Health and safety: the risks

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Health and safety is not a sexy subject. But in the busy environment of a pub, there are certain standards licensees must maintain to protect them...

Health and safety is not a sexy subject.

But in the busy environment of a pub, there are certain standards licensees must maintain to protect them and their staff.

Even the experts admit that much of health and safety is common sense. But to keep your mind focused, we spoke to Westminster City Council's operations manager for food health and safety, Richard Block, to identify the five biggest risks and explain how to avoid them…

Asbestos

It's the biggest single cause of work-related death and ill-health in the UK, according to Richard. "Buildings that were re-furbished between 1950 and 1985 are most at risk," he says. "We find it in pubs when refurbishments have been carried out, when things have been ripped out or disturbed."

If the fixtures are disturbed and the fumes are inhaled it can cause lung cancer.

Richard's advice is to be proactive. "Licensees must investigate and manage any potential asbestos they have in their property," he says. "Assess the condition of it. You need a licensed and qualified contractor who is certified by the Health & Safety Executive. It's not cheap but it's legally necessary."

Asbestos is especially common around corrugated roof panels, asbestos insulation boards, exterior panels and ceiling tiles.

Poor and unsafe cellar access

Many pubs have below floor-level cellars and this can present a risk to health and safety during dray collection and delivery, says Richard.

"The greatest risk is in old pubs where the design is not well thought out," he adds.

"We had a problem recently where a member of the public fell down a hatch and had to go to hospital."

Richard's advice is to make sure there are adequate guards and signs flagging up a cellar, especially if they lead out onto a pavement.

Slips and trips

Slips and trips are the biggest cause of workplace accidents, according to Richard. They account for 33 per cent of all major injuries and 25 per cent of injuries over three days, while the cost to employers amounts to £520m a year.

But taking steps to avoid them is down to common sense a lot of the time, says Richard.

"You need to be sure thoroughfares are maintained, and avoid having roughed-up carpets and inadequate floor surfaces.

"Simple things like having handrails on staircases and lighting where there is a change of level.

"In areas that are going to get wet, you must make sure that the surfaces are made of non-slip material."

Patio heaters and storage of liquefied petroleum gas

"With the smoking ban coming in we have seen an increase in the number of patio heaters popping up in pubs," says Richard. But he warns licensees to be wary of the way they store gas canisters.

"Liquid petroleum gas is hazardous stuff, when you have a large quantity of it being stored inadequately," he says.

"You must make sure that the amounts that are stored are low."

He also stresses that storage areas that are underground need to be well ventilated and canisters should be contained in a cage.

"The burners also need to be regularly inspected by a CORGI engineer," he adds.

Storage of cellar gasses    

Carbon dioxide cylinders that are used to propel and preserve fizziness in drinks should be stored very carefully, explains Richard.

"If the valve is damaged there is an increased risk of a leak and because carbon dioxide is heavier than air it can lead to suffocation in a very short space of time."

The cylinders are also very heavy, so if they fall on your foot it can break a toe.

Richard adds: "It's a case of having adequate storage."

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