Safety in the Kitchen
Restaurants and industrial kitchens are fraught with potential for accidents. To keep your employees safe, consider each of the possible hazards and identify ways to safeguard your employees.
Preventing Slips & Falls
Safeguard against slippery floors by keeping floors clean and uncluttered and, where necessary, treating floors with slip-resistant coatings or chemical treatments. Choose floor cleaning chemicals with good grease-removal and slip-resistance properties. Establish a floor cleaning schedule. When spills occur, clean them up immediately and post "caution" or "wet floor" signs until the floor is dry.
Ice machines can also create fall hazards because of the large volume of water involved. Select an ice scoop with a size and shape that minimizes spills. Place rubber or fabric-faced mats in front of the ice machine unless they introduce an additional tripping hazard. Make sure that all ice machines and freezer doors seal properly to prevent water from leaking or freezing on the floor.
Encourage professional language when employees are moving through crowded areas. Phrases such as "behind you," "hot," "and "corner" help prevent collisions and falls.
Employees should never carry large loads that obstruct their vision.
Equipment & Attire
Many accidents may be prevented by using proper equipment and attire in the Kitchen. Make sure all kitchen workers have:
- Long sleeves to reduce burns
- Closed toe, skid-resistant shoes to reduce falls and injuries from hot liquids
- Heavy pans for increased stability and fewer spills
Knife Handling - Take time to train new employees on proper knife handling. Keep your knives sharp, handles secure and store with the blades covered. Only allow trained employees to operate electric slicers. All slicing machine guards should be kept in place and in good working condition.
Moving Heavy Loads
It is common for foodservice employees to need to move loads of up to 50 lbs. Employees should know how to safely lift heavy loads in order to reduce potential back injuries. Train employees to lift with their legs, take small steps, and change direction by moving their feet, not twisting, when handling heavy items. Use a cart or dolly to lift extra heavy loads.
Aisles should be wide enough for employees to lift and carry cases without hitting shelves. When possible, store heavy loads at waist height. Load trays with the heaviest items in the center.
Provide training for all employees on recognizing and controlling burn hazards. Also, take these protective measures:
- Make potholders easily accessible.
- Provide adequate room for safe handling of pots on the range top.
- Install safety devices such as temperature and pressure relief valves to help reduce the potential for explosion of pressurized water heating systems.
- Reduce the temperature on your hot water heaters to reduce the potential for scalding when using hot water in sinks.
- Train employees to stand back when using the automated lid on a braising pan or steam-jacketed kettle.
- Only allow trained employees to condition deep fryer grease, and only with proper protective equipment. Post written procedures specific to the equipment in use.
Follow these housekeeping rules to help prevent kitchen fires:
- Never leave dish rags or aprons near a hot surface.
- Never leave stoves or other equipment unattended when in use.
- Clean range hoods and stoves on schedule to help reduce build-up.
- Don't overload electrical outlets.
- Don't force three-pronged cords into two-prong outlets.
- Don't use equipment with a frayed cord or bent prongs.
- Don't use equipment that smokes, sparks or otherwise arouses suspicion.
Employees should know the building evacuation plan, what the fire alarm sounds like, how to turn on the fire alarm, where to find a fire extinguisher, and how to use it.
Restaurants need to pay attention to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard. This rule requires employers who have any potentially-hazardous chemical in the workplace, such as cleaning solvents or pesticides, to provide information about these chemicals to employees through labels on containers, material safety data sheets (a manufacturer-provided data sheet), and training programs.
Cleaning chemicals should be stored in a separate area away from food and heat sources, in their original container and with a tight lid. Employees should be taught to:
- Never mix chemicals.
- Use chemicals only in well ventilated areas.
- Follow label directions when disposing of chemical containers.
- Wash hands after using or touching any chemical or equipment used with a chemical.
Strengthen Your Safety Net: Kitchen Safety Is No Accident
Workplace Safety: Restaurants & OSHA Rules
OSHA Small Business Consultation Services
National Restaurant Association Workplace Safety Program