How to manage health and safety in food retail

health and safety of food retail

All food retailers have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of their customers, and they must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any food they sell is safe to eat. In addition, food retailers must comply with all statutory food safety requirements. This blog will guide you on how to manage health and safety for your food retail business.

If you’re into food retail, whether you are a small mom & pop restaurant or a major fast food franchise, managing your health and safety risks is crucial. 

Not only is it important to exceed your customer’s expectations when it comes to products, service, and selection, but it’s equally important to exceed their health and safety expectations. 

Your brand’s reputation is on the line, and as the old saying goes — “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We’ve created a guide for managing health and safety in your food retail business so you can stop worrying about what might happen to your business and focus on what will happen – your success.

Health and safety management in food retail – Why is it important?

Food retail is a high-risk industry when it comes to health and safety. Food retail employees are exposed to a variety of hazards, from heavy machinery to chemicals and cleaning products, to a variety of foodborne illnesses. Managing health and safety in a food retail environment is important in order to protect employees from injuries and illnesses.

Secondly, as a food retail owner and manager, it is your responsibility to ensure the health and safety of your staff and customers. This duty is discharged by taking all reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of a worker and the public. In the event that you do not manage health and safety effectively, you could face legal action from customers or employees.

How to manage health and safety in food retail?

This can be done by implementing a health and safety management system (HSMS). A HSMS is basically a set of policies and procedures that help in ensuring the safety of persons and the wholesomeness of food within a food retail premises.

A health and safety management system is an essential part of retail. It is important to have a system in place so that everyone can be aware of health and safety standards, and the standards can be kept up to date.

A HSMS for food retail should consist of the following elements:

  • Management commitment

Management commitment is vital for the health and safety of a food retail business. It is important that you, as a manager, are committed to the health and safety of your workers and are leading by example. By creating and maintaining an environment of consistency, you can ensure that the same standards are maintained across all areas of the business.

Demonstrate commitment by:

  • Developing Workplace health and safety (WHS) policies and procedures.
  • Always putting safety and health issues into considerations when designing your food retail outlet
  • Make health and safety reporting mandatory
  • Reward good health and safety efforts
  • Collaborate 

One of the most important things you can do to ensure the health and safety of your business and your employees is to regularly consult with your team on WHS matters. This is especially important if you’re a restaurant owner or a supermarket owner who’s planning on expanding your business and your food offerings. 

To make this happen flawlessly:

  • Create a timetable for continuous interactions between management and staff
  • Workers should elect health and safety representatives from amongst themselves
  • During meetings, make health and safety an agenda item
  • Collaborate with workers to identify health and safety risks 
  • Manage health and safety risks

You need to be aware of the health and safety risks that come with your business. Foodborne illnesses and injuries are the most common risks for food retail businesses. You need to be aware of these risks and understand how to manage them in order to stay safe.

You can do this through:

  • Hazard identification – find health and safety hazards

Hazard identification is the first step in creating a safe environment in any work setting. By identifying any potential hazards in the workplace, you can take the necessary steps to eliminate or reduce the risk of injury. There are many hazards that can be identified in food retail. For example, in restaurants, knives are a common hazard in the kitchen.

  • Risk Assessment – figure out if hazards can result in near misses, injury, illness, or death. 

This can be done using a risk matrix. Determine: Likelihood of occurrence, degree of severity, and order of priority. Hazards that are likely to cause death or severe injury should be given urgent attention.

  • Risk Controls – Efforts targeted at counteracting the dangers of hazard risks.

This can be achieved by one or a combination of any of the following: remove the hazard or hazard/risk; e.g. abandoning a work process entirely with known hazard risks or lessen the impact of the hazard/risk; e.g. using personal protective equipment.

  • Periodic Reviews – Checking if risk controls are effective.
  • Training and supervision 

Training staff properly and having them supervised while they are on the job is an essential part of the health and safety of your workplace. The success of a food retail be it restaurant or cafe depends on the health and safety of its workers, and the success of a worker depends on the training they’ve received and the supervision they’re under.

  • Induction training is required for new employees.
  • Supervise young workers or staff new to a work routine they’re new to.
  • Teach employees the importance of WHS policies and procedures.
  • Ensure workers understand their responsibilities and obligations.
  • Make sure training teaches workers how to identify and report hazards.
  • Training should show employees how to use PPE and work equipment safely.
  • Workers should be encouraged to get familiar with their workplace, supervisors, coworkers and supervisors.

Training should include hands-on on-the-job modules. Some modules can be taught in the classroom or via an online system for WHS management. 

  • Incident Reporting 

Incidence reporting is vital for the health and safety of food retail establishments. All health and safety related incidents including minor incidents such as a customer slipping on a wet floor to major incidents such as food poisoning needs to be reported to management and where appropriate, regulators. If you don’t report incidents, then you will not be able to identify how to prevent them from happening again or meet compliance. 

Ensure you have an effective incident reporting system in place that workers and users would enjoy using.

Some common hazards in food retail and how to manage them

Hot conditions

Bakeries and kitchens are typically known to be hot environments. Working in these places can result in heat stress and other related illnesses like headaches. 

Examples of health and safety risk control measures:

  • Install exhaust hood and ventilation system to remove heat and steam from stoves and kitchen respectively
  • Staff should be encouraged to drink lots of water/non-caffeinated drinks 
  • Work stations should be sited at considerable distance away from heat sources
  • Regular rest breaks for workers in a cool area should be provided
  • Keep ventilation system in tip-top conditions through routine and regular maintenance

Sharp tools 

Sharp tools like knives can cause cuts which can be severe in some cases.

Some health and safety risk control measures:

  • Workers should be trained adequately on how to use sharp tools/instruments
  • Provide appropriate instrument for a particular task
  • Knives and other sharp tools should be properly secured/stored/kept-away and not left carelessly on table edges etc.
  • Workers should be provided with cut-resistant mesh gloves 
  • Knives and cutting tools should be properly sharpened and maintained

Machinery and equipment 

Examples of machinery and equipment used by chefs and bakers in the kitchen or bakeries for example include as slicers, mincers, and mixers. They have the potential to cause injuries like cuts and amputations. 

Health and safety risk control measures:

  • Employ safety instructions and signs 
  • Machines should be designed in a way they can’t be operated without guards
  • Regular inspection and routine equipment service 
  • Develop a safe work routine and workers’ training
  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment

Slips, trips and falls 

Slips, trips and falls are common causes of injuries in many food retail outlets.

Examples of health and safety risk control measures:

  • Ensure good housekeeping practices to avoid water or oil spillage
  • Materials should be securely placed along passageways
  • Install splash guards and drainages where appropriate
  • Equipment should be adequately maintained to prevent leaks. 
  • Install non-slip flooring for new buildings or when renovating. Floor surfaces, stairs and ramps should be well maintained – broken or missing tiles should be replaced as soon as possible. 
  • Control access to kitchen areas. 
  • Workers should use appropriate footwear
  • Provide umbrella and coat stands to prevent water dripping across floors.