Safety risks are the norm in any kitchen. Knives can cut, fires can burn and feet can slip, causing minor and not-so-minor injuries. These hazards are multiplied in a commercial kitchen, where extra personnel, high-volume food preparation, heavy-duty equipment and a quick working pace all enter into the equation. A properly equipped kitchen and a trained staff make all the difference in improving workplace safety in a commercial kitchen.
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Lighting and floors
A commercial kitchen needs an adequate amount of light to provide workers a full view of all food service equipment, food preparation areas, kitchen storage pantries and refrigeration units. Floors should be swept and mopped regularly to remove debris and grease build-up; anti-slip mats will improve foot traction in high traffic areas. Floorspace should be kept clear of any obstructions or trip hazards, including discarded peels, food packaging, equipment and power cords.
Knives are among the most commonly used type of commercial kitchen equipment, and therefore, represent one of the greatest safety risks. Storing and using knives responsibly will go a long way toward worker safety. Store cutlery in a wooden, butcher-block-type knife holders. This keeps the knives sharper---a sharp cutting blade is safer to use---and prevents cooks from having to root around in drawers in search of them. Save the drawer space for utensils without cutting edges: measuring cups, spoons, spatulas and scoops.
An ounce of fire prevention is worth a pound of fire restoration. Make sure cooking appliances are completely free of any materials that could catch fire, including refuge, unused oil, grease build-up and hand towels. In a commercial food service operation it is especially important to ensure that fire suppression systems such as sprinklers are in place, in compliance with local building safety ordinances, and remain operational at all times. Have these systems inspected and tested regularly, and teach all employees how to use them.
There are good reasons to provide kitchen staff with clean uniforms, and it goes far beyond the aesthetics. Food service uniforms are designed specifically to protect cooks from some of the hazards of the kitchen. Flame-retardant material reduces the risk of burns, while aprons offer clothing and skin some measure of protection from hot oil or water. Cushioned, rubber-soled shoes prevent slips and falls and allow cooks to stay on their feet comfortably for long periods of time. There are even special gloves to protect hands during cutting and chopping.
Chefs and other experienced kitchen workers will already know basic knife skills; however, entry-level staff may benefit from training on basic knife technique and safety. Food service workers should also receive instruction on fire procedures and other emergency procedures. Make sure each employee is well-versed in local commercial kitchen safety regulations, including proper hand-washing, kitchen sanitation and proper food handling and storage.
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