Dining facilities - what must employers provide?

Under Section 21(2)(d) of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2004, employers are required to:

"provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the control and management of the employer."

But what does this actually mean? The Act does not specify exactly what type of facilities might be considered "adequate". However, practical guidance on how to comply with Section 21(2)(d)is provided in two Compliance Codes (which in September 2008 replaced the old Code of Practice):

While compliance codes are not law, they provide advice on how employers can comply with their duties under the Act or regulations: employers really should take note of codes and try to implement them in the workplace.

What does the Code say about dining facilities?

The relevant sections of the compliance code are sections 63 to 79. Basically: "Employees need to have access to hygienic facilities for preparing and eating meals while at work."

Dining Facilities:

  • Access and type of facilities will depend on the nature of the work and the workplace, its location, number of employees, the working environment, other facilities that may be readily available and the times at which employees may be working.
  • A range of facilities and access arrangements may be appropriate - eg shared or public facilities, or a private dining room, etc
  • A separate dining area needs to be provided ten or more employees eat a meal at a workplace at one time or where the nature of the work causes a risk to the health, safety and welfare of employees from preparing food or eating in the workplace.
  • The dining room needs to:
    • be hygienic and waterproof
    • be separated from any hazard (including noise, heat, atmospheric
      contaminants and toilet facilities)
    • be separate from any work process 
    • meet the temperature range requirements contained in this compliance code (between 20°C and 26°C).
  • The size of the dining room: need to allow 1m sq of clear space for each person likely to use the dining room at one time. The clear space is calculated free of any furniture, fittings or obstructions. This means that the minimum size of a dining room for 10 employees would be 10m sq, plus additional space for dining furniture, fittings such as sinks and benches, and obstructions such as pillars. 
  • If there are fewer than 10 employees eating at one time, then a separate dining room need not be provided, but a dining area still needs to be provided that is:
    • hygienic and waterproof
    • separated from hazards
    • separated from the work process 
    • free of tools and work materials or areas
  • Some employees may have access to dining facilities in a shared or public canteen or cafeteria, although the employees may work for different employers. Employers need to ensure that these dining facilities are able to accommodate all their employees who may use them and that employees can access the facilities free of charge

Tables and Seating

  • A dining table (or tables) allowing a minimum of 600mm width by 300mm depth of table space per person.
  • Chairs or seats with back support for each person likely to be eating at one time.

Food handling and hygiene

  • Facilities should be equipped for ease of use, including that employees are able to prepare and consume food in hygienic conditions.
  • Facilities need to be provided for washing utensils, including a sink and draining board with hot* and cold water, but buckets or tubs are alternatives when fixed facilities are not possible. These need to be clean and kept solely for dishwashing purposes. Washing utensils and detergent also need to be provided.
  • Food warming facilities, such as a microwave, need to be provided.
  • Vermin and dust-proof storage needs to be provided for all food and utensils. This needs to include a refrigerator big enough to store perishable foods for all employees using the facilities.
  • Rubbish bins or containers need to be provided for the dining facility and be emptied at least daily. Bins or containers need to be fly and vermin-proof.
  • Boiling water and clean drinking water need to be provided for dining rooms and dining areas. The water supply needs to be separate from any basin used for washing hands. An appliance that provides boiling water as required is desirable, but an electric jug may be appropriate in workplaces where a small number of staff are present. At workplaces remote from a fixed room or building, the water may either be boiled on site or transported there, provided that it arrives as hot as practicable.
  • There needs to be sufficient water to supply those employees dining at one time. The water always needs to be of drinking quality. The code has as a reference document the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011), National Health and Medical Research Council.

In other words, the code gives employers quite detailed guidance, including examples of facilities for different types of workplaces, about what dining facilities they should be providing for their workers. 

* Hot water:  We have received several inquiries regarding the temperature of water in workplaces. Here is an example, and Renata's response:

Can you tell me whether there are any recommended or prescribed water temperatures for hot water taps in the workplace (in amenities and kitchen areas)?

There is nothing specific in OHS law, other than under the general duty of care an employer must ensure that the working environment is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Having scalding water coming out of hot water taps in the amenities or kitchen would create a risk of injury, and so is an issue that must be considered.

However, there is legislation in Victoria which requires licensed plumbers/gasfitters to ensure that the temperature of water from the bath, shower and basin hot water taps must not exceed 50 degrees.  

The following is from a Victorian government publication:

'In August 1998 the Victorian Government passed legislation, which is aimed at eliminating the risk of legionella bacteria forming in storage hot water services and preventing scalding at hot water outlets used for bathing. This means hot water for commercial use must be stored at a minimum temperature of 60 degrees to kill legionella bacteria and reduces to at least 50 degrees at the water outlets to prevent scalding.'

If you have any problems, contact your union.

Last amended July, 2014

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