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Kitchen Safety

Kitchen Safety Guide in Spanish
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Kitchens are busy places with the rush of preparation and, often, little free space to maneuver. While working, it is important to be alert, aware, and safety conscious. Never let your guard down—even during the slower times. The following are tips for kitchen safety.

First Aid
At least one employee per shift should be trained in basic first aid. If possible, train all employees. Keep enough first-aid supplies readily available and show everyone where they are kept. Make sure you have a variety of supplies to treat minor injuries. When administering first aid, always use disposable gloves and wash hands after removal. Ensure employees are properly trained and do not cause further injury to coworkers. Employees should only perform first aid if they have been trained. If an injury requires anything beyond basic first aid, consult a first responder/call 911. 

Knives

  • Knives are inherently dangerous with their sharp cutting edges and points.
  • Keep knives sharp. If knives are sharp, they cut easily and with little force, which helps prevent them from slipping off whatever is being cut.
  • Use the knife’s edge to cut away from you. Always know where the blade is pointed.
  • If you drop a knife, stand back and let it fall. Don’t try to catch it.
  • Wash knives carefully. Don’t just toss them in the dishwasher.
  • When not using, lay a knife down with the edge pointed down.

Fire and Hot Oil
Fire, hot oil, and hot items are necessary in a kitchen environment. Employees should be aware of how to work with these to maintain kitchen safety.

  • Never leave fire or hot items (grill, oil, pots, etc.) unattended.
  • Keep your mind on what you’re doing. Make others aware of conditions in the kitchen.
  • Never set water, a drink, or any other liquid where it can spill into a deep fat fryer or into hot oil. Upon contact with hot oil, other liquids can turn into steam and violently spray hot oil in all directions.
  • Be careful when you add food to a deep fat fryer or hot oil. If the fat is too hot or if there are pockets of liquid in the food, the hot oil can spray out.
  • Clean fryers in the morning when oils have cooled.
  • When lifting a lid off a pan of boiling liquid or hot food, remove the far side of the cover first so steam does not scald your hand.
  • When you take a hot pan or a cover from the fire and put it on a counter, leave a hot pad on the lid or utensil as a warning to others that it is hot.

Glass Utensils on Kitchen Burners
Be careful not to set glass utensils near fires. The utensils have the potential to explode and cause injury.

Food Poisoning, Spoilage, and Temperature Control

  • Keep foods either hot or cold, depending on the food. Bacteria can cause spoilage and food poisoning and grow best when food is lukewarm. Be especially careful with meats, raw poultry, seafood, foods with an egg base (like mayonnaise and egg salad), or bread items (like stuffing and puddings).
  • Make sure the temperature in your refrigerator is 40 degrees or below. Get a good thermometer for the fridge and keep it in an area where you can see and check it often.
  • Keep shrimp, lobster, oysters, etc. in the refrigerator on ice. Ideally, place seafood on top of ice, and the ice in a colander or other bowl, so the water can drain.
  • As soon as you have served stuffed poultry (chicken, turkey), remove any remaining stuffing so poultry can cool faster.

Chemicals
Besides the foodstuffs, there are a lot of chemicals in the kitchen.

  • Keep all labels on chemical containers.
  • Never mix different types of drain cleaners, bleaches, and strong acids because explosions or dangerous gases can result. Make sure these products are always used strictly according to the directions on the package and that the containers are properly sealed when not in use.
  • Have a professional check gas appliances occasionally to ensure they are vented and adjusted properly to avoid carbon monoxide leakage. Never use charcoal briquettes or similar materials to cook or heat indoors.
  • Volatiles (cleaning fluids, gasoline, and kerosene) are often flammable and can easily cause fires and explosions. They should never be stored in a kitchen.
  • Pesticides (bug killers, roach poison, and rodent bait) should be considered dangerous. If you get them on your hands, wash your hands immediately. Always use these chemicals away from uncovered food. Be sure they are not accessible to children or pets. Store carefully, preferably not in the kitchen.
  • If you must store cleaning chemicals and other possibly toxic non-food items in the kitchen, always store them on shelves below foodstuffs. Then, if they leak, they won’t get into the food.

Slips and Falls

Water, grease/oil, and food remnants are standard in kitchens and can cause employees to slip or fall.

  • If you spill something on the floor, clean it up. Keep a mop handy for this purpose.
  • Don’t leave boxes, stools, bags of groceries, or anything else out on the floor that could become a tripping hazard.
  • Glazed floor tile is beautiful, but dangerous. A thin coating of oil or soapy water can make it very slick. If you have a choice, avoid glazed tile for kitchen floors.

Walk-in Coolers and Freezers

  • Keep things dry.
  • Scrape away any ice buildup.
  • Squeegee floors regularly.
  • Wear rubber soled shoes.
  • Check safety releases on doors frequently.
  • Don’t overload shelves.
  • Access and use cold weather garments when working in a cooler or freezer.

Material Handling

  • Use carts, dollies, or other available devices to help carry the load.
  • Practice correct lifting techniques and get help with heavy or large loads.

Kitchen Electricity

  • Keep your eyes on the electricity in your kitchen; it can shock you or cause a fire.
  • Inspect all electrical cords. Watch for any breaks, cuts, or frayed areas on the cord. Fully replace any damaged or frayed cords.
  • Don’t overload circuits by using multiple plugs, extension cords, etc. If you have old wiring, get it checked by a professional for load carrying capacity.
  • Don’t use appliances near the sink or near liquids. If you must, have a wall socket near the sink that has a ground fault interrupter-type socket to increase the level of protection.

Meat Grinders

  • Use plunger when feeding meat.
  • Operate grinders only when feeding trays and throats have been installed.
  • Turn off and unplug grinder when not in use or when left unattended.

Slicers

  • Never put a hand behind the food chute guard.  
  • Never place food into the slicer by handfeeding or with hand pressure. Use a pushing/guarding device with chute-fed slicers.  
  • Use appropriate PPE, such as cut-resistant gloves, when using or cleaning a slicer. 
  • Use plungers to feed food into chute-fed slicers or use the feeding attachment located on the food holder.  
  • Turn off slicer when changing foods.  
  • Keep hands out of the danger zone on the back of the blade where the sliced food exits.  
  • Turn off and unplug slicers when not in use or when left unattended for any amount of time. 
  • Follow the company lockout/tagout program, turn off, and unplug the slicer before disassembling and cleaning. 

Bloodborne Pathogens

  • Avoid direct or indirect contact with anyone else’s blood and bodily fluids. 
  • Always wear disposable gloves when providing first aid. 
  • Use additional PPE (eye protection, shoe coverings, gowns, breathing barriers) if required by your workplace exposure control plan and/or the situation calls for additional layers of protection to protect you from bloodborne pathogens. 
  • Dispose of sharps in designated sharps containers immediately after use. Sharps are usually used needles but could include any contaminated broken glass, razors, or utility knives. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth during or after providing first aid. 
  • Remove disposable gloves without contacting the soiled part of the gloves and dispose of them immediately in a proper container. 
  • Thoroughly wash your hands (and any other areas) immediately after providing care. 

Additional Resources

WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

Ask a safety consultant

osha.gov
cdc.gov/niosh

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.

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