Health and safety laws exist to ensure steps are taken to minimise health risks and to protect workers, clients and the general public. These laws provide challenges to all caterers, but working off-site means there are new perspectives to consider.
The starting point for all businesses is to have a risk assessment considering potential risks, which will then inform policies for how to mitigate them. If you are operating off-site, this remains the essential starting point.
If you have undertaken off-site work before, you should have prepared a risk assessment for that event and this can be used as a foundation for subsequent ones. It should, however, be reviewed – even if it relates to the same venue – to ensure it remains current. If you have not undertaken off-site work before, you may be able to use any risk assessment you have for working from your own facilities and adapt this.
In many cases, though, you will need to start afresh. While some risks are inherent to the sector, such as using cooking equipment, working off-site poses different ones and these will vary depending on the service being provided and the size and location of the site. Clearly, catering for a large corporate function will require a different approach to selling food from a pop-up stall. In many cases it may be necessary to assess each location individually and to ask the customer for information to feed into your own risk assessment.
Having prepared a risk assessment and guidelines for the work to be undertaken, these need to be implemented. This can be more difficult at external events, as you may be using temporary staff who are unfamiliar with your methods, and it can be more difficult to monitor compliance.
Arranging training is a sensible starting pointing for making sure that those staff working for you are aware of the risks and understand how to comply with your health and safety policies. Providing training is important to not only minimise the risk of accident and/or injury, but also to help to protect yourself against potential claims if something does go wrong.
One way of approaching this is to have copies of the health and safety policy, including key safety information about each role and each site, which employees must read and sign before beginning their work. This can be coordinated by an employee responsible for health and safety, either working at the site or responsible for supervising multiple sites. That person, or someone else, can also monitor ongoing compliance with policies and report back any non-compliance so that appropriate follow up action can be taken.
Finally, even with the most rigorous of health and safety policies, there is the possibility that something will go wrong. It is vital, therefore, that if you are intending to work off-site, you discuss this with your insurance provider to make sure this is covered or, if not, additional cover is acquired.