Safety in the Kitchen

Written by Lance Redditt

October 29, 2021

Kitchen safety is something all restaurant owners know is important. However, how do we ensure that our kitchens are a safe place for employees and customers alike? With so many potential hazards, it’s vital to take into account where these dangers can occur in order to best prevent accidents.

Foundationally, it’s always important for staff members to follow all procedures carefully. Beyond this, let’s turn our attention to the main areas of safety concern in a kitchen: food, equipment, and fire. We’ll also brainstorm a few additional ways to further protect our employees from work-related injuries. Let’s address these areas in more detail to make sure we are optimizing kitchen safety practices, keeping staff and customers as safe as possible. 

Procedural Safety

Since it’s a lot easier to prevent an accident than to deal with the aftermath, proper procedural safety training is important to consider. It’s necessary that every staff member receive complete and comprehensive training when they begin their employment. Otherwise, there can be an increased risk for error and liabilities in situations that could have easily been avoided. One certification that can be helpful for employees to take is the ServSafe training offered by the National Restaurant Association. This training offers a great starting point for learning sanitation practices and food safety, along with cross-contamination prevention. Ensuring proper training when employees begin employment is a great place to begin.

However, over time some of these initial training details will likely be forgotten. For this reason, it may be a helpful practice to periodically offer refreshers for your employees, just to make sure everyone is still on the same page. Of course, it is also always vital to make sure employees are kept informed on any new changes in procedures as well. 

Now that we have set the groundwork, let’s focus on some specific areas of kitchen safety we need to stay vigilant in.

Food Safety

No restaurant owner wants a customer to get food poisoning or any other kind of food-borne illness from their kitchen. In order to ensure everyone’s safety, make sure employees always properly store and handle foods. Correct temperatures, both in storing and serving, are especially important for meat products. 

Additionally, while no employee should come to work sick, it’s vital for those working in a kitchen to be in proper health when they show up for their shift. Staff members also need to understand the importance of preventing the spread of infection in the restaurant industry and to know how to report and respond to illnesses.

Equipment Safety

Kitchen staff are constantly using equipment in the restaurant, so it’s important to make sure they are using it properly and that the equipment itself is being maintained. Follow these three main points to help prevent any mishaps: 

  1. Inform. Make sure employees are using the equipment correctly, for its intended use as stated in the instruction manual.
  2. Maintain. Make sure appliances are placed in locations where they won’t be exposed to water, and check chords to make sure there are no frays or cracks. If there is damage, the equipment should no longer be used until it can be properly repaired. Also, always have a professional perform frequent checks on equipment to make sure it’s functioning properly.
  3. Repair. If a piece of equipment is malfunctioning or broken make sure it is repaired by a professional.

Fire Safety 

Around 5,600 fires are reported each year with one of the most frequent causes being cooking, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. For this reason, it is important to make sure staff are always attentive when preparing food. Additionally, proper fire safety equipment should be in place including fire extinguishers (for different types of fires), lights and emergency exit signs, and consider getting equipment that has fire suppression systems. 

In addition to attentiveness and proper equipment, there should be procedures in place for prevention and in case of an emergency. Some examples include, not keeping flammable items near flames, training staff on how to use a fire extinguisher, which one to use, and how to extinguish a grease fire, training employees on your evacuation plan, and instructing them on how to turn off energy sources should a fire occur. 

Employee Safety

Lastly, you can further improve the safety of your employees by implementing a few easy steps. First, make sure all staff have proper uniforms and safety equipment. 

Beyond this, the following common kitchen injuries can largely be prevented with these simple solutions:

  1. Cuts. These can be prevented by ensuring staff members know the proper handling of sharp objects such as knives and broken glass. 
  2. Strains and Sprains. Keep often-used items close at hand and make sure proper lifting techniques are taught and followed.
  3. Burns and Eye Injuries. Make sure staff use the proper equipment when handling hot objects or substances that could damage the eyes, such as oven mitts and safety glasses.
  4. Falls. Ensure that spills are attended to promptly and signs are set out to alert staff and customers of wet floors. Additionally, anti-slip runners can be a great preventative measure in the kitchen.    

While this may feel like a lot of different areas to consider, it ultimately comes down to having proper equipment for your restaurant and making sure your employees are adequately trained. With these few simple safety measures in place, you can rest assured that customers and employees will be able to enjoy a safe dining and working experience.  

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