* Maintaining good hygiene, storage and refrigeration practices is only the first step in ensuring your foodservice business is safe
* There are many common problems in commercial kitchen workplaces that you should strive to avoid
* Problems with oven exhaust hoods, ventilation, floors and staff access to handwashing facilities are just a few examples
* There are hefty fines for non-compliance and you also risk negative publicity which could effectively shut down your business

EVERYONE WHO WORKS in foodservice should recognise how imperative it is to ensure that the food you prepare and sell is safe. Anything less and you risk not only your business reputation but hefty fines and possible loss of licence.
But while we may all understand this and strive to maintain good hygiene, storage and refrigeration practices in our premises, you may not have considered various issues related to your workplace fitout that could net you a hefty fine.
Recent media reports highlighting poor ventilation at some Melbourne restaurants and cafes are a typical example. The fact is that a badly designed and ill-equipped workplace is a significant risk for the success of any foodservice business, and you need to take whatever action you can to make your workplace safer.
Regulations covering the condition and construction of premises where food is prepared and served are laid down at state and federal levels and enforcement of these is taken seriously by the relevant state health authorities. But how many of us have taken the time to read the regulations and understand what they mean?
Common problems in commercial kitchen workplaces that you strive to eliminate from your business include the following:
Oven exhaust hoods that are either too big or too small — these can lead to inadequate ventilation and also drive your energy costs up due to inefficient heat transfer.
Ventilation problems — as hot air is drawn out of the kitchen via your oven exhaust hood, fresh air must be brought in to replenish the air supply (usually either through the hood canopy or air vents). A lack of this replacement air leads to drafts, as fresh air is naturally drawn in from under doors and through windows. When this happens, dust and other contaminants are drawn in too. What’s more, if you leave windows open to compensate for lack of air vents or ventilation fans, you can end up with drafts that are strong enough to create fire hazards through their adverse affects on pilot lights and oven flames.
Slippery floors — according to the Australian standard, all food premises are required to have their floors rated for slippage. Failure to ensure compliance with the standard by not ensuring a sufficiently non-slip surface can not only put you at risk of a fine, it’s also a serious occupational health and safety hazard that can endanger yourself, your employees and even your customers.
Failure to ensure adequate fixtures and fittings for staff use — for example, you need to ensure that all staff have easy access to handwashing facilities at all times and these need to be equipped with disposable hand-towels; you need to maintain all fixtures and fittings at the required standard of cleanliness; and you need to take all available measures to eradicate pests that can contaminate food.

Not only are there substantial fines levied for failure to comply with any of the above, you also risk the public humiliation of being listed on food authority websites, which could potentially ruin your business.
So take the time to educate yourself on the relevant standards and make sure you and your staff are abiding by them. It really isn’t worth taking a risk with your business!
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