America’s love affair with fried foods has made cooking oil a staple in all commercial kitchens. However, with fryer temperatures reaching up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, mitigating the risk of oil-related injuries has proven to be tricky. According to a survey of workers’ compensation claims in the industry, roughly 60% of all reported injuries were related to cooking oil. Not only can these accidents cause serious harm to your employees, but they can also jeopardize your business by disrupting daily operations and leading to costly claims.
Properly managing your cooking oil is one of the most effective ways to protect your employees from dangerous injuries while keeping your kitchen running smoothly. Since your staff plays the largest role in everyday kitchen tasks, it’s crucial that you thoroughly train them on how to safely handle cooking oil.
Understanding the Dangers of Cooking Oil
A bubbling fryer is an obvious hazard, but cooking oil doesn’t even have to be hot to lead to major accidents. Teaching your employees about common oil-related injuries can help them anticipate and navigate potential safety threats. Cooking oil is the common culprit behind a wide variety of injuries, including:
- Burns and scalds: According to the National Burn Foundation, food service workers experience more burns than any other industry. Many of these burns occur because of hot cooking oil, either through accidental splashing or direct contact with a fryer.
- Slips and falls: Spilled cooking oil or grease buildup on the floor is a recipe for disaster, especially in a busy kitchen. It’s estimated that approximately 30% of slip and fall accidents in the restaurant industry are related to cooking oil.
- Strains: Jugs of cooking oil can be incredibly heavy. Even if your employees follow all safety precautions and wait for the oil to cool completely before transporting it for disposal, they could overexert themselves while carrying a large container.
Train Your Staff in Cooking Oil Safety
Keeping your staff up to date about common risks and best safety practices will allow them to make informed decisions when dealing with hazardous situations. Though there are many different aspects to commercial kitchen safety, these are a few main points to emphasize when discussing cooking oil:
Always Maintain a Clean Kitchen
Kitchens are fast-paced environments. As your employees rush around during a busy dinner service, they have to be cautious about all of the hazards around them. Should your restaurant become cluttered or dirty, your workers won’t be able to anticipate or respond to potentially dangerous situations. Implementing rigorous cleaning tasks can prevent serious accidents from occurring, even in the busiest moments. Your employees should always:
- Clean oil splashes and spills immediately
- Eliminate grease from floors and hood vents daily
- Reduce clutter on surfaces, especially near fryers
- Keep walkways completely clear of obstructions
Save on Your Insurance Premiums.
Get end-to-end cooking oil management & clean hood solutions to help you create a safer, more successful business.
or call us 24/7
Wear Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The right gear could make the difference between a dangerous accident and a close call. Not only is PPE a requirement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but it is also one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to minimize risk in your kitchen. Some examples of PPE in a commercial kitchen include:
- Non-skid shoes
- Slip-resistant mats
- Gloves and oven mitts
- Face masks
- Hair ties and nets
Safely Store Cooking Oil
Poorly stored cooking oil could lead to greasy floors, kitchen fire hazards, and other avoidable safety risks. Thankfully, you can easily remedy this problem by implementing a safer storage system and training your employees in best practices. To safely store your cooking oil, follow these tips:
- Never store oil near any gas or electrical equipment: Cooking oil and grease are flammable, which is why they should always be stored far from any equipment that could spark a fire.
- Always maintain the correct levels of oil in fryers: Low levels of oil in your fryer have a higher risk of catching on fire. Instruct your employees to maintain optimal levels of oil to prevent an accident.
- Thoroughly dry all empty fryers: Even tiny droplets of water can cause oil to bubble or splash as it becomes hot. After washing empty fryers, your staff should thoroughly dry each one before turning it on.
- Cover the fryers when not in use: During slow hours, your staff should keep fryers covered. Not only does this reduce the risk of splashing or burning, but it also keeps contaminants from entering your food.
- Keep heavy jugs between shoulder and knuckle height: Heavy jugs of cooking oil can cause strains, slips, or falls when carried improperly. To encourage proper lifting technique, store clean oil at a comfortable height or provide a dolly for safer transportation.
Follow Safety Precautions When Handling Oil
Kitchens are full of hazards. Though full safety training should cover everything from managing sharp objects to proper lifting technique, there are a few key tips to highlight when discussing cooking oil:
- Slowly lower items into hot oil to avoid splashing
- Never keep water or other liquids near the fryers
- Watch the electrical cord to prevent snagging
- Always allow the oil to cool before transporting it
- Turn the temperature down during slow hours
- Request assistance when moving large jugs of oil
Respond Effectively to Emergencies
Careful preparation and training will equip your staff with the tools and knowledge they need to maintain a safe environment. However, accidents are always possible. Preparing for emergency situations will help your workers avoid injury even in worst-case scenarios. When it comes to cooking oil emergencies, your employees should know:
How to Locate and Use a First Aid Kit
Basic first aid training could save a life. Always invest in adequate training for new recruits, and provide routine refreshers for long-term staff. Also ensure that first aid kits are easily accessible, fully stocked, and ready to use at any given time.
How to Put Out a Grease Fire
Most people reach for a bucket of water the moment they notice open flames. However, grease fires don’t behave the same way as other types of fire. Responding incorrectly to a grease fire could cause the flames to spread, resulting in even more damage or injury. Teach your staff to put out a grease fire by:
- Turning off the heat
- Covering the pot with a metal lid
- If the fire is small, using baking soda
- Using a Class B fire extinguisher
- NEVER pour water on a grease fire
- NEVER transport hot oil or active flames
- NEVER use flour or other ingredients to smother the fire
When and How to Evacuate
In the absolute worst-case scenario, a grease fire could force your employees to evacuate the kitchen. Train your employees to identify uncontrollable emergency situations and create a solid evacuation plan that will guide your staff and guests to safety. To minimize property damage, also have at least one worker per shift who is prepared to turn off all equipment, gas, and electricity prior to leaving the building assuming it is safe to do so.
Prevent Injuries With Automation
In a busy kitchen full of safety hazards, human error is bound to cause an accident. That’s where automation can help! Investing in advanced tools and equipment will take the pressure off of your employees while promoting safety throughout your business, resulting in time and cost savings that will keep your business running without a hitch.
At Restaurant Technologies, we strive to make cooking oil management easy for you and your employees. From automatic grease cleaning systems to hands-free oil disposal and delivery, we have created a variety of solutions that are designed to simplify daily tasks while mitigating the safety risks associated with cooking oil. To learn more about how we can help improve your kitchen with automation, contact us today!Back to Commercial Kitchen Safety