Common Health & Safety Issues In The Kitchen (And How To Avoid Them)
At Johnsons Restaurant and Catering Linen, we understand that in any commercial kitchen, the risk of injury is always prevalent. Working with boiling liquids, sharp knives and open flames all come with their unique risks, and require strict practices and health and safety procedures to counter their potential hazards, thus reducing the threat of serious injury. It’s important to take care whenever you’re working in a kitchen, but certain practices can go a long way to ensuring the safety of yourself and your fellow employees. Here, we take a detailed look at the common health and safety issues in the kitchen to provide knowledge and expert insight on how best to avoid them
Slips, Trips And Falls
Arguably the most common form of injury to occur in the kitchen is through slips, trips or falls created by improper maintenance and health and safety practices. You must maintain your kitchen, removing obstacles and hazards whenever they appear, particularly spillages or floor contamination as this can lead to serious injury. Here are some of the key hazards to look out for to avoid slips, trips and falls in the kitchen:
- Floor contamination and spillages - e.g. water, oil, sauces and flour.
- Wet floors from cleaning.
- Obstructions - e.g. trailing cables, boxes, crates, bins and cleaning equipment
- Uneven, worn or loose flooring.
Floor contamination is one of the most common sources of slips, trips or falls occurring in the kitchen, and as people move around on their feet, sometimes transporting hot food, boxes and crates or even crockery, glassware or sharp knives, the importance of clear and stable pathways cannot be underestimated. Below are some of the essential methods of preventing slips, trips and falls from occurring in the kitchen:
- Good Housekeeping - cleaning spillages, removing obstructions and clearing pathways.
- Remove cables from walkways.
- Take extra care when cleaning - avoid puddles, use wet floor signs and dry correctly.
- Use ladders appropriately.
- Share heavy loads with co-workers.
- Report issues with flooring and carry out repairs.
Much like any workplace, many injuries in the kitchen occur through manual handling. Manual handling is one of the most common sources of injuries in the UK, and typically involves the handling of heavy items or loads that could cause injury if incorrectly lifted, pushed or carried. Manual handling tasks that could potentially cause injury include:
- Lifting boxes or crates
- Pushing or pulling trolleys
- Carrying pots/pans or stacks of plates
- Handling liquids (beer kegs and casks)
- Reaching or stretching for shelves
- Loading or unloading
Carrying heavy loads improperly can lead to injury, so vital health and safety guidelines must be followed, including risk assessments, to reduce this hazard. There are certain practises that you can carry out to reduce the risk of injury caused by manual handling and these typically include:
- Keep the load close to your body.
- Have a firm grip.
- Adopt a stable position (back straight, legs shoulder-width apart etc.).
- Test the load, if it’s too heavy, do not lift.
- Clear your pathway.
- Use trolley, keg trucks and other equipment to help.
Manual handling should be an important part of your training programme, provided by your employer when you start your new job. Any guidance should be updated regularly, with further training taking place whenever changes are made. You should retrain and refresh your employees at least once a year to ensure guidance is understood, updated and most importantly, followed.
A necessary evil when working in kitchens, using knives can always lead to injury if incorrectly handled or looked after. As a chef, small cuts and nicks are inevitable but there are proven methods worth implementing to reduce the risk of serious injury. For instance, though it may sound illogical, sharpening your knives is one of the best ways to reduce injury as blunt knives are more likely to slip from your hand, which can easily result in serious cuts and puncture wounds. Blunt knives typically require more force to chop with, thus increasing the strain on the chef’s arms, wrist and elbows. The same applies to storage. Storing your knives appropriately and with sufficient organisation will increase your overall safety. Leaving sharp blades on chopping surfaces or in a disorganised manner is a shortcut to a serious accident.
When it comes to the appropriate method of chopping and cutting, ensure a strict practice is adhered to across the board, and that all staff are regularly trained or refreshed in these techniques to further minimise the risk of accidents or injury.
Dermatitis and Skin Irritation
A fairly unspoken health and safety concern for those working long hours in a kitchen environment is the effect it can have on your skin. Dermatitis is a common skin condition that is triggered by frequent contact with food, water and harsh cleaning chemicals, resulting in sore, irritated skin that typically resembles a rash. This can have a debilitating impact on employees, but in a mental and physical sense, and often results in time away from the kitchen to restore their skin to its healthiest condition. Below are some of the essential steps you should consider to reduce the risk of dermatitis and skin conditions occurring in the kitchen:
- Use utensils when handling food.
- Protective equipment when cleaning, (e.g masks, gloves etc).
- Provide sensitive hand wash and moisturiser.
- Ask staff to check their skin regularly and offer support.
Maintaining strict practices and open communication with employees will help to ensure guidelines are followed and skin irritation concerns are kept to a minimum.
Fire and Electrical Hazards
Electrical equipment and open flames are particularly commonplace in the kitchen and can have serious ramifications if incorrectly looked after or ignored, leading to the potential ignition of fires, third-degree burns and electric shocks. This can have serious ramifications on your business, with employees having the right to take legal action, or in extreme cases, your kitchen could even be forced to close due to fire damage. Below are some of the essential practices you should put in place to minimise the risk of fire and electrical hazards:
- Remove cardboard boxes, packaging and flammable items from the kitchen. These can act as potential fuels or ignition sources for fires to take place.
- Ensure flammable materials are kept away from heat sources and take care around open flames.
- Wear suitable clothing (e.g. chef’s jacket).
- Check your appliances and electrical items for signs of damage (e.g, exposed wiring, fraying or burn marks).
- Clean up spills and excess liquids immediately.
- Keep electrical items away from the water supply.
- Turn off electrical equipment when not in use or after you close.
Staying vigilant is imperative in the health and safety of your kitchen, so whenever excess liquids or cardboard boxes begin to pile up, it’s essential they are dealt with or removed as soon as possible, therefore reducing the risk of fire or electrical hazards from causing untold problems.
Lifting and Carrying
Carrying heavy loads or lifting loads incorrectly can lead to physical injuries in the kitchen. When moving crates, boxes, plates and crockery the risk of muscle strains and musculoskeletal damage is increased and this is directly attributed to the lifting, pulling or moving of heavy loads. Muscle strains are musculoskeletal injuries that are typically associated with:
- Overexertion - incorrect lifting of heavy objects.
- Overextension - overreaching when handling items.
- Repetitive Strains - injuries related to repeated motion, muscle overuse or bad posture.
To prevent these kinds of injuries from occurring, it’s important to maintain your posture and stick to the rules and regulations of proper load handling or step-ladder use. Use a step-ladder when working at height to reduce overreaching and wherever possible, use specialist equipment to limit overexertion.
Johnson's Restaurant & Catering Linen By London Linen - Table Linen and Chefs Wear Across The UK
At Johnsons Restaurant & Catering Linen by London Linen, we provide high-quality chefs wear and linen to businesses across the UK. Our uniforms have been carefully designed considering elements such as comfort, functionality, temperature, choice, design and safety so your employees look professional and feel their best.
We provide everything from tablecloths and napkins to full kitchen services for the group and independent restaurant market. Today we provide quality linen across the whole range of restaurants that the capital boasts, from casual dining to fine dining. We have developed a range of products that are both traditional and contemporary and service methods that complement and enhance our customer’s experience. Contact us today for more information.