Keeping Your Restaurant Accident-Free When Managing and Cooking With Frying Oil
America’s love affair with fried foods has long been a catalyst for maintaining sound, back-of-the-house procedures. However, keeping employees safe by mitigating the risk of injuries from frying oil has proven to be tricky. So much so that foodservice accounts for the highest number of burns of any employment sector—about 12,000 annually—according to The Burn Foundation.
Teens are particularly vulnerable in fast food restaurants due to their inexperience and the pressure of a fast-paced environment. With frying oil temperatures sometimes reaching 500 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s no wonder that insurance companies are taking a hard look at restaurant safety procedures in the kitchen from coast to coast.
The Cost of Restaurant Safety
A research study from Restaurant Technologies, industry experts in the management of fryer oil, found the average risk for a restaurant is $46,000 per year primarily from the three most common types of injuries: strains and sprains; slips and falls; and burns and cuts. The survey also found that 60 percent of Workers’ Compensation claims in restaurants are linked to frying oil.
“One would think that burns are the top safety issue, because you almost never see a back-of-the-house employee without some level of burns. It turns out injuries from lifting are actually more common,” says Tina Swanson, vice president of customer experience for Restaurant Technologies. “These accidents that can result in soft tissue injuries and back strains can result in extremely high medical costs plus wage replacement.”
Swanson noted that lifting 35-pound jugs of frying oil is often the culprit of back injury and Restaurant Technologies' research shows sprains and strains on average are the most expensive. These lifting-related claims can average around $156,993 if they result in a permanent disability.
Restaurant Safety Training Tips From Foodservice Industry Leaders
Monterey, Calif.-based restaurateur and owner of the famed Sardine Factory, Ted Balestreri, says it’s important for kitchens to keep a close eye on the temperature of the oil.
“And if a fire does break out — make sure you don’t throw water on the oil.”
Balestreri also points out it’s imperative to keep fire extinguishers in close proximity to fryers.
Amsterdam Falafelshop is a top-it-yourself, seven-unit fast casual falafel eatery based in Washington, D.C., that uses plenty of frying oil in its daily operations. Arianne Bennett, the founder of the 12-year-old concept, says splashing hot oil is a major concern that is addressed with a three-day employee safety training period.
“Since we drop Falafel Balls live into the oil, we are always careful of the distance traveled between the item we are dropping and the oil itself, so that there is no splashing,” says Bennett. “Every restaurant should function with completely intact and operational equipment to avoid any accidents, but training is more important than anything in the workplace.”
Maintaining Safety Procedures in the Kitchen With Restaurant Technologies
Swanson agrees that training is crucial and says Restaurant Technologies' Total Oil Management takes employee risk out of the equation by automating the entire oil adding, filtering and disposal processes.
“Our mission is to get operators to understand the importance of running smarter, safer kitchens,” she says. “It’s especially important given the fact that the average kitchen goes through 300 pounds of oil each week. This means they need to add fresh oil, filter that oil, and dispose of that oil multiple times within that week. Without an automated system, this is a hands-on, dangerous process.”
Additional Restaurant Workplace Safety Tips
- Never store oil near any gas or electric equipment.
- Train employees how to maintain the right level of oil in fryers at all times as fryers can catch on fire quickly when levels are too low.
- Have employees check equipment regularly, especially fryers, to make certain they are off when not in use, during cleaning, or while draining. If the burner kicks on while an employee is draining oil, vapors can easily flame up and start a fire.
- Cover fryers when not in use.
- Train employees to know that an empty fryer should always be thoroughly dried, as deep cleaning usually leaves behind a small amount of water. When fresh oil is added and the fryer is turned on, the water left behind can shoot a stream of hot water, oil and steam onto walls, floors, nearby equipment, and employees. If it hits an open flame or hot surface, it can quickly flare up.
- Make sure training manuals are translated for those employees who are not fluent in English.
- Maintain high standards of cleanliness.
- Staff uniforms should be appropriate, including non-skid shoes.
- Hair should be tied back to avoid getting stuck on a piece of equipment or the like.
- Have a first aid kit handy and know when an employee needs to seek medical attention.
“We have burn cream gel and burn spray on hand in all our kitchens,” Bennett says. “That is followed by a trip to the hospital if it is exceeding the capabilities of our first aid box.”
“Better yet, eliminate some of the most common mistakes and risks with an automated oil management system,” adds Swanson. “That way, employees are not exposed to any of the common risks associated with fryers and fryer oil.”
Contact Restaurant Technologies today to discover the safety of an automated frying oil system.