Working in a kitchen environment is fun and fast-paced; however, there are many risks in daily kitchen life. The following guidelines will help you create a
safe, functional operation that protects your employees and produces safe food products for your customers.
Workplace injuries cause a range of problems, including injured personnel, loss of productivity and/or wages, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) violations and potential lawsuits. Identifying the dangers in your operation can allow you to create policies and procedures that will ensure a safe working environment.
SLIPS, FALLS AND OVERHEAD HAZARDS
- Water, grease, oil and slippery food spills are classic kitchen hazards. Be sure spills are cleaned up immediately using a designated mop/brush and appropriate degreasing floor cleaners. “Wet Floor” cautionary signs should be used as needed. Encourage employees to wear slip-resistant footwear.
- If you are building a new kitchen facility, be careful when selecting flooring. Some highly finished or glazed tile floorings are a high fall-risk when wet.
- Always keep floor areas clean in kitchen and storage spaces. Because kitchens are high-traffic areas, boxes or equipment left on the floor may be a trip hazard.
- Avoid stacking boxes, pots, pans and other equipment on high overhead shelves. Over- stacking can cause things to fall onto an employee. Also, proper stepstools should be provided if goods are stored out of normal reach.
CUTS AND BURNS
- Employees should be required to wear a mesh/ metal cutting glove when preparing certain foods, such as hard fruits and vegetables or meats, and seafood with bones.
- Proper knife skills, including the type of knife, hand placement and cutting angle should be reviewed with all employees. Knives should always be cleaned and stored properly.
- Potholders should be used at all times when handling hot equipment.
- Pot and pan handles on a cooktop should be pointed inward to avoid knocking and spilling hot food.
- Loose articles of clothing and unrestrained hair should be prohibited in cooking or open-flame areas.
- Be certain that fire safety is reviewed with employees, and ensure that they know the proper ways to treat different types of fire (for example, water should never be put on a grease fire). Fire extinguishers should be functional, approved, up- to-date and always present in the same, designated and convenient location.
- Ensure that all electrical equipment is plugged into an outlet with appropriate wattage/voltage, and avoid overloading any one outlet or circuit. Discuss options with a professional electrician.
- Avoid using extension cords if possible. Closely monitor all electrical cords to watch for any excessive wear, cuts or frayed portions, and repair these immediately.
- Be very careful to avoid the use of electrical appliances in wet areas or near kitchen sinks, as the risk of electrocution is high. If outlets must be in potential wet areas, discuss the safety socket options with an electrician.
Store Foods and Chemicals Properly
Food and chemical storage are an essential part of any food operation. If you are constructing a new space, be sure to plan for separate and appropriate storage spaces for both. In the case of pre-existing kitchens, create designated food and chemical storage areas, and keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Volatile cleaning fluids, gasoline, kerosene or other gases (most of which are highly flammable) should never be stored in a kitchen area.
- Other cleaning supplies that may contain bleach, strong acids or pesticides must be stored separately from any food items, and should be clearly marked on labels and cabinets.
- If chemicals must be stored in the kitchen, consider a designated cabinet, and always make sure containers are tightly sealed and are stored below counter level to avoid any risk of leaking into food or onto food surfaces.
- MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) should be available for reference, and all employees should be instructed how to properly use each chemical.
- Never mix different types of chemicals, and only use them according to specific instructions on the packaging.
- If you are operating gas appliances, beware of the dangers of carbon monoxide, and be sure to have your appliances, vents and gas lines checked regularly by a professional.
Uphold Food Safety
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.1 Five identified pathogens account for over 90% of those food-related deaths: Salmonella (31%), Listeria (28%), Toxoplasma (21%), Norwalk-like viruses (7%), Campylobacter (5%), and E. coli O157:H7 (3%).2 To avoid becoming any part of these statistics, strict adherence to food safety rules is essential to any food service operation – no matter how large or small.
While most people in the food industry are generally familiar with some food safety, such as avoiding the infamous “temperature danger zone” (41°–140°F/5°–60°C), there are many more factors to consider. The best way to ensure safety in your facility is through education – educate yourself and your employees. An excellent resource for food safety topics is www.foodsafety.gov, which provides a wide range of information including minimum cooking temperatures for meat, poultry and seafood; fresh produce safety; safe handling of eggs and dairy products; information to help identify and prevent foodborne illnesses; as well as timely food safety news and events. Furthermore, since all members of the food industry are responsible for producing safe food, the website offers valuable information about inspections and compliance issues, including risk assessments, import/export guidelines, as well as how to ensure that your operation remains compliant based on the regulations set forth by government agencies (FDA and USDA).
Other great educational resources are food safety classes and certifications. Perhaps the most well-known, the ServSafe® program is recommended by the NRAEF (National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation) and offers a variety of options including local classes, online courses and assessments, and employee guides. It is essential that all members of the food operation, from executive chef to dishwasher, be educated on food-safety topics.
Lastly, to ensure that learned principles are being consistently applied in your establishment, consider creating an HACCP plan. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) is a food-safety management system in which the identification, control and elimination of biological, chemical and physical hazards aim to ensure a completely safe final product. This system can be made relevant and applicable for everything from large-scale food manufacturing plants to small local restaurants. There are many online resources to help you understand HACCP and how its principles may be implemented in your operations. The FDA offers a broad scope of the program here: www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/HazardAnalysisCriticalControlPointsHACCP/default.htm.
Manage Employee Health and Practices
Ensuring safe and healthy practices among your staff allows you to feel confident that you are protecting your employees while making a safe food product for all consumers.
- Establish clear guidelines for your employees to follow, keeping in mind the following:
- Employees must be trained in proper hand- washing, including when hands must be washed, which sink may be used, as well as the appropriate soap and drying material.
- Personal hygiene must be respected by all employees, including regular bathing, fingernail cleaning and body hair maintenance. Sick employees should be examined prior to beginning work and sent home if there is any risk of spreading illness.
- If you provide uniforms for your employees, be sure to consider the type of work being
done and what type of materials and uniform style would be appropriate. For example, you may want to consider long or short sleeves based on your kitchen operations.
- A hat or hair restraint should be a part of anyuniform – chef hats, hair nets, other hat types may be used.
- Create a glove policy so that gloves are worn at appropriate times such as when preparing ready-to-eat foods, to cover a skin lesion, etc. Also explain when gloves should be changed, to avoid cross-contamination.
- Have a clear jewelry policy. Loose or dangling jewelry can be a hazard to the employee and also may be a physical food hazard.
- If heavy lifting is part of a particular job, be sure that you provide employees with back protectors (if applicable) or instruct them in proper lifting to avoid injury to themselves or
others. No employees should lift beyond their own lifting capacity.
1, 2 Food-Related Illness and Death in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mead et al.
Accessed 19 Nov. 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/ vol5no5/mead.htm