A former events caterer has warned that hospitality bosses risk heavy fines and even imprisonment under proposed new laws on corporate manslaughter if they cannot prove that staff who suffer or cause injuries or deaths were properly trained.
"It is not a question of will someone go to prison, it is a question of who," said Brian Efde who, after 42 years in catering, closed his Portabars contract catering firm four years ago because of the difficulties in getting staff of the right calibre.
He said that many casuals were swapping names and certificates, and the problem had prompted recruitment agencies to cover themselves by claiming ability was not a factor when they provided staff for a function.
Meanwhile, Efde said, lawyers were insisting that bosses who could not prove the competence of staff members involved in serious accidents or deaths risked losing their public liability cover and any insurance pay-outs.
They could also face hefty fines and jail sentences when proposed corporate manslaughter legislation becomes law.
Efde said waiters and porters were particularly poorly trained and that two-year waiting courses in colleges were rarely completed as qualified waiters "earn no more money than if they had been dragged off the street with no training at all."
Efde has set up a five-day audio-visual course in basic skills in which students' activities are filmed and stored on video and computer.
The course, called Clearly Visable because it shows that registered students are "visibly able", is supported by the Transport and General Workers Union and some insurers.
The course includes glass handling, which most colleges have dropped because it is too dangerous to teach.
Broken glass is the most common cause of injury in catering.