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Kitchen Conundrum: How Safe are Your Food Service Employees?

Mar 12, 2008
It's a Saturday night, the restaurant is full, the foodservice kitchen is humming. Employees are focused on serving their customers as quickly as possible. There's not much time now for thinking about safety. However, foodservice safety is a bottom line to any successful business. Regardless of the restaurant's reputation or customer satisfaction, a focus lacking in foodservice safety can lead to serious employee injuries as well as food safety.

A company that has an active safety program not only realizes a reduction in workers' compensation costs but also an increase in employee productivity. Customers benefit from consistent food quality, timely service, and improved company reputation.

To fully realize these goals, a thorough hazard assessment should be conducted. The assessment will identify and analyze all injury-producing conditions and instruments in the workplace. The assessment also includes determining where new controls or work practices will benefit the goal of injury prevention and workplace safety.

Slips, trips and falls
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sprains, strains and tears were the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in 2005. Of the more than 500,000 injuries, many resulted in fractures, back injuries, head traumas, and other injuries. When translated into dollars, the average cost of a sprain/strain injury was $15,757 reflecting medical and indemnity. It goes without saying, preventing slips, trips and falls boils down to good housekeeping. Employers should 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.

Burn Injuries
Even the smallest of burns can make performing every day kitchen functions painful and even impossible. Annually, thousands of burns can be linked to the foodservice. Employers should identify tasks which expose employees to steam, hot oil and high temperatures. Heat-resistant aprons, and oven mitts provide the best defense for employees.

Burns most often occur when:
Management has not properly trained or informed employees on safety rules
Employees ignore the safety rules or take shortcuts
Employees become laxed in their job and take unnecessary risks
Illness, tiredness, or addiction affect an ability to concentrate

Proper Lifting
Training employees to properly lift and move heavy loads also greatly reduce the risk or injury. It will also save employers from costly lawsuits or medical fees. In addition to training employees on the correct way to lift heavy objects, employees should also use dollies or carts to do the lifting work for them, ask a buddy to assist him or her, and clear the path of obstacles.

Preventing Cuts and Lacerations
On a typical busy night, a local foodservice kitchen may resemble a juggling knife act. Necessary for any foodservice establishment, knives are one of the major causes for work-related injuries. In an effort to reduce the hazard of knife injuries, consider the following:

Evaluate different knives that could be used in the workplace. Involve employees and seek feedback. Test knife options appropriate for the task. Specify which task is completed with which knife, when sharpening is needed and where knives should be stored.

Employee training is key regarding work practices with knives. Brief small group training sessions could focus on the proper use of one type of knife or knife safety in general. Most foodservice establishments also utilize equipment such as meat slicers, cutters and grinders. Companies should be aware of state and federal laws which prohibit those under 18 years of age from setting up, operating, cleaning or repairing such equipment.

Also important is the training of employees on the correct use of utility knife box cutters when opening supply boxes and food shipments. Product damage as a result of careless box cutting accounts for millions of dollars in loss for businesses each year. Razor blades or broken pieces from box cutter blades can also contaminate products, resulting in potential hazards for consumers. Recently, a customer of a Bradenton, Florida, McDonald's restaurant reportedly found a razor blade in her breakfast sandwich. Reports did not indicate how the razor blade got there, but one TV report mentioned that box cutters were used to open cartons of food supplies.
About the Author
Safecutters Inc., provides an online store of utility knife box cutters for opening shipping boxes and shipping packages, as well as safety knives to open moving boxes and packages. For more information about Klever Kutter and other Safecutters products contact us!
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