Catering Services – Looking after your Health

Work related contact dermatitis

On this page you will find information and advice on how to prevent prevent you from developing work related contact dermatitis.

What you must do

You must assess the risk to your employees of developing contact related dermatitis.

Where there is a risk, you must provide adequate control measures, and also provide information, instruction and training

What you should know

Work-related contact dermatitis is a skin disease caused by work. It is often called eczema and develops when the skin’s barrier layer is damaged. This leads to redness, itching, swelling, blistering, flaking and cracking. The most susceptible parts of the body are the hands, followed by the forearms and face. It can be severe enough to keep you off work or even force you to change jobs.

Contact dermatitis is one of the main causes of ill health for catering staff (chefs, cooks and catering assistants) with the number of new cases per year being twice the general industry average. Work-related ill health can cost more than twice as much as an accident causing the injury.

You can prevent dermatitis developing with a few simple measures:

  • Avoid contact with cleaning products, food and water where possible, eg use a dishwasher rather than washing up by hand, use utensils rather than hands to handle food.
  • Protect your skin. Where you can, wear gloves when working with substances that can cause dermatitis and moisturise your hands to replenish the skin’s natural oils.
  • Check your hands regularly for the early stages of dermatitis, ie itchy, dry or red skin. These symptoms should be reported to a supervisor, as treatment is much more effective if dermatitis is caught early.

Find out more


Musculoskeletal disorders in catering and hospitality

On this page you will find advice on what to do to reduce the risk of suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder or injury.

What you must do

As well as carrying out the general risk assessment requirements set out in the Management Regulations, you are required by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) to:

  • avoid the need for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • assess the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can’t be avoided; and
  • reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Your risk assessment should cover all standard operations, including cleaning and maintenance activities. It should reflect how the work is actually done.

The main areas you should focus on are the task, load, working environment and individual capability.

What you should know

Back pain and other aches arising from manual handling injuries are the most common type of occupational ill health in the UK. In kitchens there are many tasks that, without proper controls, can cause back pain or upper limb injuries that can affect hands, wrists, shoulders and neck.

Lifting and carrying heavy items or pushing and pulling can be a major source of back pain, while forceful or repetitive activities and poor posture can be linked to upper limb injuries.

Catering Information Sheet 24: Preventing back pain and other aches and pains to kitchen and food service staff, provides information on significant risk areas to look for and offers practical examples of solutions that you can apply in your workplace. It lists other HSE guidance available on manual handling and preventing back pain. It is aimed mainly at employers although it will also be useful to employees and safety representatives.

The key messages are:

  • you can easily take action to prevent or minimise this type of injury;
  • the preventive measures are cost effective;
  • involving staff is key to success;
  • training staff in proper lifting techniques, use of handling aids and raising awareness of the risks will reduce the likelihood of injuries in the future;
  • early detection and reporting of aches and pains is crucial.

Find out more

Case study

Safe use of knives in the kitchen

This page contains information and guidance to help you take steps to prevent knife accidents.

What you must do

You must ensure that your employees are kept safe from harm so far as is reasonably practicable. This means that the risk from using knives must be controlled to ensure people do not suffer cuts.  You must assess the risk of your employees being cut by knives and take reasonable precautions.

What are the risks?

  • Accidents involving knives are common in the catering industry. They usually involve cuts to the non-knife hand and fingers but can lead to injuries on the upper arm and torso.
  • Cleavers are commonly used for chopping and the same controls for knives should be adopted.

Ways to minimise the risk


  • Train employees in the safe use of knives and safe working practices when sharpening them
  • Use a knife suitable for the task and for the food you are cutting
  • Keep knives sharp
  • Cut on a stable surface
  • Handle knives carefully when washing up
  • Carry a knife with the blade pointing downwards
  • Store knives securely after use, eg in a scabbard or container
  • Use protective equipment as required. For deboning, it is recommended that a suitable protective glove is worn on the non-knife hand, and a chainmail or similar apron is worn.


  • Leave knives loose on worktop surfaces where they can be accidentally pushed off
  • Try to catch a falling knife
  • Use a knife as a can opener
  • Carry knives while carrying other objects
  • Engage in horseplay with a knife
  • Carry a knife in your pocket

Find out more

Case study: What can go wrong?

While trying to open a 25 kilo bag of potatoes, the commis chef sliced the corner of the bag using a 12-inch fish filleting knife. With the knife still in his right hand pointing upwards, he then attempted to move the bag. The cut section of bag gave way causing the knife to be thrust upwards into his face, causing a severe laceration.

This is an actual reported accident that shows what can happen when trying to carry a bag whilst still holding a knife. A change in working practices would have avoided this accident, for example using a safety knife.

Some industry examples of good practice in the safe use of knives

Part of the work of the Hospitality Industry Liaison Forum is in sharing good practice. Here are some industry examples of good practice in safe use of knives (reproduced with permission) that members are happy to share.

Slips and trips

This page contains information and guidance to help you prevent slip and trip accidents in the catering and hospitality industry.

What you must do

You must ensure that your employees and anyone else who could be affected by your work (such as visitors and members of the public), are kept safe from harm. You must assess the risk from slips and trips and take reasonable precautions.

What you should know

Slips and trips remain the single most common cause of major injury in UK workplaces.  Every year there are hundreds of major accidents in the catering and hospitality industry caused by slips and trips. The occupations most affected are kitchen assistants, chefs and waiting staff.

Find out more lists free downloads, such as guidance leaflets, posters and case studies. There is also information on choosing appropriate flooring and anti-slip footwear.

You must assess the risk from slips and trips and take reasonable precautions. Some simple things you might consider as part of your assessment are:

Food spillages

Spills from food or cooking are among the main causes of slips in kitchens. Staff must be vigilant and clean up any spilled substance that could cause a hazard.

Water overflow or leak

An overflowing sink or a leak that causes water to drip onto the floor can create a serious slip hazard, especially on a smooth floor. Stop it from getting onto the floor in the first place. Turn off taps and fix leaks quickly – use drip trays or something similar as a temporary measure.

Floor in poor condition

It’s easy to trip on damaged floors so, if you spot an area of damage, arrange for it to be fixed straight away – don’t put off repairs. As a temporary measure, highlight the damaged area, report it and where possible keep people away.

Trip hazards

An unexpected obstacle in your path can cause a serious trip and fall. People need a clear space in which to work, so make sure boxes, bags, cables and other obstacles aren’t left hanging around. Storage should always be provided for incoming deliveries and staff belongings.


Most slips happen on wet or dirty floors. Anything that gets onto the floor needs to be removed quickly and effectively. Ensure cleaning happens at the right time and is carried out in the correct manner, using the right products and equipment for the job.

Carrying hot oil

Emptying oil from deep fat fryers can be difficult. Make sure you and your staff follow the manufacturers instructions to do this work safely.

Find out more

Catering  and Slips and Trips

Cleaning and Slips and Trips

General Slips and Trips


Useful links

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