The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for enforcing commercial catering health and safety regulations which can cover a wide ranging spectrum of businesses including pubs, hotels, restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, bistros, contract caterers and others where food and drink is prepared and served for the general public. Many accidents occur in kitchens every day and it is the HSE’s responsibility to ensure that regulations are adhered to in order to minimise the risks. Of course, hygiene in the kitchen is also an integral part of kitchen workplace safety but that is the responsibility of the Environment Health Department which will be covered in a separate article contained on this website.
Common Causes of Accidents in the Kitchen
The predominant causes of injury in a commercial kitchen are from slips, trips and falls, manual handling which can result in musculoskeletal injuries and exposure to hot or harmful substances.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Most slips, trips and falls in kitchens occur due to wet floors so it’s important to wipe up any spillages that occur immediately and to dry the floor. Warning signs saying ‘wet floor’ and even cordoning off certain areas are actions which should also be taken after spillages or after mopping the floor during cleaning until it is dry. Often, it’s an uneven floor or loose or damaged floor tiles which are responsible for slips and trips so it’s necessary to keep floors well maintained as well as clean and passageways or any areas where staff might walk should be kept free from any obstructions or obstacles.
You need to pay great attention to things which you lift in the kitchen, especially as certain items can be extremely heavy and/or difficult to manoeuvre. Never push, pull or drag heavy items as you might suffer from a musculoskeletal injury. Where items are heavy, ask a colleague to help you lift them and, if it’s still too heavy, use a lifting device in addition to following basic health and safety guidelines on how to lift objects.
You need to take great care when using knives in the kitchen and also beware of glass objects. You need to follow safe procedures when using knives and other sharp kitchen utensils and when handling items made of glass as both can cause severe damage in the form of cuts.
Exposure to Hot and Harmful Substances
Oil and other fluids such as water are commonplace in kitchens and it’s important that you take extreme care when working with or in close proximity to hot liquids. Always ensure they are covered when not directly working with them and be careful when carrying any pans or containers with hot liquids in which could splash and scald either yourself or fellow workers. The HSE also publishes safe procedures for things like opening steam doors and the draining and cleaning of fat fryers, for example. Other substances which can be harmful are cleaning materials which, if handled incorrectly, can cause skin rashes and conditions such as dermatitis. Even handling certain foods can cause dermatitis and other skin conditions such as eczema and these are some of the more common causes of absenteeism within the catering and hospitality industry.
Other Areas of Concern
The risk of fire is never that far away in a kitchen so it’s important that all electrical and gas appliances are fully maintained and are fit and suitable for the job. Proper ventilation will also be a major consideration as well as issues like climbing ladders. Therefore, it’s imperative that you carry out a full risk assessment of your kitchen facilities and ensure that they meet the requirements under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 and that all equipment used is authorised, bears a British Standards Institute kitemark or an alternative equivalent and that the staff who are using the equipment have been fully trained and are competent in using it. Additionally, all equipment which is connected to an electricity or gas supply should be installed by a suitably qualified engineer and be subjected to regular testing by an appropriate professional.
@SY - I have included a link to the CAB leaflet herewhich tells you about what under-14s are allowed and what they are not allowed to do in the workplace. If you are unhappy about the children being in the workplace, you should have a word directly with the owners. I hope this helps.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 12-May-15 @ 12:25 PM
Hi Our local cafe allows under 14 year olds to serve food during school holidays (these are the owners children). They also allow 6,7,8 year olds to wander in and out of the kitchen while their mothers, who work there, are in for a coffee. Likewise when the mothers are not actually on duty they go in and out of the kitchen to pick up what drink and food they want. Is this allowed, should they not be treat as customers when they are not on duty. There is no evidence that they wash their hands when entering the kitchen
SY - 10-May-15 @ 8:31 AM
@Allnut - I think in this case you might want to give Age UK a call, as I'm not sure this would fall into age discrimination because it falls under the voluntary sector and obviously it is because of health and safety concerns. Please see link here . I hope this helps.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 24-Feb-15 @ 11:06 AM
My mother-in-law helps out at many church events and has now been told that the over 80's are no longer allowed to help out in the kitchen! Is this correct?
Allnut - 21-Feb-15 @ 1:50 PM
@shirl - I have included a HSE link here. If you cannot locate the information in the article, you would have to get in direct contact with the HSE as we do not have that information. I hope this helps.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 3-Feb-15 @ 11:36 AM
I work In a pasty shop.I'm sure the ovens are too high.They have two ovens stacked on top each other.Must be about nearly 6 ft high is that legal.
shirl - 1-Feb-15 @ 11:49 AM
@none - I think the best thing is to direct you to the HSE, if you can't locate what you need from the information on the page, you can contact them via the link here . I hope this helps.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 29-Jan-15 @ 2:23 PM
We have recently had a major refit to our kithen at a charity centre where i work
as a voluntere, the eye level grill however seems to high for some of the kitchen
staff to operate.
could you please confirm if there is a legal requirement concerning the hight of the above.
none - 28-Jan-15 @ 3:31 PM
Tillyhamm, you can't wear a watch in any kitchen and is correct because it has bacteria, it can heat up and you can burn yourself ect. there are many accidents that it can cause.
lillybub - 10-Sep-14 @ 9:38 AM
I have recently changed my job as a domestic to a kitchen assistant at the residential home where I work. I have now been told by the kitchen manager that I can no longer wear my watch, due to health and safety. I would like to know if this is correct.
Tillyham - 28-Jan-13 @ 5:56 PM
I use a frying pan with a lot of oil for frying eggs,if feel it is not safe to do this,as it could get knocked over, there is no temp control ect, are there any rules governing this?
taff - 2-Jan-13 @ 1:03 PM
I cooking on a electric stove and my pots are sliding all over the place.
help me please before someone get hurt.
what canI do?