Lunch room safety is often overlooked because it is an area where people tend to relax and converse at a personal level. The hazards within this area and the potential for harm or injury is just as high due to electrical equipment, heat sources, moisture, sharp items, chemicals, ventilation and space. Let’s look at these separately;
This may include (but not limited to) fridges, stoves, hot plates, exhaust fans, microwave ovens, toasters, sandwich makers, coffee machines or electric jugs. These items pose a number of risks ranging from electric shock (frayed cords or misuse) to fire if left on and unattended.
To assist in mitigating risks from these items normal practices should include:
- Test and tag all items in accordance with the relevant Electrical Safety Standards and regulations
- Have separate storage areas for each item
- Post relevant signs along the counter including
- Use and storage locations
- How to use points
- Safety sign relevant to heat
- Clean items regularly and keep them free of grime, moisture and contaminants at all times
- Have relevant fire extinguishers for electrical fire
- Have fire blanket for liquid based fires (oil / fat etc)
- Replace the item if any sign of damage or deterioration of critical components
All electrical items will generate heat including refrigerator motors however liquids (cooking oils etc), hot food and beverages are also heat sources that can cause harm or injury therefore care and observation is critical to mitigating risks associated with heat. Burns require immediate treatment preferably from a person trained in First Aid.
Ease of access to fire protection equipment (extinguishers, fire blankets etc) and First Aid kit is essential.
Moisture can come from leaking taps or pipes, spillages, condensation or as part normal hygiene practices therefore maintain vigilance to ensure wet areas are contained and dealt with quickly is highly important. Harm or injury can occur through electric shock, slips or falls and food spoilage.
When a wet area is observed the following procedure should be followed:
- Locate the source if safe to do so
- Ensure there are no electrical items within the wet area
- Identify the extent of the wet area – Size, isolated or ongoing
- Make area safe if possible
- If small and isolated – Clean up
- If the issue is ongoing or too large to rectify quickly
- Cordon off the area using appropriate barriers and signs
- Notify relevant supervisor
Cutlery and discarded food cans are sources of injury from cuts or stabbing however jagged edges or protruding objects can also be an issue. A sharp object sign should be located on the appropriate storage areas
Cleaning and washing up liquids, powders or tablets are dangerous substances however in the quantities used do not require signage BUT do require a current Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). It is adequate to have a sign in the lunch area stating that prior to using any chemical a person MUST read the label and instructions carefully AND the item MUST be used in accordance with these instructions.
Ventilation and space:
Ventilation and space are critical for a range of reasons including:
- Transferring cooking odours or heat out of the area
- Mitigating risk associated with gas leak, restricted air flow, heat or cold
- Facilitating a comfortable and relaxing environment
Each State has specific regulations regarding dining facilities and in Queensland these can be found at:
Space is also important to allow people to have private conversations or their own quiet time while on their designated breaks from work.
All food items have expiry dates and are subject to spoilage. In a workplace where numerous people use one facility it is common for food to be left attended or in storage well past its viable state. This causes emotional tension within the workforce and has the potential to cause food poisoning.
Finally, no smoking, good manners, courteous behavior and excellent hygiene must be part of the workplace culture in the lunch area and throughout the workplace.