As an employer, you are directly responsible for the health and safety of your employees while they are currently on duty in their place of work. This includes details such as providing adequate fire protection, safe working environments, reasonable working hours, and sufficient protection from hazards they may face in their line of work. Another significant thing that employers must provide is adequate regulation of on-site food services, such as cafeterias, vending machines, and staff room kitchens. True, you may not be a restaurant, but nevertheless, you could be held liable if inadequate cooking facilities causes illness amongst your staff.
The Concept of Negligence
The reason for this is simple: negligence. In legalese, negligence is the situation whereby someone’s inaction to prevent an injury or illness somewhere under their control, such as their home or business, is considered to be their fault under law. So, for example, if a child injures itself while playing by an open window because the building’s owner did not install any prevention methods even while knowing young children would be present, the owner would be liable for those injuries. It can also occur in situations where the owner could not possibly have known the child would get in that position – he should have prevented it from occurring in the first place according to most courts.
This means that in subsequent lawsuits, the building owner would be forced to pay for any medical bills caused by an accident, pay additional damages for suffering caused, and probably pay the plaintiff’s legal fees.
The same applies to an employer’s business. If an employee should become injured because their bosses failed to enact proper health and safety programs, then the company is held to be liable.
Promoting Health and Safety in your Business
Naturally this is something you’d want to avoid. Not only does it prevent lawsuits, but it also results in a healthier and happier workforce. This is excellent for building company morale, and happier employees work harder, have higher loyalty, and are more willing to work longer or extra shifts if asked. The moral motivations for looking after the health and safety of those under your employ should, hopefully, go without saying.
In order to provide in this regard, it is essential to ensure that your on-site food services are adequately regulated. Cafeterias should be clean, possessed of well-trained kitchen staff, adequate equipment, and have a healthy menu selection. Vending machines and kitchen facilities should likewise be cleaned and regularly restocked.
One thing that assists is getting the staff involved themselves. One helpful aspect of this is that it can help absolve you of some responsibility if an employee falls ill during work. If you place signs up in eating areas reminding employees to wash hands before cooking, and to wash cups, plates, and cutlery after eating, then you are less likely to be held responsible. Especially if unwashed hands or plates would cause the illness in question. Another thing it helps do is keep these areas clean and tidy themselves.
Encourage people using facilities to keep them clean. Place bins directly next to vending machines and put up signs reminding staff members to wash out coffee cups after they’ve finished using them. If your staff bring in food from home to eat, provide a refrigerator in the staff room for them so they can safely store their lunch in a chilled environment. When serving food in cafeterias, always make sure a glass viewing screen covers it, and that kitchen staff has hair nets, gloves, and aprons. Designate areas in cafeterias where people can deposit used utensils and get rid of uneaten food. If you do not have a dedicated cleaning time for those sections, set up a cleaning rota amongst the staff and divide the work equally between them.
A bonus of cleaning staff areas is that it makes them happier. Nobody likes eating or relaxing in areas covered in trash, or where flies are always buzzing around unemptied trash cans and inadequately cleaned coffee cups.
Also make sure that your staff are well educated about health and safety within on-site food services. Placing up posters and booklets about food hygiene will help educate them about the common risks unclean cooking, and also how to prevent it. If necessary, conduct talks and lectures about food hygiene as well, especially if you think that staff are not taking it seriously. When hiring dedicated kitchen staff, make sure they have all necessary qualifications, and that they have all cleaning supplies needed to do their jobs. Doing so will go a long way to promoting health and hygiene amongst the staff.
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The writer, Christian Mills, has been studying the issue of health and safety and learned of many areas that tend to not be thought of when health and safety regulations come to mind. For health and safety consulting that will catch all of these areas, he fully recommends the services of CESToday. You can learn more about Christian on Google+.