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Safety Basics in the Hospitality Industry

The hospitality world is a busy, chaotic and very rewarding industry to be part of. From high end restaurants to cafes and bars; each hospitality provider has a duty to ensure the health and safety of its staff and customers in accordance with the Australian Hospitality Safety Laws in each state. 

The objective of Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws is to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees in the workplace and anyone else that might be affected by the work. RED Risk Management™ offer a WHS risk assessment to ensure the risk factors in your facility are properly identified, ready for you to action. 

In addition to this assessment, RED Risk Management™ have put together the following safety basics for your hospitality workplace to ensure both staff and customer are kept safe and happy. 

Staff training 

All staff, including customer facing and behind the scenes, should be kept up to date with current workplace safety requirements. This may look different for each area of your workplace – emergency first aid training for front desk staff, knife handling safety training for kitchen staff, chemical safety training for cleaning staff just to name a few – and as the employer it is your duty to ensure each staff member has the required training before they enter the workplace. This includes ongoing training as laws and policies within the hospitality industry change. This simple task of staff management can easily be overlooked in busy hospitality environments, but the repercussions of inadequate staff training can result in the endangerment of both staff and customer at the fault of the employer if training has not been provided. 

Once adequate training has been provided, clear guidelines around employee/employer ‘Health and Safety Responsibilities’ should be implemented to ensure all parties are aware of their responsibilities in the workplace. The following are examples.

Employee health and safety responsibilities: 

  • Take care of your own health and safety in the workplace. You must also take reasonable care for the health and safety of others who are impacted by your work.
  • Use equipment properly.
  • Comply with work health and safety policies.
  • Avoid misuse of anything in the workplace to support health and safety.
  • Attend mandatory staff training.

Employer health and safety responsibilities: 

  • Provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and free of risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Give your employees the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
  • Provide safety equipment suited to each job type.
  • Ensure that the conduct of your employees and business does not endanger other people (including customers).
  • Report notifiable incidents to WorkSafe.

Appropriately manage workplace conflict and psychological hazards

The most overlooked workplace hazard is commonly the most detrimental in the hospitality industry – workplace conflict. With workplace conflict being a large contributor to poor mental health among staff due to a jobs direct impact on a persons feeling of being valued or giving us a sense of purpose, this hazard can be more costly for a hospitality business than any chemical spill. 

Mental illness is affecting an estimated 1 in 5 working age people in Australia (SafeWork SA). Other common symptoms associated with mental health issues in the workplace may consist of worry, sleep issues and subsequent fatigue. These issues can detrimentally affect workers performance in the workplace.  

Having a mentally healthy workplace will positively impact your staff’s productivity and will also contribute to lower staff turnover rates. The first step to ensuring your workplace is a mentally healthy space is to identify psychological hazards.  

Workplace psychological hazards are anything in the workplace that increases the risk of work-related stress. This stress can evoke a physical, mental and/or emotional reaction that can occur when an employee feels that their workload pressure is too high.   

The most common pressures that can lead to psychological health issues in the workplace include: 

  • Unreasonable expectation of staff with timed deadlines 
  • Conflict in the workplace, including harassment and bullying  
  • Experiencing workplace aggression 

As the saying goes “it starts from the top”. In the case of having a mentally healthy workplace, this is spot on. 

Leadership within an organisation should be the first to commit to modelling mentally healthy workplace behaviour. This can range from small acts of staff recognition to large scale policy development that align with a mentally healthy workplace. 

Manage Overtime Appropriately

The concept of overtime comes with different connotations for staff within the hospitality industry. Some staff seek overtime for the financial benefit while others see overtime as a one-way trip to burnout – and they aren’t wrong. 

Overtime work, while sometimes necessary for a hospitality business, can directly impact the workers’ fatigue, and thus overall performance. A couple of extra hours every week may not sound like much, but over a long period of time workers may find that the extra hours on the job are not worth the pay. Burnout affects businesses as well as workers, with fatigue from burnout contributing to workplace safety issues. 

Understandably, overtime is sometimes necessary in the hospitality industry, which means precautions need to be taken to prevent overtime resulting in burnout. These precautions can include: 

  • Increased break times – increase the amount of break time that workers get during overtime to avoid fatigue.
  • Monitor for signs of fatigue and burnout – It’s important for management to monitor the workforce for signs of fatigue, such as irritability, reduced alertness, and rising sick leave requests. 

Another burnout prevention strategy is limiting overtime for employees in the first place by ensuring your workforce has adequate staffing measures in place to help you scale quickly while avoiding overtime costs and associated burnout issues among staff. 

In an industry that may encounter staff shortages, the following are some strategies that can be implemented to counter these challenges: 

  • Invest in running a resiliency and emotional intelligence development program for the leaders within your organisation with the long-term goal of increasing the performance and engagement of the entire workforce.
  • Define what makes your organisation different from others in how you look after your staff by setting and communicating organisational values.
  • Focus on providing greater efficiencies for frontline staff.
  • Run a recruitment-oriented social media campaign to communicate how your workplace prioritises caring for its employees – including live examples of the above.
  • Implement cross-training initiatives where necessary to increase the capability of existing staff.
  • Daily metric tracking of business load patterns for more effective planning ability over time.

The hospitality industry is a fast-paced workplace where staff need a high level of support to fulfil their roles adequately. By implementing strategies to cater to the above safety basics, you are ensuring your staff get the support they need. 

RED Risk Management™ can work with you to identify any WHS risks and make a plan going forward on how to better your workplace for your employees and customers. An unhealthy workplace is cheaper to prevent than it is to fix.