Identifying hazards and risks

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Knowing how to keep people safe while at work is an important process and part of your responsibility as a business owner or worker.

Therefore, one of the key processes you’ll go through as you work through implementing your business health and safety policy is identifying the hazards around your business and assessing the risks.

Knowing the difference between what is a hazard and what is a risk will help. WorkSafe identify the differences as follows:

First, identify the hazards

Start by walking around your workplace and identify what could seriously harm the health or endanger the safety of your workers and others (eg visitors, bystanders, or someone else’s workers). Identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could result in risks to people’s health or safety. This harm could be acute (occur immediately) or chronic (occur slowly over a long period of time). Think about your workers and whether any of them might be vulnerable (eg young people, pregnant women, casual workers, night shift workers, workers with reduced literacy levels). Also consider whether any of your workers’ general health could reduce their ability to work safely (eg reduced mobility, existing illnesses or injury). Look at your work processes and the machinery/
equipment used, your workplace itself and your workers’ activities.

Next, assess the risk

You need to identify and understand what your work related health and safety risks are; particularly those that have the potential to cause people serious harm or illness. It then involves doing what is sensible and reasonable to eliminate, or, where they can’t be eliminated, manage those risks. Your focus should be on managing your business’s most significant risks before managing less serious risks. This is what is referred to as proportionate risk management.

Ask yourself

  • What’s the worst thing that could go wrong?
  • What are the things that cause that to happen?

It is also a good idea to talk with your staff and ask for their input as it is likely that they will know about others you weren’t aware of. By identifying and assessing the risks, it will be easier to
balance the consequences and likelihood of harm with the suitability, availability and cost of control. While you will need to assess your own business for risks specific to it, we identify below some of the more common injuries and health and safety risks associated with working in cafes and restaurants, and suggestions for managing them.

1 Slip, trips and falls

  • Ensure work areas and access areas are free of debris, level, well-lit and in good condition.
  • Apply good housekeeping practice (eg remove unnecessary items, provide sufficient storage, ensure items are put away, doors and drawers closed after use).
  • Ensure workers wear appropriate footwear (eg nonslip).
  • Ensure procedures are in place to handle spills and wet cleaning (eg warning signs barriers and immediate clean up).
  • Provide appropriate height access equipment (eg platform ladders and mobile step platforms). Ensure ladders are in good condition and are used safely (eg three points of contact at all times).

2 Burns

  • Place splatter guards around deep fryers, and guards around hot surfaces. Fit and use lids or covers.
  • When removing fried foods from deep fryers, allow the oil to drain for several seconds.
  • Ensure workers do not work above hot fat, hotplates or oil (eg allow oil to cool before changing).
  • Ensure that workers working near flames or oil wear appropriate protective clothing (long-sleeved fireresistant shirts, aprons and gloves).

3 Manual handling

  • Provide appropriate mechanical aids and equipment (e.g. height-adjustable trolleys to move stock) and ensure they are used properly and maintained in accordance with manufacturer specifications.
  • Ensure building layout/design limits the need to push, pull or carry equipment or loads (eg good path design, floor surfaces allow pallets to be moved directly to storage areas).
  • Position shelving and racking in storage areas at accessible heights.
  • Ensure service counters and food preparation surfaces are between hip and waist height (eg around 90cm).
  • Order stock in smaller containers that are easier to store and lift.
  • Ensure workers are not exposed to repetitive work for long periods (eg by using job rotation, work variation, providing sit-stand stools and anti-fatigue mats) or work that requires a significant amount of high force.

4 Cuts from sharp instruments

  • Provide mechanical sharpening systems.
  • Ensure workers using knives wear hand and arm protection on both hands.
  • Provide appropriate protective equipment and clothing (eg mesh aprons).
  • Provide training in selection, use and sharpening of knives.

5 Work-related stress, bulling & harassment

  • Develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures for workplace bullying and harassment.
  • Encourage a positive workplace culture, including reporting of bullying and harassment.
  • Ensure all workers understand what bullying and harassment is, and the procedures for reporting incidents (eg policies and procedures should be promoted during employee induction and workplace bullying prevention or training).
  • Provide access and encourage workers to use employee counselling/support services, where possible.
  • Encourage workers to report any workplace stress factors (eg work demand, low control, poor support, lack of role clarity, organisational culture) and control appropriately.

Once you’ve assessed the workplace risks associated with your business, you need to decide how you will deal with them. The three things you need to consider are:

  • Work out what options there are to manage the risk
  • Decide how you will manage the risk in a reasonably practicable way
  • Record how you are managing your risks

The Restaurant Association’s Health & Safety Manual will assist you to comply with the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 and to implement your own Health & Safety workplace policy.

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