Don't be a Clown in the Kitchen.
Daydots Food Safety Solutions
Tuesday, 24th July 2007
Clowning around in the kitchen can be a dangerous act -

And if you're not careful, it can lead to serious employee injuries as well as become a potential food safety threat. In today's competitive foodservice climate, it may be tempting to relegate employee safety to a side show.

However, by moving foodservice workers' safety to the center ring, companies can accomplish many of their significant goals. A company that has an active safety program not only sees a reduction in workers' compensation costs and staff turnover but also experiences an increase in employee productivity.1 A safe work environment leads to benefits for customers as well.

Customers benefit from consistent food quality, timely service and an improved company reputation. Managers and employees must keep safety in the center ring by following all safety practices. In order for a company to experience the benefits of an established safety program, a thorough hazard assessment should be conducted. A hazard assessment is an identification and analysis of all injury-producing conditions and instruments in the workplace.

It includes a review of existing controls, work practices and personal protective equipment. The assessment also includes determining where new controls or work practices will benefit the goal of injury prevention and workplace safety.

Preventing Cuts, Lacerations and Amputations.

Walk into any thriving foodservice kitchen on a Saturday night and it will seem like a choreographed knife juggling act. Knives, in many forms, are necessary for any foodservice establishment. However, they are also one of the major causes for work-related injuries.2 To reduce this hazard, consider what could be used to eliminate or minimize knife injuries.
  • Evaluate different knives that could be used in the workplace
  • Seek employee feedback
  • Investigate and test knife options appropriate for the task
  • Specify which task is completed by which knife, when sharpening is needed and where to store them
Employees must be trained on appropriate work practices when performing tasks with knives. Have small group training sessions lasting five minutes or less. The trainer could focus on the proper use of just one type of knife or knife safety in general.

The priority for the employer is to help ensure the safety of its employees. Most foodservice establishments also utilize equipment that includes blades such as meat slicers, cutters and grinders. Every company must be aware of state and federal laws prohibiting teen workers (less than 18 years of age) 3 from setting up, operating, cleaning or repairing such equipment. This equipment should be clearly labeled and the Department of Labor provides a downloadable sticker on its website.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sprains, strains and tears were the leading cause of non-fatal injuries during 2005.

Many of the over 500,000 incidents resulted in fractures, back injuries, head traumas and other injuries.4

Even more alarming is the average cost of a sprain/strain injury: $15,757 reflecting medical and indemnity.5 Preventing slips, trips and falls is closely linked to good housekeeping. Good housekeeping is EVERYONE'S job and everyone plays a role in its success or failure. Purchase "Caution: Wet Floor" signs, grease-resistant and slip-resistant mats and slip-resistant shoes.

The easier it is for an employee to clean up a spill, the more likely they will do it. Keep "Wet Floor" signs available and inspect them periodically to ensure they are legible and are working properly.

Each year, thousand of used needles are improperly discarded.6 From one discarded needle, it's possible to contract HIV, Hepatitis B or C. Train employees to protect themselves.

Supply required PPE. Use tongs to pick up needles and dispose them into specifically-designed containers. Use a broom and dust pan to dispose of broken dishware. Dispose of waste according to state and federal regulations and not in the trash.

The best way to avoid exposure to bloodborne pathogens is to assume all sharps are contaminated. Most importantly, train employees to report any contact with needles or sharps immediately.

Thousands of burns can be linked to the foodservice industry each year.

It's injury causing if not life threatening not to have a burn prevention process. Even the smallest burn makes performing every day kitchen functions painful and often impossible. Identify tasks which expose workers to steam, hot oil and high temperatures that could result in burns.

Every employee needs to be given proper protective apparel. Heat-resistant aprons and oven mitts provide the best defense. Employees should wear long pants and shoes made from non-porous leather to prevent burns to the legs and feet.

And convenient access to these items may drastically decrease the risk of burns in your establishment. Burns usually occur when:

  • Management has not enforced or properly trained employees on safety rules
  • Employees ignore the safety rules
  • Employees take shortcuts
  • Employees are fixed on time
  • Employees become laxed in their job and take uneccessary risks
  • Employees are sick, tired or compromised by an addiction and they are not able to concentrate
Training your employees to properly lift and move heavy loads can greatly reduce their risk of injury and save you from costly lawsuits and medical fees.

The general rule: When lifting heavy objects, squat down, bend at the hips and knees and grip the load, arch your back inward by pulling shoulders back and sticking your chest out, push up from the heels of your feet so your legs do the work and not your back.

Also, teach your employees to follow these simple guidelines:
  • Use dollies, carts and auto lifts to do the work for you
  • Clear the path of any obstacles that may cause you to slip and fall
  • Two-person lifts distribute the weight of a heavy load so no one employee is over tasked
From cut-resistant gloves to thermal aprons, the last safety defense for employees is also one of the most misunderstood.

OSHA has been aggressive in requiring employers to provide appropriate PPE for each task. 29 CFR 1910.132 requires employers to conduct a hazard assessment to select the appropriate PPE to protect an employee from a recognized hazard.

Each position must have written documentation of the outcome and be certified by the conductor of the assessment. Ultimately the employer is responsible and accountable for ensuring employees wear designated, assigned PPE.

Hazard Communications as it is known by OSHA, is the third leading cause of citations and fines issued by the agency. All chemical containers must be labeled.

Containers bought from the manufacturer should already have a clear label, but if the chemical is transferred from its original container, the employer must label the new container. Along with labeled containers, employers are required by OSHA to maintain Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on every chemical stored at the employer's location.

They indicate flammability, toxicity, proper PPE to use, chemical ingredients, first aid procedures and proper chemical storage. Copies should be maintained for the required 30 years.

4Hoteliers Image LibrarySICKNESS
From colds and flu to stomach viruses, there is always something going around and it spreads quickly in the workplace.

Foodservice operators are concerned that a sick employee can infect another employee or customers.

First and foremost, every manager should have a policy in place that tells employees what to do when they are sick.

Bottom line is if you're sick stay home. Employees should also know how many days they can call in sick before it negatively affects them. Plus they need to know who to call and how much advance notice they have to give.

It is your obligation to provide a safe working and eating establishment for your employees and customers.

An effective employee safety system that helps prevent these injuries and properly treats accidents when they occur is well worth the time and minimal expense.

[1]American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) White Paper addressing the return on investment for safety, health and environmental management program. LLC, Inc. A Safety and Risk Consultant Company.
[2]National Safety Council. Occupational Injury Facts. Page 57.
[3]Department of Labor, Prohibited Occupations for Non-Agricultural Employees and 29 CFR 570.2 - Minimum age standards.
[4]These figures reflect only employee incidents.
[5]Keep in mind these are only the direct costs. Indirect costs can be ten to twenty times the direct costs.
[6]Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV/AIDS FAQ. 7OSHA Compliance Assistance, 29 CFR 1910.1200 Hazard Communication Standard and Appendixes Retention of MSDS for 30 Years. 29 CFR 1910.1020 Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records Standard. OSHA Standard Interpretation Letter About 29 CFR 1910.1020.

Published with permission from Daydots, Inc.,an Ecolab Company

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