We often become callous to just how dangerous a kitchen can be as a workplace. How many other “offices” require employees to work with scalding pots, sharp knives, or slippery floors? As managers, we can never allow ourselves to become complacent when it comes to the safety of our employees. Proper training and internal feedback are keys to establishing a safe work environment.
By following a few simple rules, and authorize employees to make sure the rules are followed, kitchens can become both safe from injury and less physically demanding as well.
Rule #1: Form and empower a safety committee
The best way to discover possible safety hazards is to simply talk to the employees. The people working in the kitchen know firsthand any area or action that may be hazardous. Every employee recognizes dangerous activities or occurrences that put them at personal risk. Allow them to voice their concerns and listen. Work together to establish new safety rules, without dismissing these actions as being too inefficient or toocostly. Think of the costs involved should an employee become injured. Also, empower any employee to stop any action or situation that is dangerous. There is no excuse for putting a co-worker at risk of injury.
Rule #2: Allow the committee to work autonomously
The safety committee should be formed of employees representing all areas of kitchen personnel and front of the house, also. Management should not act as the group leader, but more in a consulting role. The reason for management not directing the safety team is to establish that the employees are in charge of their safety, and that management is not purposely overlooking any safety concerns because of cost to correct them. Once the committee makes recommendations, it is management’s duty to make the situation right. Failure to do so makes the committee meaningless.
Rule #3: Train employees in all aspects of safety
Kitchen safety is not limited to eliminating horseplay. The first type of injury thought of in a kitchen is a cut, but slip and fall is the number one type of injury in a kitchen, followed by muscle pulls/strains, burns, and, finally, cuts. Employees need to understand the importance of a dry, non skid floor. They need to know how to use equipment safely. First aid and the use of fire extinguishers should be taught. Proper lifting techniques are also important. Correct use and storage of a knife is not enough; how to sharpen a knife is equally important because dull knives cause more injuries than sharp knives. Take the time to teach employees how to work smarter and safer.
Rule #4: Always complete and file accident reports
Unfortunately, no matter how much attention to safety your kitchen adheres to, there will be times when an employee gets hurt. No matter how minor the incident may seem at the moment, take the time to fill out an accident report. Small cuts can become infected. Minor slips can result in strains or pulls. By documenting all these accidents, not only can a manager determine any certain problem areas that exist, but they also have documentation for any future claims an employee may make. By having all incidents reported, insurance companies can handle claims correctly.
Rule #5: Be vigilant
Once an unsafe condition or action is discovered, act immediately. Correct the action on the spot and explain why the act is unsafe. If you encounter an unsafe condition, immediately take the proper steps to have the situation fixed, either by internal maintenance crews or by calling an outside company. The key is to act swiftly. Remember, you can never put a cost on employee safety.
Safety concerns should never be taken lightly. Showing true concern for the well-being of your employees not only helps with insurance concerns, but it is also the right thing to do. If anyone has any more questions, please feel free to contact me at 777-2380.
Chef Bill Knapp, FMP