The restaurant industry is one of the most rewarding and challenging of all service industries. Aside from good food and friendly service, one of the most important aspects of day-to-day operation is safety in the kitchen. An unsafe restaurant is not one that will stay in business for long. Keeping your employees and customers safe is one of the most important duties of a restaurant owner. All it takes is a little know-how and consistent practice to avoid common hazards, stay safe, and assure day-to-day business goes smoothly.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
One of the most common kitchen accidents is slipping and falling. Despite the dangers of stoves, fryers, and sharp objects, a slip-and-fall is far more likely to send you from the kitchen to the hospital for a severe injury. By being aware of common hazards, you can easily reduce the chance of slipping and related injuries.
Common falling hazards include food spills, wet floors, clutter, and weather conditions such as snow or rain bringing in outside moisture. To prevent accidents, be sure to clearly identify and clean any spills immediately. Additionally, use proper floor mats to absorb moisture and prevent falls on slick surfaces. If possible, make sure your kitchen has a well-functioning drainage system and good lighting for better visibility.
Chemicals are a common part of kitchen upkeep. Most of the chemicals encountered in your kitchen will be cleaners such as soaps, floor cleaners, oven cleaners, and degreasers. Dangers can range from mild skin irritations to severe chemical burns. The first step to avoiding these issues is to educate your staff in proper handling techniques.
First, proper safety equipment needs to be provided to staff members such as non-latex gloves, aprons, and eye protection. Staff members need to be trained on the proper use of equipment, and adherence to safety practices should be enforced. Also, make sure chemicals are clearly labeled and safely stored on low shelves away from food products to avoid spills and other dangers. You may also wish to consider less toxic cleaning products to further increase safety.
When cooking, fire is a common and dangerous hazard. The key to increasing fire safety is to have the proper equipment on hand. While there are several different types of fire extinguishers, only class K fire extinguishers are suitable for a kitchen environment. These fire extinguishers are specifically designed to put out kitchen fires that are caused by animal fats, oils, and grease. When combined with these materials, the alkaline-based liquid spray from a class K extinguisher creates a foam that contains the fire’s vapors and robs the fire of oxygen.
This is a must-have piece of equipment for fire safety in the kitchen. Be sure to comply with OSHA requirements for your state. Keep your fire extinguisher nearest to where cooking fires may occur. Additionally, be sure to keep it in good working order and be prepared to pass training and safety inspections.
Often overlooked, a key element to restaurant safety is actually the physical well being of employees themselves. Restaurant staff members are subject to standing up for too long, lifting heavy objects incorrectly, and repetitive activities that can all lead to injury and unsafe outcomes.
For heavy lifting, make sure your employees are trained in proper methods to prevent injuries. Employees should be instructed to stretch before lifting, lift from the legs, and avoid straining or overexerting their muscles. Equipment such as harnesses, dumbwaiters, and carts should be available when appropriate to decrease the need for heavy lifting.
Standing in place for a long time can damage the joints, ligaments, and muscles in the back, hips, legs, and feet. To prevent these types of injuries, make sure your employees take breaks so they can stretch and relieve their muscles. On the job, consider placing thick rubber mats to increase cushioning and comfort for extended standing. Also, make use of stools and benches so your employees can rest as needed during their shift.
Repetitive tasks such as cutting or chopping can strain the joints and ligaments. However, these risks can be avoided with proper training and safety practices. First, ensure your employees are using well-maintained tools to assist them with intricate tasks. For example, keeping knives and other tools sharp decreases the effort required to use them.
Second, design the working environment to optimize comfort and safety. Use lift tables so your employees can physically position themselves in a way that’s comfortable. If possible, make the job easier with pouring machines, conveyor belts, dumbwaiters, and shelving and sinks that installed at a proper height.
Finally, spread out repetitive tasks among your employees to share the burden more equally. Be sure to make breaks mandatory so employees have time to rest and regain their strength. Not only is it good for their health, but it will decrease the risk of an accident.
Staying Safe In The Kitchen
Restaurant safety is all about attention to detail and taking small steps to prevent big accidents. When you practice safety awareness, proper employee training, and adherence to local OSHA regulations, you reduce your risk of common dangers. By following a strict adherence to well-defined safety standards, you not only keep your employees safe but also keep your business running effectively.