Protecting workers in hotels, restaurants and catering

The hotel, restaurant and catering sector (Horeca) covers hotels, bars, pubs,
restaurants, contract caterers, fast-food take-aways, cafes and bistros. It is
an important job creator in the service sector and, for many EU Member States,
in the economy as a whole.

This growing sector currently employs more than 7.8 million people in the
European Union. The Horeca sector is composed mainly of small enterprises
employing 10 people or less. Its workforce is young: according to European
statistics (EU-25, Eurostat 2005) some 48 % are under 35, and people of 55
years and older make up less than 10 % of the workforce, although numbers are
rising as a result of demographic change. Female workers - 54 % of the
workforce - outnumber men. The sector is considered a good place for young and
relatively unskilled people to enter the workforce. The educational level of
the workforce is low: 40 % of employees are relatively unskilled; only 1
employee in 10 has a high level of education. Despite the demanding working
conditions, the sector does not have above-average rates of accident and

The most significant risks of working in the sector are:

  • physically demanding work involving prolonged standing and static postures,
    carrying and lifting and repetitive movements, often combined with other
    unfavourable working conditions such as the poor design of the workplace;
    n-exposure to high noise levels; some 29 % of the workers in the sector are
    exposed to noise and more than 4 % consider this puts their health at risk (1);

  • hot or cold working environments, especially the combination of high
    temperatures with draughts, open doors, alternating between working in warm,
    humid conditions and cold environments such as storage rooms;

  • cuts and burns;

  • trips, slips and falls caused by wet and slippery floors, obstacles and falls
    from a height;

  • dangerous substances, for example the widespread use of cleaning agents and
    biological agents in food.

The most important psychosocial risk factors are:

  • long and non-standard working hours; the sector is characterised by long
    shifts, irregular and unusual working hours; a lot of the work is done when
    other people are not at work;

  • difficulties maintaining work-life balance, especially given the
    unpredictability of working time, the length of working days and the lack of
    control over the work;

  • high workload and time pressure; some 75 % mention working at high speed;
    66 % have to work to tight deadlines; some 48 % say they do not have enough
    time to get work done (1);

  • low control over work: monotonous work that lacks creativity and requires
    little initiative is widespread;

  • contact with colleagues and the chef: lack of support can aggravate work
    stress; some 70 % of the workforce feel able to ask for support from
    colleagues; only 53 % from supervisors (1);

  • continuous contact with customers, which can be a source of stress or, in the
    worst cases, lead to harassment or even violence;

  • lack of training and education; parts of the jobs require no formal education
    and a low level of training and experience; people are not always well trained
    to do their job, which can lead to more stress.

More info

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work