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Safe and Sound in the Commercial Kitchen

This guidance is issued by the Health and Safety Executive, aimed at employers operating catering businesses. It highlights priority areas based on accident experience. Poor standards of maintenance are a major underlying cause of accidents in the catering industry. These accidents can be very costly, in financial terms and pain and suffering. Most accidents from poor maintenance involve equipment. Good maintenance by competent staff ensures that equipment performs well and reliably, and helps prevent accidents.

What the law says: The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to provide and maintain safe plant and equipment and to ensure a healthy and safe work environment. The requirement to maintain plant, machinery and equipment is also present in other regulations, including the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

There are five main types of accident caused by poor maintenance in the catering industry:

  • Slips
  • Exposure to hot or harmful substances
  • Electrical injury
  • Fire and explosion
  • Machinery accidents

Maintenance priorities in catering: 

  1. Preventing accidents by good maintenance - Slips are often due to leaks and spillages, unsafe wet cleaning methods and not drying floors after cleaning. Ensure that all equipment and receptacles are in good condition and inspected regularly. Have procedures in place for prompt repair of leaking equipment. Clean up spillages immediately with a good mop, dry floors immediately after cleaning and repair damaged areas.
  2. Hot or harmful substances. Poorly maintained equipment can lead to leaks, exposing workers to hazardous cleaning materials and hot oil. Inspect and maintain steam plant, dish washing machines and other equipment.
  3. Electrical injury Faults in plugs or cables and poor maintenance of heated food trolleys are common factors leading to accidents. Regularly check the condition of electrical equipment and fittings. Inspect and maintain electrical equipment and fittings.
  4. Fire and explosion - Poor or no maintenance of gas appliances accounts for almost all of these accidents. Regular inspection and maintenance of appliances by competent people is essential. To help prevent fires, regularly clean ventilation filters and ducting.
  5. Machinery accidents - Most machinery accidents are caused by incorrect cleaning and reassembly of slicing machines and poor maintenance of guards. Ensure machinery and guards are periodically inspected and maintained. Replace guards following cleaning and maintenance. Check guards before use.
  6. Managing maintenance - Where premises and equipment do not belong to the caterer, for example in contract catering in a school, agree clearly between both parties who has responsibilities for maintenance. In some cases, such as work on electrical and gas systems, there are specific legal requirements on the training and competency of the people doing the work. During maintenance work, both the caterer and the maintenance contractor have safety responsibilities. The caterer should make sure the equipment is safe to work on, e.g by keeping the surrounding area clear. The contractor should make sure employees adopt safe systems of work and that they leave equipment and premises in safe working order.

Types of maintenance There are five types of maintenance to consider:

  • Cleaning - Establish safe methods of cleaning, including high-level cleaning.
  • Routine checks to detect wear and tear or damage - machine guards; gas appliance controls; electric plugs, cables and appliances; ventilation systems; equipment causing leaks onto floors.
  • Planned maintenance - You may need to routinely service some appliances to ensure their continued safe operation. This must be done by competent personnel, such as appropriately qualified service engineers.
  • Breakdown maintenance - Safety-critical repairs must be carried out only by a competent person using the correct components. It is important that functional and safety tests are made before putting equipment back into use. Sub-standard, temporary repairs to keep equipment in use may cause accidents and could contravene health and safety legislation.
  • Inspections and tests  Staff should be trained in what to look for, what needs inspection and how to report faults.

You must use a Gas Safe registered engineer for gas equipment. Food safety You must think about food safety implications when selecting, installing, using, maintaining and cleaning any catering equipment. Your local environmental health officer (EHO) can give you advice about this. As a general rule, annual inspections are a reasonable minimum frequency, with repairs carried out as necessary. 


Let Ritchie help keep you and your staff safe. With our Gas safe Registered engineers we can test, maintain and react to your emergencies 24/ 7 for more information see: https://ritchiecateringequipment.co.uk/pages/services


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