High Risk: Workplace Safety in the Franchised Food and Beverage sector

Chris Beasley | Managing Director | Safety Navigator

High Risk: Workplace Safety in the Franchised Food and Beverage sector

The Problem for the Food and Beverage Businesses

Safe Work Australia recently stated that the incidence rate for the food services industry is 38 per cent higher than the average rate for the Australian workforce, with a rate of 58.6 per 1000 workers having a serious incident in the workplace every year.

For those who operate in this sector, that statistic is probably no surprise, given the working environment is typically busy, dynamic with a customer focussed, responsive mindset.

This article looks to list the reasons why workers in the food and beverage sector are more likely to suffer workplace injuries, and what may be done to reduce this statistic. 

Risks

Let's look at a few reasons why there is a higher rate of workplace incidents in the food and beverage sector.

According to Safe Work NSW, the following are the top hazards for the foodservice industry:

  • Manual handling
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Burns and cuts
  • Customer and client violence

Reasons

These hazards relate closely to the following factors, while although not necessarily unique to food and beverage, are key factors in most businesses in this sector:

Extreme Environmental factors: Back of house is both a 'hot' working environment - the kitchen, and a 'cold' environment - the cool room. Constant exposure to one or both can lead workers to feel fatigued, and can temporarily break down parts of the immune system.

Equipment and Machinery: Working kitchens with sharp knives, moving machinery, doors opening and closing.

Fatigue: Shift work and exposure to a 'hot' and 'cold' working environment can lead to fatigue

Transient workforce: A small food and beverage business would typically have only a handful of permanent staff. A reliance on casual staff can lead to high turnover, low uptake and outcomes on training delivery and a possibly a lower adherence to policy, particularly as it relates to health and safety.

Over-reliance on 'training': Training is 'key'. That statement goes without saying, but there are many examples of where - and in the franchised food and beverage industry in particular - head office may over-rely on training at the expense of key systems. If you don't have a robust health and safety system in place, endorsed by Franchisor and tracked by them, what's the point of training? 

Customers: Customers are the moving, demanding, and ever-changing variable in every food and beverage business. The unpredictable nature of dealing with members of the public can lead to a higher risk of several hazards to staff.

Potential Solutions

So now we've identified some of the key issues and hazards relating to the sector, let's now examine some potential solutions.

Workplace Inspections to Identify all hazards and risks: A regular workplace inspection schedule should be in place at any rate, but a comprehensive 'audit' of all hazards and risks, with the involvement of staff, is a must. Once all the potential hazards are identified, the business can assess the risk of each and put a risk register in place, with an action plan.

A safety system: A safe system of work, including policies and procedures, a training plan, and a risk management system gives a structure to allow the identification and resolution of hazards to be quicker, more transparent, and less costly. 

Training: With a particular focus on manual handling and customer relations.

Subscribe to Industry publications and join industry groups, some of these include:

  • Australian Hotels Association
  • Australian Retailers Association
  • Restaurant and Catering Industry Association
  • Franchise Council of Australia
  • Safe Work Australia

Summary

For those of us who work in the food and beverage sector, the benefits can be tremendous, including a high energy working environment, the social benefits, and (possibly) discounted food and drink.

But the statistics don't lie, and they suggest this sector is one of the more higher-risk workplaces to work.

While this article outlines some of the key hazards and some proposed solutions to decrease the risk of an incident occurring in the workplace, one key point needs to be stated here; the franchisor and franchisee must have an open line of communication to discuss and resolve health and safety issues. 

Unfortunately, some franchisors believe a health and safety commitment in the organisation starts and stops at 'training', but training is not even half of the total solution. The franchisor and franchisee must commit together by identifying hazards, documenting policies related to health and safety, and using a system to capture issues and their resolutions. By doing this, the risks relating to working in the food and beverage sector will certainly decrease.

 

Chris Beasley is Managing Director of Safety Navigator, a cloud-based WHS system with over 10,000 Australian and New Zealand business customers, many of whom are Franchise Organisations

safetynavigator.com.au