Covid 19 Risk Assessment for catering businesses explained

Catering premises have now had the green light to re open from 4th July 2020 but need to make sure they have done a risk assessment. Business owners who have never written a risk assessment may be struggling to get started but be reassured it is quite simple to do. This is because you and your staff know your business inside and out and will know where things could go wrong.

Why? ‘ It’s your duty…’

By law you have to keep your customers and staff safe whilst they are at your work place under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Each and every work place is different so you need to look at what could make your customers and staff ill or cause them injury (harm). Then what you can reasonably do to prevent this happening  (mitigation or control measures). This is your risk assessment.

The invisible virus (Covid 19)

Coronavirus is a respiratory disease which can not be completely removed at it is carried by people who may or may not have symptoms. You can not see it or touch it which makes it very difficult to control, unlike for example a piece of equipment with a sharp blade which can be guarded so staff don’t cut and injur themselves.

Where to start?

There are 5 simple steps to doing a risk assessment Risk assessment may sound complicated but in fact is a simple process if you follow the steps below:

  • Identify the hazard – look at what could go wrong or cause harm, which in this case is people becoming infected with the Covid 19 virus whilst in your catering business
  • Decide who might be harmed and how – everyone who enters your premises including customers, staff, delivery drivers, maintenance people etc. could potentially be infected with the Covid 19 virus, for example by being too close to others, touching a contaminated surface etc.
  • Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – as Covid 19 can not be eliminated then it must be managed or controlled with barriers and screens, back to back seating, contactless payments, handwashing, cleaning etc.
  • Record your significant findings – if you are a small business with less than 5 employees by law you do not need to write your risk assessment down. However it makes sense to write down anything you are doing to help protect your staff and customers so if someone does get coronavirus who has been in your catering premises you can show that you have tried to prevent this happening.
  • Review your assessment and update as necessary – once you re open your doors from 4th July 2020 you will most likely have to review your risk assessment on a daily basis as you check the controls you have in place are working.

Put together a simple template or table and in the first column write down who could be infected by the coronavirus in your workplace. Then in the second column what controls you have put in place for each of these groups of people under headings such as social distancing, PPE, handwashing, cleaning etc; In the 3rd column include any changes you make as you review your risk assessment.

 Some possible controls that might be suitable for your business:

  • Use ventilation to help the flow of air in your premises – open windows and make sure any extraction system you have is working and is removing stale air from the building
  • Use a bleach based disinfectant front of house that will kill the virus. In the kitchen make sure disinfectants are food safe.
  • Clean tables and chairs between customers
  • Clear tables at the end of the meal to reduce time staff spend at the table
  • Put hand gel at the entrance to encourage customers to use it
  • Prop open doors so customers don’t have to touch them
  • Provide menus that customers don’t need to touch – disposable, chalkboards, TV screens Apps, wipeable menus.
  • Keep time contact with customers to a minimum by using apps or online ordering
  • Look at pinch points like toilets, entrances and exits and put a queueing system in place and signage
  • Remove or cover mirrors in toilets to reduce the time spent lingering in the this area
  • Use screens or barriers especially if you are following the 1m+ social distancing rule

Involve your staff when putting your Risk Assessment together

Talk to your staff about how they do things because whatever you put in place must be practical or it won’t work for real when you open the door to your customers. Train your staff on your risk assessment so they know what to do to help keep themselves and customers safe, for example providing hand gel at the entrance but also asking customers to use it.

If you need more help and advice head to my Covid 19 page or contact me for a chat


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