How to Effectively Manage Risk in the Hospitality Industry

November 21, 2022

6 min read

The hospitality industry is a prominent high-footfall sector, with typical operations involving a steady customer traffic flow. Businesses within the hospitality industry are exposed to high levels of risk, often resulting in accidents, injuries, and costly claims. 

To successfully manage risk and prevent these common occurrences, hospitality providers must identify hazards in their business, perform a risk assessment, and implement controls to mitigate potential incidents. 

Hazard refers to anything that can cause harm (e.g., chemicals, electricity, ladders, etc.). 

Risk refers to the likelihood that the hazard will harm someone. 

And Controls are the actions taken to remove or reduce the potential of exposure to the hazard and the level of risk. 

Common Hazards in the Hospitality Industry 

1. Slips, Trips, and Falls 

Slips, Trips, and Falls are the leading cause of accidents in high-footfall industries, causing up to 65% of liability claims in some sectors. Across sectors, 15-25% of all Slip, Trip, and Fall incidents and accidents lead to a serious debilitative injury and, in some cases, have been fatal. 

Waitstaff, chefs, and customers alike are at the greatest risk of experiencing a Slip, Trip, or Fall in the hospitality industry. Tripping hazards, food spills, and wet floors, combined with the fast-paced nature of the hospitality environment, are a recipe for accidents and injuries. 

The single most powerful Slip, Trip, and Fall management solution is the implementation and daily management of good housekeeping standards. These standards must be applied to the often neglected back-of-house areas as well as the front-of-house.  

Effective Slip, Trip, and Fall Controls include: 

  • Clean up spillages quickly and efficiently 
  • Remove trip hazards 
  • Ensure no pathways are blocked 
  • Install proper lighting 
  • Install proper signage 
  • Ensure staff wear appropriate, non-slip footwear 
  • Implement consistent tidying efforts at intervals throughout shifts 
  • Implement regular checks and inspections to guarantee zones are meeting housekeeping goals 
  • Properly maintain kitchens/bars (plumbing, electrical, gas, etc.) 

2. Manual Handling 

Employment in hospitality involves intensive physical labour. Lifting kegs and crates, carrying loaded trays, manoeuvring kitchen equipment, transporting luggage, making beds, deep cleaning, and the general toll of being on your feet and in motion for long shifts are common causes of injury in the industry.  

These strains can be very serious, coming on gradually as a result of repetitive stress, or occurring suddenly due to poor handling or improper lifting technique. 

Effective Manual Handling Controls include: 

  • Supply all employees with practical and thorough Manual Handling Training 
  • Make mechanical aids (dollies, trollies, carts, etc.) available to employees for use whenever needed 
  • Organise equipment and work areas to improve efficiency and reduce the need for manual handling 
  • Encourage staff to ask for help whenever they feel something is too heavy to manage alone 

3. Hazardous Chemicals 

Hazardous chemicals are used regularly in hospitality due to the revolving need for deep, quick cleaning, as well as kitchen/bar operations. Drain cleaners, oven cleaners, disinfectants, detergents, rinse aids, pressurised gas, and carbon dioxide are a few of the chemical hazards that can pose a serious risk if mishandled.  

Effective Hazardous Chemicals Controls include: 

  • Train staff on the safe handling of chemicals 
  • Educate staff to recognise hazardous chemicals symbols 
  • Provide PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for use when handling hazardous chemicals 
  • Provide less dangerous, more environmentally-friendly cleaning agents when possible 
  • Store chemicals safely and securely (lock up when not in use) 
  • Always label chemicals correctly 
  • NEVER store chemicals in food or drink containers 

4. Burns, Scalds, Cuts 

Kitchen injuries are an inevitable aspect of the hospitality industry, but their frequency and severity can be drastically minimised with proper risk management.  

Kitchen staff often work long hours and can demonstrate complacency in their health and safety practices. This is a dangerous habit to adopt when dealing primarily with industrial equipment, razor-sharp knives, hot burners, boiling liquids, and steaming ovens. 

Effective Burns, Scalds, and Cuts Controls include: 

  • Provide comprehensive First-Aid Training to all staff 
  • Provide easily accessible First-Aid and Burn kits  
  • Restock Emergency kits frequently to ensure necessary supplies are always available 
  • Ensure kitchen staff are properly trained on the safe use of all equipment and best practices in the kitchen areas 
  • Provide all necessary PPE and ensure staff utilise it appropriately 
  • Impress upon staff (especially kitchen staff) the need to take safety seriously in order to protect themselves AND their fellow employees 

5. Fire 

The hospitality industry is particularly vulnerable to fires. Cooking equipment, faulty equipment, gas, naked flames, and other flammable substances make industrial kitchens a hotbed of risk. Fire awareness in hospitality is crucial to fire prevention. 

Effective Fire Controls include: 

  • Provide Fire Safety and Fire Management Training to all staff 
  • Conduct regular Fire Risk Assessments 
  • Conduct Fire drills to prepare staff 
  • Ensure evacuation plans and procedures are current 
  • Ensure all fire escapes are kept clear 
  • Install visible and concise Fire Safety signage 
  • Ensure regulation fire extinguishers are installed 

Legal Compliance in Hospitality 

Compliance with Health & Safety Law is a necessary responsibility for employers and employees and is part and parcel of the risk management process.  

It is the employer’s duty to ensure all staff have read the Safety Statement; all staff have signed the Health & Safety Policy Statement; all staff are trained on health and safety systems and protocols. 

Accident and Incident Reporting 

Reporting and investigating an accident or incident are of utmost importance. After assistance has been provided to any injured party, an Accident and Incident Report should be completed. This action helps to prevent future accidents from occurring, to prepare and protect the company in case of a possible claim, and to comply with the Law. 

Make sure your report is coherent and easy to understand. Double-check facts and details; your report may someday be required as legal evidence. 

Proactive Risk Management 

85-95% of workplace accidents are behaviour-based. These accidents can be prevented.
Businesses within the hospitality industry must manage risk proactively to effect safety culture change and see improved results. 

Proactive Risk Management involves: 

  • Routines 
  • Evidence 
  • Training 
  • Zero accidents 

Reactive Risk Management involves: 

  • Resources 
  • Paperwork 
  • Claims 
  • Costs 

Is Your Hospitality Business Risk Tolerant? 

Risk tolerance is the willingness of a worker or group to take safety risks. 

When attempting to establish a positive safety culture within your hospitality organisation, you will be confronted by the following typical attitude ratio amongst your workforce: 

15% – negative and defensive  
15% – positive and willing to help themselves and others 
70% – somewhere in the middle 

Hospitality businesses can implement proactive solutions to move the 70% in the middle over to the positive and willing side. 

The goal is to evolve your organisation’s safety culture from a REACTIVE or instinctive stage (action is taken after the accident) towards an INTERDEPENDENT approach (collective and anticipatory). 

In this later stage, employees take responsibility for safety, do not accept low standards on the issue, and strive to achieve a zero injuries goal. We could say that they have been ‘safety empowered’. 

Develop Safety-Conscious Staff 

It is crucial that Senior Management ‘walk the talk’ and consistently demonstrate a commitment to Health & Safety standards.  

To inspire excellent safety standards in hospitality and develop a safety-conscious staff: 

  • Be open to change and new things 
  • Provide resources (tools, time, etc.) 
  • Involve staff in Health & Safety decisions 
  • Address and record issues daily 
  • Lead by example 
  • Allow staff time to adapt to new Health & Safety systems and behaviours 

The SeaChange approach involves proactive risk management and highly effective, bespoke solutions, designed to enable your organisation to achieve a positive, sustainable Safety Culture. 

Book your free consultation with SeaChange today and learn how our Health & Safety experts can help you manage risk in your industry. 

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