure access is restricted to only those people who have been trained.
The storage area must be kept cool and well ventilated. As a guideline there should be allowed 5-10 air changes per hour to pass through the area.
The storage container must possess lipped shelves or trays to contain any spillage that might occur inside the container.
Only use containers that can fit onto the shelving properly, upright with label facing forwards. Never lay down a chemical storage container or hide it's warning labels.
Never pour chemicals or concentrate into unmarked, unlabelled containers and never mix chemicals. Mixing chemicals can cause some spectacular reactions.
Ensure uses chemical containers are properly disposed of or returned to the supplier.
Never store more than 50 litres of flammable substances indoors, even in well ventilated areas. A flammables storage container is required.
If you would like to learn more about the hazards and risks present in the catering industry, and how to properly control them you can take the new COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™.