According to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. And while food service might not seem as risky as other industries, many dangers lurk within the four walls of your facility’s kitchen. That’s why it’s crucial to have documented safety policies for your dining program.
If you already happen to have a safety program for your food service team, when’s the last time you evaluated it? If you don’t have a safety program, it’s time to implement one ASAP.
By putting preventative measures into place now, you can avoid the common consequences of workplace injuries, which are lost time, higher worker’s compensation premiums, and decreased morale.
Here are the four biggest food safety concerns in food service today and how you can address them.
1. Cuts and Lacerations
With the amount of cutting that happens in kitchens, it’s no surprise that cuts, lacerations, and punctures are the most common injury (making up 22% of all restaurant injuries). Your food service employees are chopping, mincing, and dicing foods daily (especially if your team makes all food from scratch!). And it’s not just knives that are to blame. Tools like slicers, mixers, grinders, and blenders also contribute to these types of wounds.
To prevent these injuries, we recommend keeping your knives sharp. While it sounds counterintuitive that a sharp knife is safer than a dull one, it’s true. Sharp knives make it easier to cut through foods and give your chefs more control as they’re working with the blade. Dull knives have a higher tendency to slip, which increases the danger. When it comes to sharp machinery, always ensure that you’re maintaining your tools according to the product’s manual and that machinery is unplugged when not in use.
To reduce injuries at the facilities we partner with, Culinary Services Group requires chefs to use a cut-resistant glove when working with sharp tools. Team members are also required to complete a knife safety training and skills course prior to working in our kitchens.
2. Slips and Falls
These injuries make up 20% of all restaurant accidents. According to the National Safety Council, “about 9.2 million people were treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries in 2016.”
But falls are 100% preventable. If you use step ladders in your kitchen to reach high places, the National Safety Council recommends that these ladders have a locking mechanism in the front and back to hold them open. When using the ladder, place it on a solid surface and always keep two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand on the ladder when in use.
The council also recommends that people wear slip-resistant shoes when working. Culinary Services Group requires our staff to wear non-slip footwear in our kitchen and dining rooms at all times. We also implement a Safety Program and nominate a Safety Captain at each facility who regularly conducts safety audits. During these audits, the captain looks for anything that’s out of place, broken, or that poses a risk to employees or residents. Our Safety Program also teaches proper cleaning and sanitation techniques, which helps your team keep floors clear of liquids, oils, grease, or debris.
3. Sprains and Strains
The third most common injury (15%) among restaurant employees is sprains and strains. These can occur when employees bend down to grab something in a low cabinet or when they lift heavy objects without the proper technique. One way to prevent these injuries from happening is adding floor mats to your kitchen. Your employees are likely standing for most of their shifts, and this can lead to strain on the hips, backs, legs, and feet. A padded floor mat can help reduce this strain (and also might help prevent slips and falls!).
To address strains and sprains, the Culinary Services Group Safety Program trains team members on proper lifting techniques for big kitchen objects (like large vats of oil or heavy machinery).
4. Burns and Scalds
The final most common injury is burns and scalds. These account for about 13% of all restaurant injuries. Kitchens are full of hot oils, hot pans, hot surfaces, and more high-temperature dangers that can lead to burns or scalds.
According to Safety and Health, A few ways to prevent these types of injuries are to make sure burner flames cover just the bottom of a pan, don’t wear loose clothes around hot surfaces or pans, and don’t leave hot oil or grease unattended.
Culinary Services Group requires all of our team members to use proper mitts or aprons in front of hot items that could spill or splash in order to protect them from serious burns. We also train staff to turn off stoves when not in use, move handles of pots and pans away from their bodies, and even use a ladder to clean ventilation equipment instead of standing on the equipment itself.
We know that creating a safety program for your dining team may not be as fun as menu planning or experimenting with new ingredients, but it’s a crucial step at every facility. Assess your program to ensure that it addresses the top four safety concerns in food service. If it doesn’t, you may be leaving yourself open to large costs and liabilities.
Culinary Services Group safety programs have been proven to reduce risk. Our MOD rates (how much facilities pay monthly in workers’ compensation premiums) are about 20% less than the industry average rate. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you improve safety at your facility, contact us here.