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Are hotels, bars and restaurants safe and healthy places to work?
Not necessarily. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), catering staff are as much at risk of accidents at work as factory workers. People who work in the hospitality industry face a number of significant workplace hazards, including:
- violence and abuse, because they work with cash and the public (who may have drunk too much alcohol), and they often work at night;
- back pain and back injuries, from lifting or carrying heavy loads such as hotel guests' suitcases, and kitchen and bar stock. One survey of kitchen workers found that three-quarters said they had experienced back pain during the previous year;
- hearing damage, because bar staff can be exposed to very high levels of noise;
- slips and trips, because kitchen and bar spills are sometimes not cleaned up quickly enough;
- burns from hot oil in fryers or steam;
- cuts and bruises from knives and falling objects;
- dermatitis (a skin condition) from washing up, cleaning products etc.; and
- electric shocks from equipment such as vacuum cleaners and toasters, which may not be properly maintained.
In the hospitality industry, almost one in two employees are under the age of 30, many of them employed on a casual basis. Because of their inexperience, young workers are more vulnerable to health and safety hazards.
Your employer may also need you to work in a temporary venue, for example if you are catering for an outside function. You are more vulnerable away from your familiar work surroundings, and your employer should do a risk assessment before sending you to work in a new venue.