Maintaining Safe Food Practices at the Office: Who Is Responsible?

If your office is like a lot of workplaces, then the hygiene standards in the kitchen, break room, or communal fridge probably leave a lot to be desired.
December 1, 2012

If your office is like a lot of workplaces, then the hygiene standards attached the kitchenette, break room, or communal fridge probably leave a lot to be desired.

Dirty dishes may be piling up in the sink unwashed, food could be left rotting in the refrigerator for weeks, and food stains in the microwave from some mystery explosion could be left there indefinitely according to the Daily Telegraph.

However, it’s important to realize that conditions like these aren’t just gross or unappealing. They also pose serious health risks that have to be addressed, as well as contribute to hostile work environments. Most importantly of all, it’s possible for the business owner to wind up legally responsible for illness or injury that comes about as a result of the hazardous conditions.

“It’ll become an increasing risk if nobody takes ownership of the situation,” says Ennio Bianchi, head of the National Safety Council Australia’s safety department.

“It starts off with one glass or one plate, then two, then four, then eight. It’s also a food hygiene issue; if the sink is messy how clean is the stove, how clean is the microwave, how clean is the fridge? But if it’s worse and they require medical attention the responsibility lies with the company.”

Ultimately, it’s up to the boss or the management to make sure food-related conditions in common areas aren’t getting out of hand. Strict regulations should be put in place to ensure employees are adhering to hygiene standards. Everyone should know the drill as far as how various situations should be handled.

There should also be a strict schedule followed as far as how often certain tasks are performed such as defrosting the refrigerator, cleaning the microwave, and so forth. Practices such as the leaving of passive-aggressive notes should be avoided, as they create witch hunt situations and sow animosity.