Health and safety regulations apply to any businesses that handle food and drink — from local sandwich shops to family-run pubs. Bars and restaurants need to follow health and safety measures to ensure that all consumables, practices and equipment is safe for human consumption or usage. You’ll also need to abide by certain regulations to protect staff while they’re at work.
Poor health and safety can be detrimental for your customers and staff, which can affect the health of your business. Meanwhile, a lack of food hygiene can lead to illnesses, loss of customers and even business closure.
The best way to stay on top of health and safety is with consistent training. Read on as we explain everything you need to know about health and safety measures in the catering industry in Ireland.
What are health and safety measures?
Health and safety measures are a set of rules and regulations that protect the wellbeing of customers and staff members. They apply to all employers, self-employed people and employees in their workplaces, including fixed-term and temporary employees.
Health and Safety
Official health and safety legislation can be found under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (as amended). This outlines the legal rights and obligations of employers and employees, including any fines and penalties for regulation breaches.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the state-sponsored governing body in Ireland. They’re responsible for working with employers and employees to ensure health and safety is followed in all Irish workplaces.
The health and safety of the hospitality sector is monitored by Authority inspectors. They investigate how well employees, directors and senior managers understand and comply with their health and safety duties. An Authority inspector can call on your business at any time, so long as prior warning is given in writing ahead of their arrival.
Food hygiene and safety
Food hygiene and safety covers safe food practice and preparation. Legislation is governed by the European Union and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). The FSAI offer comprehensive reference guides to relevant food Acts, Regulations and Orders on their website.
As a food business, you will need to be aware of food hygiene and safety regulations to make sure your produce is safe for human consumption. The National Standards Authority of Ireland also offers helpful information on food standards in Ireland.
The FSAI can also send food safety inspectors to test samples for contamination. They work in tandem with Environmental Health Officers from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to inspect food premises.
In the case that an inspector thinks your premises are unfit for food handling or preparation, they may give you an Improvement Notice. If there is an immediate danger to public health, an inspector could issue a closure order instead.
Health and safety checklist
The HSA summarises key legal health and safety responsibilities for hospitality employers and employees. These measures are put in place to control risk, prevent accidents or people falling ill, and offer a safe place for staff to work.
Providing and maintaining a safe workspace.
Managing work to ensure the safety, health and welfare of all employees.
Controlling risks by:
- Preparing a safety statement for work practices and updating it regularly.
- Taking risk assessments.
- Adapting work to a person’s needs.
- Offering proper PPE (personal protective equipment).
- Providing appropriate training, information and supervision to employees to perform their work safely.
- Offering and maintaining proper welfare facilities for employees, including:
-A clean toilet.
- Warm water and soap for washing.
- Hygienic break area for eating.
- Enforcing emergency procedures, including a clear evacuation plan.
- Reporting serious accidents to the HSA.
Employees are expected to follow a similar list of responsibilities to maintain good health and safety workplace practices. Their core responsibilities are:
- Cooperating and following reasonable instructions.
- Working safely so they don’t endanger their own life or anyone else’s.
- Raising concerns of anything dangerous, including equipment.
- Using safety equipment properly.
- Attending training.
- Taking appropriate breaks.
Food hygiene checklist
The FSAI set out basic principles of food law to safeguard public health and consumer interests. This legislation applies to all stages of food businesses—from production and processing, to distribution.
Hospitality businesses are responsible for making sure what they sell meets the required legal standards. This can include:
- Marking unsafe food – unfit for consumption.
- Traceability and recall of unsafe food – you must be able to identify who supplied your food or ingredients, allowing you to respond quickly in case of a safety incident.
- Conducting risk analysis – including risk assessment, management and communication.
How to train your staff
If you run a hospitality business, it’s important that you ensure your staff are appropriately trained to work in a food environment.
Consider all the essential food safety measures when training your staff. Below are some of the most common food hygiene and safety issues:
The FSAI offers helpful advice on how you can stay responsible and legally compliant with good training practices. Here are just a few ways you can train your staff on food hygiene:
- Use FSAI Food Safety Training guides for junior and senior levels.
- Use eLearning training resources.
- Choose a food safety training professional for external or internal training.
The HSA also offers information and resources for how to protect the welfare of your staff and customers. In the workplace, you can outline basic terms, issues and procedures to consider. Keep terms visible and relevant, that way you can help to avoid risk and hazards. Health and safety workplace training might cover:
- Manual handling
- Slips and falls
- Cuts, burns and scalds
- Falling objects
It’s a good idea to introduce training as part of your employee job responsibilities, that way it can become a regular part of their role. Plan routine training checks-ins to ensure consistent working practices, educating staff on the importance of staying vigilant and compliant for everyone’s safety.
Preparing for inspections
Whether you’re running an independent cafe, bar, restaurant or food truck, local authorities carry out checks to see if food business premises are safe and legal. Though inspections may appear intimidating, if you follow the correct guidance, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Health and safety
Health and safety inspections are carried out by inspectors of the HSA. Authority inspectors will ask questions to you and your staff about how you work and what you do. They may also look at:
- Your safety statement, risk assessments and safety data sheets.
- Possible health risks, such as manual handling instructions.
- How you handle and store chemicals.
- Work equipment and their maintenance logs.
Finally, they may also take photographs and measurements of your workplace.
Inspectors may call on your business at any time. If they notice areas of improvement or anything dangerous, they may act with:
- Report of Inspection – outlining areas of improvement.
- Improvement Notice – providing a deadline to correct any breaches.
- Prohibition Notice – in the case of serious risk of personal injury, stops may be put in place that require fixing before business can resume.
- Prosecution for failing to comply with the law, or any of the above.
Food hygiene and safety
Food hygiene and safety inspections are carried out by Environmental Health Officers in cooperation with the FSAI. It’s their job to assess your compliance with relevant food laws.
How often food businesses are inspected can vary from business to business, as it can depend on the risk profile of the premises.
The risk profile is based on an assigned risk category from one to six. This can be determined by the:
- Type of food handed/prepared
- Method of food handling/preparation
- Scale of operation
- Risk to consumers
Members of the public may also report health and hygiene risks to the HSAI by issuing a food complaint to the relevant body.
COVID safety measures
Today, the hospitality industry faces further scrutiny for compliance with coronavirus measures in Ireland. More than 12,700 food hygiene checks have been made by the HSE on hospitality premises since July 2020, following the reopening of food businesses during the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than 46,000 health and safety inspections have been carried out by the HSA since May 2020.
The FSAI offers useful information about reopening a food business safely during COVID-19, including:
- Pest control
- Stock and equipment checks
- Deep cleans
- Social distancing
Running a restaurant is an exciting venture. It pays to ensure it runs efficiently by following official guidance and providing regular health and safety training. That way, your business stays strong and everyone is protected.
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