June is National Safety Month, and what better way to celebrate than to ensure your restaurant is ahead of the curve for work safety? Kitchen safety should be a priority for all restaurants, especially because injuries and illnesses cost the industry millions each year in worker compensation and lost productivity.
Injuries and illnesses are most commonly caused by unsafe work conditions, which is why it is vital to examine every aspect of your restaurant to minimize potential dangers. Sharp objects, high temperatures, and wet surfaces are just a few reasons why restaurant kitchens are dangerous, but maintaining a safe environment can be relatively simple.
Let’s discuss eight areas to focus on in order to keep your workers safe:
Floors can and will become greasy or wet on any given work day, and the fast-paced nature of the hospitality industry means workers are liable to slip and fall. In fact, slips and falls account for 20% of all restaurant worker injuries. Non-slip mats are a great way to ensure that these types of accidents are avoided; workers can continue working without having to worry about slipping and falling. In addition, restaurants should always have wet floor signs on hand, so they can be used wherever they are needed.
Cuts and lacerations from knives and other sharp objects are actually the most common form of injury for restaurant workers, making up 22% of injuries. Restaurant owners and managers should create checklists for employees to follow to ensure all equipment is handled properly. This checklist should include training for handling/using the equipment, cut-resistant gloves, inspecting the condition of equipment, and proper storage.
When it comes to commercial grade equipment, like mixers, slicers, and grinders, restaurants should fit each appliance with equipment guards. These guards prevent extremities from accidentally slipping into the equipment.
Burns and scalds make up 13% of restaurant injuries, but many minor burns may be going unreported each year. Much like with cuts and lacerations, burns can be prevented by training employees how to properly handle and use equipment. Potholders should always be clean and easy to reach, and employees should be required to wear durable, closed-toed footwear.
Fires are always a risk for restaurants, but much can be done to ensure employee safety if/when one breaks out. With grease fires being so prevalent in restaurants, the first line of defense should be a fire suppression system. These systems connect to the gas line and the range hood and automatically cut the fuel source when a fire starts. These systems also spray fire suppressants when a fire is detected.
In addition, every employee should know how to use the suppression system and be familiar with general fire safety tips. Employees should know where fire extinguishers are and should know what to do when evacuation is necessary.
Chemicals can be dangerous to both employees and customers because they harm exposed skin and can also be harmful if absorbed into food. Wearing the proper attire – like closed-toed shoes – can help prevent injuries in the event of spills, but having a safety checklist is also necessary. Employees should be trained to ensure chemicals are always in the correct containers and stored properly.
Electrical fires might not be as common as grease fires, but they can be just as devastating. Every restaurant employee should be trained on how to recognize electrical fire hazards. The easiest way to spot potential hazards is to examine cords for any sign of damage, but employees should also follow manufacturer instructions for all equipment/appliances. It’s also important to never overload outlets or circuits.
A kitchen that lacks proper ventilation is liable to become hot and smoky, which is very dangerous for employees who spend entire shifts there. If employees are exposed to hot and smoky temperatures for long periods of time, they could become ill. It is a legal requirement to have proper ventilation in your kitchen, so make sure to clean your ventilation system often to ensure it functions properly.
8. First Aid
While it is vital to address the seven tips listed above, injuries in the workplace can never truly be eliminated. When injuries do occur, every restaurant should have a well-stocked first aid kit to ensure employees can be taken care of.
Restaurant kitchens are busy, fast-paced environments that are full of dangerous equipment. Failing to properly address the safety concerns listed above could hurt your restaurant’s profits and productivity. Instead of taking that risk, make sure to properly arm each and every employee with the proper equipment and knowledge to minimize workplace injuries.
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