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.