Work Health And Safety Assessment In The Kitchen And Food Preparation Area Of A Catering Company In Australia

Legislation for Work Health and Safety in Australia

Work Health and Safety Assessment is an important part of the risk management and risk control process in the workplace. Work health and safety legislation in different countries provide the right guidance to conduct regular inspection and health and safety assessment of the workplace. It is an approach to accurately report about safety incidents or any hazards that is most likely to occur in the future (Holt & Allen, 2015).  Australia also has much legislation in place in accordance with the work environment to identify and control hazards. The six common steps to identify hazards and risk include hazard identification, risk identification, risk assessment, risk control, documenting the process and monitoring the work health and safety process (Work Safe Act, 2017). The main purpose of the paper is to conduct a work health safety risk assessment in the kitchen and food preparation area of a catering company in Australia and identify the vulnerable population who is at highest risk of hazards. The paper also discusses the role of suitable agencies or institutions that can govern work health safety in this type of working environment.

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Hazards in workplace may exist in various forms based on the nature of the workplace environment. Hazards are those situations or objects in workplace that has the potential to harm a person and increase risk of harm, illness or death when exposed to the hazards. Certain demand of the workplace also increases the risk of injury for workers (Stave & Wald, 2016). To provide understanding regarding the method to conduct work health and safety assessment, the kitchen or food preparation area of busy catering business in a prime location within Australia has been chosen. The catering company has a good business and deals with heavy food preparation most of the days. Weekends are more busy days compared to other days. The kitchen area has a store room, a cutting shelves and a cooking area. The food items and groceries requires for different menus are kept in the store room. There are heavy gas stoves and fryers in the cooking areas as bulk of food has to be prepared in one go. Staffs in the kitchen come from diverse background and many of them have no prior knowledge related to controlling hazards in the kitchen. They have received training regarding risk control after being recruited in the catering company. Although the work provider has the responsibility to maintain safety of workers at the workplace, the direction for maintaining safe work environment is provided by many agencies and institutions in Australia.

Hazards in Workplace

The Safe Work Australia is a statutory agency in Australia that takes the responsibility to control workplace death, injuries and death. It provides the leadership and coordination needed to maintain a safe work environment. According to the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022, the accommodation and food services industry has also been identified as a priority industry in Austrlia based on rate of injuries and fatalities in the industry. The main aim of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy is to focus on such priority industries, identify the causes of disease and fatalities and minimize them through relevant preventive steps (Safe Work Australia (2017).

The food service industry mainly consists of divisions like restaurants, accommodation, pubs and clubs. The chosen catering company comes under restaurant and takeaway food service business as it is mainly involved in providing food and beverage services to customers. The percentage of injuries and diseases is highest for body stressing followed by falls, trips and serious claims like injury due to chemicals, heat and electricity. The Safe Work Australia has taken up the strategy to maintain an evidence based format inform work health safety and promote worker’s compensation policy. It helps to reduce injuries by providing practical guidance for managing safe work environment in workplace (Safe Work Australia 2015). The Australian Institute of Food Safety is also a leading organization that provides food safety education and enables thousands of Australian organizations to protect their customers and staffs from hazards (Australian Institute of Food Safety, 2018).  Hence, the catering business can gain control hazard events within the premise by following the directives mentioned by the national strategy.

The work health and safety assessment for the catering company was done following the six steps proposed by Work Safe Act. The list below provides an insight into how the assessment process was approached and the risk assessment template was completed to inform future control measures for the catering company:

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  1. Hazard identification: This step was used to examine the kitchen area of the catering company to identify all the hazards inherent in the food preparation job. The scenarios were selected by working out how staffs could be harmed and looking at things that could cause harm. On this basis, manual handling, cooking area and washing areas were identified as source of hazards. The risk assessment template below provides better insight into the hazards identified in the catering company.
  2. Risk identification: Once potential source of hazard is identified, the next step is to examine the nature and type of risk associated with the hazard. Several tools assist in identifying the type of risk (Barlow et al., 2015).
  3. Risk assessment: In this task, the risk was identified using the tool provided for risk matrix assessment. The severity of harm was classified as negligible, minor, moderate, major and extreme based on type of injuries and the likelihood of harm was categorized from the option of very unlikely, unlikely, possible, likely and very likely. The type of harm found in the catering company included strains or bruises, trips and falls, extreme injury due to likelihood of gas explosion and serious injury because of skin damage and respiratory problems.
  4. Risk control: Based on the category of risk identified, the risk control mainly included instructional control plans as well as inclusion of PPE and additional equipments to control risk. In some case, complete elimination of hazard is necessary and in other cases, substitution of hazard is necessary. In the context of the catering company, substitutions of hazards by use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and administrative controls like training and education was recommended to control risk (Barlow et al., 2015).
  5. Risk documentation: Documentation is a vital process in risk assessment to ensure that control plans are implemented in appropriate way. Keeping records also help to evaluate plan in regular manner.
  6. Monitoring and review: This process can be completed by evaluation and assessment of the impact of the control measures (Barlow et al., 2015).

Apart from the nature and type of risk, the most vulnerable population found from the risk assessment are female employees and those coming from ethnic background. This is because female employees have been found to be at highest risk while conducting manual task and lifting heavy food items during frying. In addition, people from different ethnicity are also at risk as they do not adhere to recommended work health and safety practice. Proper training and education and use of simple safety signs are essential to protect them from the identified hazards. It is recommended that keeping the provision of appropriate PPE to prevent skin damage due bleaching powder and regular inspection of gas stoves can control major hazards. Minor hazard can be controlled by regular staff training and education regarding food safety standards (Anger et al., 2015).

 

Task or scenario

 

Hazard/s

 

Associated harm, e.g. what could go wrong?

Existing Risk Controls

 

 

 

Current risk rating

Use the Risk Matrix

 

Any additional controls are required?

 

 

Residual risk rating

Use the Risk Matrix

 

Manual handling of heavy items such as meats, flours, boxes of meat and ingredients

Injuries or strains or bruises

Food service staffs may sustain injuries like strains or bruising because of carrying heavy items

Currently the staffs have been trained to lift items safely and commonly used items are stored at lower height

Likely and moderate risk

Provide mobile equipments for movement of heavy items and ensure team work while lifting heavy items

3

Kitchen staff have the chance to get injured because of spillage and tripping over objects

Slips and trips  

If the items lies here and there in the kitchen and floor is not clean, then the kitchen staff may fall while moving in the kitchen

Drainage channels have been provided where spillage is more likely. The kitchen area has good lighting to detect any obstruction in walkways

Likely  and moderate risk

Changing the flour surface with a rough surface might help to prevent spillage. Giving kitchen staff good footwear with solid grip can prevent falls

12

While cooking, kitchen staff may suffer burn injuries due to hot oil and hot surfae

Burn related injuries

As the kitchen area is busy and food needs to be prepared instantly, there is chances of burn injuries while  emptying fryers

All staffs have been asked to wear long sleeves and aprons during cooking

Very likely and major risk

The staffs must be given heat resistant gloves and hot water signs should be placed at risk areas.

20

Presence of too many gas appliances can increase the risk of serious/fatal injuries

Fatal burn injuries

Negligence of staffs to check working of gas appliance may lead to fatal injuries

Inspection for gas appliance is done at the time it arrives and staffs know how to shut isolations staff during emergency

Likely

Daily check of gas appliance controls should be done on a daily basis and

16

Staffs may sustain skin injuries while coming in contact with washing chemicals and bleach

Skin damage, breathing problems and skin irritation

During dishwashing, not wearing appropriate gloves can increase risk of injury

Staff have been educated about ways to identify skin irritation and damage however very few staffs use rubber gloves while dishwashing

Likely and extreme risk

Appropriate protective equipment needs to be provided and nut-oil free cream should be provided to washing staffs to be used after washing

8

Conclusion:

The report summarized the risk assessment outcomes for the food preparation area of a catering business. The six steps of the work health and safety risk assessment process gives the insight that it is an appropriate strategy to determine the nature and severity of harm at workplace and determine appropriate control measures too. Identifying the most vulnerable population and implementing control measures as per their needs is also critical to promote health and well-being of workers in a busy work environment of Australia.

References:

Anger, W. K., Elliot, D. L., Bodner, T., Olson, R., Rohlman, D. S., Truxillo, D. M., … & Montgomery, D. (2015). Effectiveness of total worker health interventions. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 20(2), 226, Doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038340

Australian Institute  of Food Safety (2018). Food Safety Courses. Retrieved from: https://www.foodsafety.com.au/

Barlow, S. M., Boobis, A. R., Bridges, J., Cockburn, A., Dekant, W., Hepburn, P., … & Bánáti, D. (2015). The role of hazard-and risk-based approaches in ensuring food safety. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 46(2), 176-188, Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2015.10.007

Holt, A. S. J., & Allen, J. (2015). Principles of health and safety at work. Routledge. Retrieved from: https://scholar.google.co.in/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=Principles+of+health+and+safety+at+work.+&btnG=

Safe Work Australia (2015). Work Health and Safety in the Accommodation and Food Services Industry. Retrieved from: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/whs-accommodation-food-services-industry.pdf

Safe Work Australia (2017). Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/statistics-and-research/statistics/statistics

Stave, G. M., & Wald, P. H. (Eds.). (2016). Physical and biological hazards of the workplace. John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=oChUDQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA11&dq=Physical+and+biological+hazards+of+the+workplace&ots=Rq6zrWeqoe&sig=d7tL9BF0Img2bDtd08TMslqGEns#v=onepage&q=Physical%20and%20biological%20hazards%20of%20the%20workplace&f=false

Work Safe Act (2017). 6 steps to risk management. Retrieved from: https://www.imagineeducation.com.au/files/CHC30113/6_Steps_to_Risk_Management._20ACT.pdf