The laws and regulations on vending machines cover both the machine itself and the products it sells. If a vending machine operator has other people provide services for them, then they will need to ensure that this arrangement is also put on a lawful basis. Here is a quick guide to the key points of law covering the vending-machine industry.
Laws covering all vending machines
All vending machines must be sited with due regard to health and safety. In particular, vending machine operators should ensure that there is no chance the vending machine could be accidentally tipped over. It is also highly advisable to provide signage advising people not to shake the vending machine, e.g. to release a stuck item.
Laws covering vending machines selling food and drink
If a vending machine sells food and/or drinks then it is classed as a food retailer. As such, it must be registered with the local authority at least 28 days before opening for business. Registration is free, can usually be done online and cannot be refused. It can, however, be revoked if an operator fails to meet minimum standards in safety and hygiene.
Vending machines selling food and drink must be located in an area that is free from pests. They must also be managed in a way that keeps them free of pests. There are generally two parts to achieving this.
Firstly, the machines need to be sited in such a way as to prevent pests from gaining easy access to them. Secondly, they need to be regularly and thoroughly cleaned. The need for cleaning will also influence the selection of location and position. Operatives must have clear access to all relevant areas of the vending machine.
Vending machines selling food and drink must also ensure that it is stored and served in a safe manner. There are three main parts to this. Firstly, the food has to be stored at the correct temperature. Secondly, it has to be wrapped appropriately (this includes choosing safe cups for hot beverages). Thirdly, it needs to have suitable labelling with allergens clearly identified.
Preparing food and drink for sale
If a vending machine operator is selling prepackaged food and drinks then most of the responsibility for food safety will lie with the original producer. That said, the operator will still need to check the items for damage and ensure that they are within their sell-by-date when they are stocked.
They will also need to make regular checks to ensure that the items have not become damaged in the vending machine (although this is unlikely) and to remove out-of-date items.
If a vending machine operator is preparing food and drinks to sell in the vending machine, then they need to follow the same standards as any other food producer. Operatives should therefore ensure that they have a suitable understanding of food hygiene. This can be obtained through a certified course. Many of these are run entirely online.
Using third-party service providers
If an operative hires staff as employees, then they will obviously need to fulfil all the obligations of an employer. If, however, an operative hires third parties on a self-employed basis, then it’s advisable to ensure that both the contract and practice of the relationship support that designation. If they do not, then the third-party is likely to be seen as a worker.