New Zealand’s café and restaurant scene is a thriving sector and, as part of the wider hospitality sector, is one of the biggest employers in the country.

The vast majority of workers are part-time, and work late nights and weekends. With high staff turnover, health and safety training can often be rushed or overlooked.

What are the risks?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), every business has a responsibility to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, and that others are not put at risk by the work of the business (for example, customers, visitors, children and young people, or the general public).

First, you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

The following are examples of only some of the health and safety risks for people in the hospitality sector. We also provide general guidance on how to manage your work health and safety risks.

Knives, graters and other sharp kitchen tools can cause injuries. These need to be used with care to prevent cut and puncture injuries.

How are workers and others harmed?

Injuries from knives and other kitchen tools can happen to workers when:

  • using knives for purposes for which they were not designed for (for example, opening bags or boxes)
  • sharpening knives or other blades
  • retrieving knives from storage areas
  • cleaning slicers and coming into contact with the edges of the blade
  • handling a blade unexpectedly (for example, when washing up)
  • coming into contact with knives placed blade-up in a dishwasher
  • handling damaged or broken glass and crockery
  • handling sharp-edged objects (for example, graters and vegetable peelers).

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Try to avoid using knives and outsource food preparation.
  • Ensure all slicing and sharpening machines have guards, and workers use them when operating equipment.
  • Ensure that equipment with blades is securely fixed to the bench.
  • Use bull nose knives rather than pointed-end knives where possible.
  • Provide a magnetic strip for knife storage.
  • Provide knives with handles that are appropriate to the job and comfortable to use.
  • Train all workers in the safe use and storage of knives.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

The obvious source of burns is hot cooking surfaces and boiling liquids, but workers are also at risk of burns and scalds from steam.

How are workers and others harmed?

Scalds and burns – particularly to hands, arms and the face – can be caused in a number of ways, including:

  • knocking over pots of hot liquids with handles sticking over the bench
  • slipping on the floor and falling onto hot objects
  • exposure to flames, splattering oil or steam
  • steam or splash-back from coffee machines
  • carrying hot objects, food or liquids in restricted spaces
  • using caustic chemicals.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Check that pots and pans are in good condition and that handles are secure.
  • Use equipment that can be safely lifted by one person, or where this is not possible, train workers to lift in twos.
  • Provide serving trays for use when carrying hot plates.
  • Train workers to carefully and slowly put food into hot oil to minimise the chance of oil splashing onto their skin
  • Train workers to stand to the side when opening ovens and steamers, and to lift pan lids away from them to avoid getting burnt by the steam or hot air escaping.
  • Ensure workers wear shoes that cover the tops of their feet to protect them from splashes and spills.
  • Provide hand protection such as oven mitts and cloths. Train workers to never use wet cloths to lift and move items.
  • Store containers with hot contents on flat, stable surfaces.
  • Keep floors and walkways clear and clean.
  • Avoid moving hot containers across walkways.
  • Avoid placing hot containers on the floor.
  • Avoid letting pan handles overlap the edge of the oven or work surfaces where they can be knocked off.
  • Only clean ovens and cooking utensils when they have cooled. Establish safe procedures for cleaning and oil draining and disposal.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling heavy loads can put workers at risk of serious injury.

How are workers and others harmed?

Workers are at risk of injury from lifting and carrying particularly when:

  • a load is too heavy, it’s difficult to grasp, or it’s too large
  • the physical effort is too strenuous
  • they are regularly required to bend and twist when handling heavy loads.

When a person reaches for items above shoulder height, their back becomes arched and their arms act as long levers. This makes the load difficult to control and significantly increases the risk of injury.

Injuries and conditions can include:

  • muscle sprains and strains
  • injuries to muscles, ligaments, intervertebral discs and other structures in the back
  • injuries to soft tissues such as nerves, ligaments and tendons in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or legs
  • abdominal hernias
  • chronic pain.

Some of these conditions are known as repetitive strain injury (RSI), occupational overuse syndrome (OOS), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) and work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WRMSD).

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Use mechanical lifting aids or lifting equipment, and ensure they are used properly and maintained in accordance with manufacturer specifications.
  • Ensure café layout/design limits the need to push, pull or carry equipment or loads (for example, good path design, floor surfaces that allow goods to be moved directly to storage areas).
  • Position shelving and racking in storage areas at accessible heights.
  • Ensure service counters and food preparation surfaces are between hip and waist height.
  • Train workers in proper lifting techniques.
  • Order stock in smaller containers that are easier to store and lift.
  • Ensure workers are not exposed to repetitive or high impact work for long periods of time. Consider job sharing or job rotation.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Dropped food, spilled drinks and wet floors can put workers and customers at risk of slip, trip or fall injuries.

How are workers and others harmed?

When someone falls as a result of a slip or trip, the injury can range from minor (bruises and scrapes) to more serious, including broken bones or head trauma. The severity of the injury will depend on the circumstances.

Examples of how injuries can be caused include:

  • uneven or poorly maintained floor surfaces
  • slippery/wet surfaces caused by water or other spilled substances
  • cluttered and confined work areas
  • poor lighting
  • wearing footwear that does not match the environmental conditions
  • bags, coats and other floor clutter. 

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Ensure floor and ground surfaces are well maintained (for example, damaged carpets, mats, tiles or vinyl).
  • Ensure steps are well signposted.
  • Install slip-resistant surfaces.
  • Keep outdoor surfaces free of debris and remove moss or slime.
  • Improve lighting in poorly lit areas.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Clean floors outside of normal working hours. If not practical, introduce a system so people do not walk on surfaces until they are dry.
  • Ensure workers wear appropriate anti-slip footwear.
  • Use torches and backup batteries for night services in external locations.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Bullying harms workers and is a significant issue in New Zealand. It can affect people both physically and mentally, can disrupt workplaces, and lower work performance. Bullying can happen at any time and all levels in a business.

How are workers and others harmed?

Bullying at work is repeated and unreasonable behaviour towards a worker or group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social.

Some of these behaviours may also fall under other types of behaviour such as discrimination or violence.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

For example, building good relationships in a respectful work environment including having a ‘no-bullying tolerated’ work culture.

For more detailed information on managing bullying, see our guidance and resources on bullying prevention for workers and small businesses.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Violence can affect people both physically and mentally, can disrupt workplaces, and lower work performance.

How are workers and others harmed?

Violence can take many forms – ranging from physical assault and verbal abuse to intimidation and low-level threatening behaviour.

Violence or threats of violence are never acceptable.

What can you do?

First, you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. 

Our guidance violence at work for customer service areas and lone workers provides more information.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.