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Illness and injury

What is considered too sick to work, and which illness should not come into the kitchen? We discuss the types of illnesses, how to report illness and


Good levels of health and fitness are required to work in a kitchen. Attention should be paid to maintaining your personal health and well being.

It is now a legal requirement for all food handlers to report illness or infections they may have to their line manager, supervisor or head chef, before starting work, as they may be excluded from handling food.

This is because with certain conditions, especially stomach-related illness, organisms can easily be transferred from the food handler to the food. This could result in making other work colleagues and the person eating the food unwell.

What if I’m Sick?

  1. If you are aware that you have a contagious illness such as the flu, COVID-19, hepatitis, skin irritations, etc., you must stay at home to avoid contaminating food and/or infecting others. This is a legal requirement.
  2. Diseases that cause vomiting and diarrhoea are often highly contagious and could be the result of food poisoning.
  3. Even if you just have a cold, you need to inform your supervisor and minimise the spread of germs when coughing or sneezing. Use paper towels or tissues and always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Never spit because this can spread illness quickly.
  4. Understand that carriers of diseases can be healthy people that do not, or not yet show symptoms. Convalescents are recovering from a virus or bacterial infection and can pass it on.
  5. Do not return to work until at least 48 hours after your symptoms have ceased. If you are unsure, speak to your doctor and your manager for advice. This is often referred to as fit for work, a medical certificate that clears the patient.

Injury on duty

Injuries can occur on duty especially in the kitchen, for example burns, cuts, back injuries from heavy pots.

Most countries have a worker’s compensation for injuries sustained on duty. If you injure yourself on duty, you should report the injury to your supervisor, manager of head chef as soon as you can. Injuries that have occurred due to negligence are usually not covered. Before any injury is submitted there needs to be an investigation and a report.

Part of health and safety is to keep a stocked first aid box and have a trained first aider on duty. Minor injuries can be dealt with onsite but more serious injuries may require hospitalization.

Note: Always report any incidents of or potential food contamination to your supervisor, especially those that have resulted from a personal health issue!


If you are working, ask your workplace for their rules regarding illness and injuries. Are there any that are different from what you have learnt here? If you don’t have a workplace we have included one for you at the link below.

Download the Injury Policy and Report – Source Work Safety & Prevention Service

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Food Safety and Personal Hygiene in a Professional Kitchen

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