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Case study: Implementing OHSAS 18001 in the restaurant business

The restaurant business is a sector of huge turnover, employment, and public use on a world-wide scale, ranging from the local café to massive fast food chains and super restaurants seen in major resort cities such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City. One thing all these restaurants have in common is a similar set of circumstances that bring an inherent risk to customers, and more specifically to employees. For that reason, it is no surprise that along with the HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) food safety standard, OHSAS 18001 is becoming the accepted safety standard for restaurant owners and larger restaurant organizations to ensure that employee well-being and safety can be maintained, and that employees feel safe and valued. Diners can also feel comfortable patronizing eating establishments with a good reputation for caring for staff and customers alike. So, what is the best method to go about implementing OHSAS 18001 in the restaurant business?

Getting your restaurant OHSAS 18001 implementation right

Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a restaurant uses the same principles as in any other organization. In the previous article, Implementing OHSAS 18001 in the retail sector, we considered the specific elements that exist in the retail sector, and indeed there are many similarities in the restaurant business, although several key elements of the implementation need particular consideration. So, what are these specific elements, and how can they be approached? Let us consider in some detail:

1) Using the correct project manager: It is not uncommon to find no OH&S (operational health and safety) experience among the employees of many restaurants, which means that there will be no experience with establishing an OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System). Therefore, it is vital that you consider the implementation options and make the correct decision for your organization. In the article Who is the ideal project manager for your OHSAS 18001 project? we considered what attributes your project manager should have for a successful implementation. Likewise, you may choose to use an external consultant or even hire someone specifically, as examined in the article What to look for when hiring an OH&S professional. It is also wise to bear in mind that implementation can be carried out using specialized document toolkits, but whatever route you choose, you must ensure that it is the correct one for your restaurant.

2) Accurately identifying and dealing with risk: Risk is at the center of the OHSAS 18001 standard, and removing or mitigating risk is arguably the main reason that a restaurant chain or owner would choose to pursue OHSAS 18001 implementation or certification. Restaurant kitchens, for example, will have a unique set of risks and challenges such as hot plates, stoves, pressure cookers, use of gases for cooking, deep fat fryers, extraction requirements, and use of liquids that may facilitate trips and slips, not to mention many sharp utensils. The risk of fire in restaurants is also ever present, and such a risk that potentially affects employees, diners, neighbors, and all stakeholders cannot be ignored. Being risk aware and having a system that enables these risks to be identified and mitigated is critical to a restaurant, from the perspectives of both employee well-being and accident prevention; restaurants are like most other businesses – they can ill afford to lose key members of staff to illness or injury. You can learn more about this topic in the article How to perform risk assessment in OHSAS 18001.

3) Dealing with legislation: The restaurant business is tightly governed by legislation, whether over food hygiene or OH&S in cooking areas. Using the discipline of OHSAS 18001 can help to ensure that your restaurant’s legislation obligations are fulfilled, and any related incidents or financial penalties are avoided.

4) Training and awareness: In the previous article, The importance of training and awareness in OHSAS 18001, we examined how vital this element can be in many organizations. This is even more true in a restaurant environment, where employees are working as a team within a defined process in a high-pressure environment, with a unique set of risks and hazards always present. Whether formal training is augmented by employee forums, brainstorming sessions, or employee questionnaires, ensuring that your team is trained, “safety aware,” and supportive of each other’s’ safety requirements is critical to the success of your OH&SMS and the well-being of your employees.

Ensuring maximum benefit from your OHSAS 18001 implementation

The elements we examined above are just some of the segments of OHSAS 18001 that are critical in a restaurant implementation, but of course you will have to satisfy all the clauses to be compliant and ready for certification. In the article 4 key benefits of OHSAS 18001 we considered the positives of implementation, and these are relevant to your restaurant business when your implementation is complete. In addition to the improvement in staff morale enhanced safety usually brings, perhaps your restaurant can use OHSAS 18001 as a unique selling point: “We care for our employees’ and staff’s safety and well-being through OHSAS 18001 certification.” Or, why not consider the dual benefits of OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001, as we examined in the blog Case study ‑ Using ISO 14001:2015 to reduce environmental impact and increase profit in a restaurant? Whatever you choose to do, you should find that the increased morale and productivity resulting from OHSAS 18001 implementation, along with decreased down-time from staff absences after incidents or accidents, are great reasons to implement OHSAS 18001 in your restaurant, and that applies several times over if you manage a restaurant chain, combined with the reputational factor. So, what are all you restaurant managers waiting for?

Our free OHSAS 18001 Gap Analysis Tool is the ideal starting point to identify the gap between health & safety practices in your restaurant and the standard itself.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.