Laws covering all vending machines
All vending machines must be positioned with due regard to health and safety. In particular, vending machine operators should ensure that there is no chance a vending machine could be accidentally tipped over. It is also highly advisable to provide signage advising people not to shake the vending machine (eg when attempting 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. A registration 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:
the machines need to be positioned in such a way as to prevent pests from gaining easy access to them, and
the machines need to be regularly and thoroughly cleaned. This will also influence the selection of location and position
Anyone operating vending machines must have clear access to all relevant areas of the vending machine.
Vending machines selling food and drink must have the food and drink stored and served in a safe manner. There are three main parts to this:
the food has to be stored at the correct temperature
the food has to be wrapped appropriately (this includes choosing safe cups for hot beverages), and
the food 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 must ensure that they are within their sell-by-dates when they are stocked.
The operator 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to ensure that the items have not become damaged in the vending machine (although this is unlikely) and to remove out-of-date items.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 their vending machine, they need to follow the same standards as any other food producer. People operating vending machines should therefore ensure that they have a suitable understanding of food hygiene. This can be obtained through a certified course, many of which are run entirely online.
Using third-party service providers
If those operating vending machines hire staff and employees, then they will need to fulfil all the obligations of an employer. If, however, they hire third parties on a self-employed basis (eg contractors), they should make sure that both the contract and practice of the relationship reflect this. If they do not, then the third-party is likely to be seen as a worker (and not genuinely self-employed), which leads to the operator having additional legal obligations towards the third-party.