Food trucks are a growing sector and, as part of the wider hospitality sector, employs a growing number of New Zealanders.

The vast majority of workers are part-time, and work at weekends such as at events. With these factors and a high level of staff turnover, health and safety training can often be rushed or overlooked.

What are the risks?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), every business has a responsibility to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, and that others are not put at risk by the work of the business (for example, customers, visitors, children and young people, or the general public).

First, you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

The following are examples of only some of the health and safety risks for people in the hospitality sector. We also provide some general guidance on how to manage your work health and safety risks.

Knives, graters and other sharp kitchen tools can cause injuries. These need to be used with care to prevent cut and puncture injuries.

How are workers and others harmed?

Injuries from knives and other kitchen tools can happen to workers when:

  • using knives for purposes for which they were not designed for (for example, opening bags or boxes)
  • sharpening knives or other blades
  • retrieving knives from storage areas
  • cleaning slicers and coming into contact with the edges of the blade
  • handling a blade unexpectedly (for example, when washing up)
  • coming into contact with knives placed blade-up in a dishwasher
  • handling damaged or broken glass and crockery
  • handling sharp-edged objects (for example, graters and vegetable peelers).

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Try to avoid using knives and outsource food preparation.
  • Ensure all slicing and sharpening machines have guards and workers use them when operating equipment.
  • Ensure that equipment with blades is securely fixed to the bench.
  • Use bull nose knives rather than pointed-end knives where possible.
  • Provide a magnetic strip for knife storage.
  • Provide knives with handles that are appropriate to the job and comfortable to use.
  • Train all workers in the safe use and storage of knives.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

The obvious source of burns is hot cooking surfaces and boiling liquids, but workers are also at risk of burns and scalds from steam.

How are workers and others harmed?

Scalds and burns – particularly to hands, arms and the face – can be caused in a number of ways, including:

  • knocking over pots of hot liquids with handles sticking over the bench
  • slipping on the floor and falling onto hot objects
  • exposure to flames, splattering oil or steam
  • steam or splash-back from coffee machines
  • carrying hot objects, food or liquids in restricted spaces
  • using caustic chemicals.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Work away from heat sources whenever possible.
  • Check that pots and pans are in good condition and that handles are secure.
  • Use non-slip floor mats in high-risk areas.
  • Fit splatter guards around deep fryers, use long handled baskets or automatic food-lowering devices for deep fryers, and allow time for hot oil/grease to cool down before handling.
  • Use pots and pans that can withstand high temperatures.
  • Train workers on how safe methods for using pots, including safe use of lids, ensuring pots don’t hang over the edge of the stove, ensuring you can comfortably lift a pot full of liquid before you boil it.
  • Train workers to carefully and slowly put food into hot oil to minimise the chance of oil splashing onto their skin.
  • Require workers to wear shoes that cover the tops of their feet to protect them from splashes and spills.
  • Provide hand protection such as oven mitts and cloths. Train workers to never use wet cloths to lift and move items.
  • Only clean ovens and cooking utensils when they have cooled. Establish safe cleaning, and oil draining and disposal, procedures.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling heavy loads can put workers at risk of serious injury.

How are workers and others harmed?

Workers are at risk of injury from lifting and carrying particularly when:

  • a load is too heavy, it’s difficult to grasp, or it’s too large
  • the physical effort is too strenuous
  • they are regularly required to bend and twist when handling heavy loads.

When a person reaches for items above shoulder height, their back becomes arched and their arms act as long levers. This makes the load difficult to control and significantly increases the risk of injury.

Injuries and conditions can include:

  • muscle sprains and strains
  • injuries to muscles, ligaments, intervertebral discs and other structures in the back
  • injuries to soft tissues such as nerves, ligaments and tendons in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or legs
  • abdominal hernias
  • chronic pain.

Some of these conditions are known as repetitive strain injury (RSI), occupational overuse syndrome (OOS), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) and work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WRMSD).

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Ensure truck layout/design limits the need to push, pull or carry equipment or loads (for example, good path design, floor surfaces allow pallets to be moved directly to storage areas).
  • Position shelving and racking in storage areas at accessible heights.
  • Ensure service counters and food preparation surfaces are between hip and waist height.
  • Train workers in proper lifting techniques.
  • Order stock in smaller containers that are easier to store and lift.
  • Ensure workers are not exposed to repetitive or high impact work for long periods of time. Consider job sharing or job rotation.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation. 

Most food trucks use gas because it’s convenient and economical. While gas is quick, reliable and efficient, it also needs to be used safely.

How are workers and others harmed?

Even though they are considered safe to use, LPG cylinders still possess a certain degree of danger, just like any type of fuel.

Well-known sources of risk include:

  • poor hose connections
  • damaged or corroded cylinders
  • placing a cylinder near a source of heat
  • incorrect storage of the cylinder.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Get the gas installation on your food truck checked once a year by a licensed gas fitter.
  • Keep the food truck well ventilated as gas appliances need a lot of fresh air to work properly.
  • Never use damaged or corroded cylinders. LPG is stored under pressure and a faulty cylinder may leak or rupture. Check for dents or corrosion, especially around the base.
  • Always store your cylinders upright. Lying a cylinder down brings liquid in contact with the safety valve, preventing correct operation. Cylinders larger than 2.25kg should be housed in a compliant enclosure like an LPG locker.
  • Check gas connections regularly. Keep the cylinder away from heat and flames – even if it is empty.
  • If you smell gas, turn off the cylinder valve if it’s safe to do so, get people out of the area, turn off all appliances and ventilate your food truck. Don’t use any electrical devices, including switches and phones, until the air is clear.
  • Never tamper with the valve. Don’t attempt to repair or remove your cylinder valves. If it sticks or gets damaged, tell the supplier.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

For more information on using LPG in mobile cooking facilities, see LPG in hospitality

 

Incidents in confined spaces can happen suddenly and often without warning, for example, leaking gas or hot oil spills.

How are workers and others harmed?

  • While incidents in confined spaces are not common, when they do occur the consequences can be devastating.
  • Confined space incidents can happen suddenly, often without any warning that something is wrong.
  • Incidents involving fire or gas leaks in confined spaces often cause serious injury or death to more than one person. 

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

  • Small space risks may not be obvious or necessarily the same for every food truck. Some use gas for cooking, others use electricity. It can be worth asking a qualified person, for example, a licensed gas worker, to look at your particular situation to help you understand how to manage your specific confined space risks.
  • Always train new workers on what the risks are and how to keep healthy and safe.
  • Make sure workers know how to make suggestions, raise questions or concerns.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Food trucks are often parked in busy areas with lots of pedestrians. Ensure you have procedures for driving onto and exiting a site safely.

How are workers and others harmed?

People could be harmed by:

  • being trapped between a vehicle and a structure
  • vehicles colliding with each other or a structure
  • being hit by a vehicle
  • items that fall off vehicles (unsecured or unstable loads)
  • falling from a vehicle.

Other things to take into account include:

  • Drivers/operators/pedestrians affected by drugs, alcohol or fatigue.
  • Drivers/operators/pedestrians affected by medical events (for example, heart attacks).
  • Environmental conditions (slippery or unstable ground, low light, fog).
  • Mechanical failure (for example, faulty steering or bad brakes).
  • Driver distractions (for example, cell phones, noise, work pressures, home pressures).
  • Vehicles operated outside their limits or capabilities – the wrong vehicle for the job.
  • Anything that might block the drivers’ view.

When a person is hit by a food truck, or the food truck hits something else, the consequences can be severe for the person and for the business. For example:

  • The person may suffer crush injuries or fractures, or die.
  • A business may have to deal with property damage, reputational damage, service disruption, and increased insurance costs. 

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Isolate vehicles and plant from people working on the site.
  • Ensure reversing warning devices (for example, sounds or lights) are working
  • Turn on hazard lights if the vehicle is a temporary hazard.
  • Use spotters or dedicated traffic controllers to manage traffic and pedestrian movements.
  • Provide adequate lighting on site so drivers, workers and others can see what they are doing and can also be seen by others.
  • Encourage drivers visiting a site for the first time to walk the route and plan how they will move their vehicle around the site.
  • Consider having a policy and process for drug and alcohol screening /testing. See Drugs, alcohol and work on the Employment New Zealand website.
  • To minimise driver fatigue, manage when and how long drivers work.
  • Collaborate with other businesses on site to coordinate vehicle movements.
  • Where you can, have a one-way system to reduce the need for vehicles to reverse on site.
  • Provide warning signs at all entrances and exits to the site.
  • Ensure workers wear high visibility clothing.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.