When people hear about food safety, their minds automatically go to food poisoning or spoiled and mishandled food but dangers aren’t just inside of the food; they’re hidden all over the kitchen. Did you know that kitchens are the most dangerous room in houses, hotels and restaurants? It’s true!
Think about the last time you cut your finger on a knife while either cooking or trying to open a package. Not only did it hurt but it also made you think, wow, if I had just taken this step or that step, I wouldn’t be bandaging my finger right now. This is how people learn from their mistakes making the next time you’re in the same predicament, much safer.
In a home kitchen, the live and learn technique usually works great but when you’re working with many people in a hot and sometimes cramped professional kitchen, the percentage of having any kind of accident increases enormously.
Anyone who’s worked behind the scenes of a catering business or inside of a professional kitchen knows that when the mealtime crowd rushes in, the hectic pace in the kitchen also speeds up. Mix this with sharp utensils, stove fire, oil, lots of cooks and other high quality kitchen machinery and equipment, you’ve just made the perfect recipe for disaster. That is, only if you and your staff aren’t well prepared and trained on how to always be two steps ahead.
Some of the most common kitchen accidents are caused by fires, electrical appliances, steam, oil, hazardous materials and hard to reach places. Here’s why:
- Fires – This is one of the more obvious hazards since stoves and ovens are always lit with fires and yet, it’s one of the biggest accidents to happen in the kitchen! Long or loose fitting sleeves can catch a flame or perhaps have some drops of oil on the wrist area causing it to become a flammable torch rather than a protective barrier. To prevent this from happening, it’s best to wear a flame retardant chef’s coat or roll the sleeves up to the forearm.
- Electrical Appliances – Faulty or frayed wiring, burned out sockets or old appliances can also cause fires and electrocution if not checked on a regular basis. Before each shift, all electrical appliances, sockets and even lighting should be checked since the last thing you’ll ever want is an electric spark near the stove.
- Burns – Burns and scalds come as minor and major injuries from every angle you turn in a professional kitchen. Whether it’s boiling liquid droplets or a large spill of bubbling oil, you must be on high alert at all times! Most people are aware of these types of burns but tend to forget the steam that comes with covered pots and pans that can cause serious damage to the skin. To help stay alert, keep all pots covered when unattended or when boiling hot liquid and also keep arms covered in well-fitted flame retardant sleeves. When opening covered pots, ALWAYS open away from your face, never towards yourself.
- Hazmats – The word ‘kitchen’ and ‘hazardous material’ aren’t often put together but certain chemicals kept in the kitchen are considered hazmats by the Occupations Safety and Health Association (OSHA). Some of these products are hand sanitisers, cleaning liquids, certain oils and pesticides that are used in the kitchen for obvious reasons but should they accidentally get mixed into a customer’s order, it could cause serious side effects which is never good for business. Many kitchens keep a checklist close by to remind them which chemicals are considered hazardous to ensure that these products are always put away before the food is brought out.
- Slips and falls – Falling off a stool or chair happen so frequently that there are television commercials broadcasted all over the world. There are even parodies made because it’s always the fault of the person who fell. If there’s something in storage that’s too high up to reach, ladders are sometimes used and not set up properly or chairs are pushed for a quick hop up, often not stable enough to support an adult’s weight. If you need to get something that requires additional help, bring a spotter along with you to make sure you climb up and down safely. As for trips and falls in a professional kitchen, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the bustle and forget to clean up after yourself but it’s such an important task to include. Leaving a fallen onion on the floor or a mop leaning against the wall is a disaster in the making with people running through to grab their orders, often not looking where they’re going. Always pick up after yourself to help keep a clear walking line for all staff – it’s that simple!
Just for a little bit of fun, take a look as this poor woman gets hit with just about every possible accident that can happen in a kitchen:
Accidents in the kitchen can occur quite often if preventative measures aren’t taken early on. Many companies are required by law to follow certain regulations and codes to keep the kitchen safe for customers and more importantly, food service workers. To help food business owners pass all points of inspection, it’s important to have an Internal Food Safety Audit conducted within their kitchen/s.
Internal Food Safety Audits will ensure that all employees are aware of potential hazards but also, will make certain that food business owners will take the proper measures ahead of time to keep common kitchen accidents to a minimum.
As long as you’re two steps ahead of potential safety hazards in the kitchen, you can be guaranteed to have a safe kitchen that keeps customers satisfied and coming back for more!