Food service activities at universities, grade schools, and other large school events come with many hazards. It is not uncommon to have students help prepare and serve food. Some universities have culinary arts programs that allow students to work in the university’s food service department to gain valuable experience.

Common kitchen hazards include burns, cuts, strains/sprains, slips, trips, and falls. Other hazards, such as cleaning chemicals, fire prevention, and equipment use, should be addressed to minimize employee/student injury and facility damage.
Stay aware of these hazards and minimize them as much as possible by reviewing the guidelines below:

  1. Common Food Service Hazards

Slips, Trips, and Falls

  • Greasy/wet floors can lead to slips and falls. Clean up spills immediately and mop floors regularly.
  • To eliminate clutter, properly store all products and supplies.
  • Require all employees to wear slip-resistant footwear.
  • Ensure that non-skid floor mats are used in wet locations and that mats lay flat.

Cuts, Crushes, and Punctures

  • Teach employees/students how to properly handle, use, and store knives.
  • Unplug slicers, mixers, blenders, and similar machinery before cleaning.
  • Consider wearing cut-resistant gloves when cutting.
  • Do not use hands or feet to manually compact trash.
  • Instruct employees to let a falling knife fall and not try to catch it.
  • Do not allow underage employees/students to use slicers.
  • Have two people unload box trucks to avoid carts from tipping over.
  • Train employees on the proper way to unload box trucks to avoid getting hands crushed by the sliding door or lift.

Strains and Sprains

  • Instruct employees about proper body mechanics and lifting techniques.
  • Arrange work areas so materials are within convenient reaching/lifting distances.
  • Organize storage areas to stock heavier items on lower shelves.
  • Provide material-handling equipment, such as carts, to limit lifting and carrying objects.
  • Train employees on how to lift and carry a tray properly
  • During catering events, consider providing carts to move plates and food from the kitchen/prep area to the serving area.


  • Require employees to use proper hand protection, such as oven mitts, when handling hot pans.
  • Teach employees/students to stand to the side when opening ovens and automatic dishwashers to allow steam to escape.
  • Instruct employees/students to never carry or move containers containing hot oil or boiling water.
  • Allow fryers and hot cooking pots to cool before performing cleaning procedures.
  • Teach employees/students how to hold and carry hot plates.

Chemical Hazards

  • Clearly mark all cleaning chemicals used in the kitchen.
  • Train employees about the health and physical hazards of cleaning chemicals.
  • Train on proper handling, use, and storage of all cleaning chemicals used, including dilution procedures where applicable.
  • Instruct employees about procedures to follow when spills happen or if they come in contact with chemicals.
  • Provide required personal protective equipment for using cleaning products (gloves, safety goggles, respirators, etc.).
  • Show employees how to obtain and use hazard information, including an explanation of labels and safety data sheets.
  • Instruct employees to never mix cleaning chemicals as dangerous gases may be released.
  • Consider using safer cleaning products to reduce more hazardous chemical use.
  1. Fire Prevention
  • Ensure fire extinguishers are inspected and are not blocked.
  • Keep flammable objects away from flames.
  • Instruct employees on how to put out grease fires.
  • Teach employees how to use fire extinguishers.
  • Have an evacuation plan.
  • Inspect fire suppression systems and ensure exhaust hoods are cleaned regularly.
  1. Equipment Safety
  • Provide employees with equipment that has the necessary safeguards to prevent potential cuts or amputations.
  • Instruct employees how to use equipment properly.
  • Avoid electrical hazards by unplugging or deenergizing equipment before maintenance.
  • Repair damaged electrical outlets.
  • Inspect appliances and equipment regularly for cracks, frays, or other signs of damage.