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How to Prevent Burns in the Kitchen

Two smiling restaurant workers

In a fast-paced kitchen full of hot surfaces, burns are one of the biggest safety risks that your staff will encounter on a daily basis. Food service workers are over ten times as likely to suffer from a burn than employees of other private industries according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. To protect your staff from painful and dangerous injuries while keeping your kitchen operating smoothly, it’s crucial to implement safety policies and procedures that focus on burn prevention. Here are some of the most effective ways to reduce burns in your restaurant:

Provide Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Conducting a workplace hazard assessment will allow you to identify key safety risks throughout your kitchen, including areas where burns are most likely to occur. To help your employees minimize their risk in hazardous areas, be sure to provide or require appropriate PPE such as:

  • Aprons or uniforms
  • Long sleeved cotton shirts and pants
  • Insulated potholders and oven mitts
  • Food-grade or cut-resistant gloves
  • Close-toed, anti-slip shoes
  • Slip-resistant floor mats
  • Wet floor signs

Poorly fitted or improperly used PPE can pose a serious safety threat. For example, an apron that is too large could snag on a hot pan and cause an accident. To ensure your employees are getting the most out of their PPE, provide adequate training. Discuss the limitations of each item and give instructions on how to wear, adjust, use, and care for every piece of PPE. 

Train Your Employees in Best Safety Practices

Your employees play a vital role in the overall safety of your kitchen. Thorough training will teach them to navigate hazardous spaces and avoid accidentally injuring themselves or others. Restaurant safety training should cover everything from sharp objects to hazardous cleaning chemicals in addition to burn safety. However, these are a few top burn prevention tips to emphasize during your training sessions:

  • Stand to the side when removing lids from hot pots or pans
  • Wait for high-pressure cookers or ovens to cool before opening
  • Slowly ease foods slowly into hot pans, boiling water, or oil
  • Inspect equipment before use for issues like loose handles
  • Request assistance when moving heavy pots of hot liquid
  • Communicate with coworkers when moving hot pots or pans
  • Ensure that the stoves are not overcrowded
  • Strategically place handles to avoid snagging and spilling pots or pans
  • Avoid trying to catch falling objects that are hot or sharp
  • Double check that hot surfaces are off before touching them

Keep Your Restaurant Clean and Well-Maintained

Cluttered surfaces, slippery floors, faulty equipment… few things are more dangerous than a poorly maintained kitchen. To reduce burns and other accidents in your restaurant, it’s important that you and your employees work to keep everything clean, clear, and in good working condition.

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Implement Daily Cleaning Tasks

Cleanliness is paramount in a busy kitchen space. A single misplaced pan or upturned rug on the floor is all it takes for a worker to get burned, cut, or otherwise injured. For the safety of everyone in your restaurant, your employees must stay on top of daily cleaning and decluttering tasks:

  • Always keep walkways clear of tripping hazards
  • During service, store unnecessary items to eliminate clutter
  • After service, properly store all products and supplies
  • Clean up spilled liquid or oil immediately
  • Check for upturned corners or bunching on floor mats
  • Wash grease off of walls and floors

Manage Your Grease Buildup

With hot surfaces, open flames, and bubbling oil, restaurants are full of fire hazards. One of the biggest aspects of kitchen fire safety is grease management, since grease residue can act as fuel for flames – especially as it builds up in your exhaust hood. Depending on your kitchen’s cooking volume, your employees may need to clean the hood each day to avoid accidentally sparking a fire. 

Daily grease removal can be cumbersome for your employees, which is why Restaurant Technologies designed the AutoMist®. This system automatically sprays a mixture of non-hazardous detergent and water on your exhaust hood to prevent grease buildup while eliminating the need for everyday cleaning. 

Get Regular Professional Maintenance Services

Faulty equipment is another leading cause in burn injuries. Even small issues, such as a wobbly handle on a pot, can lead to major accidents. Investing in quality equipment at every level will ensure your staff is set up for safety and success. Regular maintenance throughout your restaurant will also keep everything running smoothly. From electrical systems to kitchen appliances, routine service from a qualified expert will prevent dangerous malfunctions. 

Properly Manage Cooking Oil 

Poorly managed cooking oil is a huge hazard in the kitchen, and it accounts for some of the most serious burns in the restaurant industry. Just one OSHA accident report describes a worker who sustained second degree burns across their body after slipping on spilled oil while transporting two 5 gallon buckets of hot oil. Unfortunately, thousands of similar incidents occur each year. To reduce risk for your staff, follow these cooking oil safety tips:

Teach Your Staff Correct Frying Technique

Proper training is essential for budding chefs. Katie Payne, a chef instructor at Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality Studies, explains that a fryer of hot oil can be intimidating for new recruits and is a common source for major injuries. Thorough instruction and frequent practice is the best way to reduce risk. 

Though it sounds counterintuitive, “Getting your hands near the oil is usually the safest way to put food into the fryer,” Payne says. For example, the proper technique for frying battered fish is to lower it into the oil slowly, hold it briefly and then swirl it gently once or twice to help the batter set. Done properly, the filet will float rather than fall to the bottom of the fry basket where it can stick to the metal grate. “If somebody’s intimidated, that’s how you end up with the ‘flinging’ technique, or someone just dropping it straight into the hot oil and getting splashed.”

Payne allows inexperienced students to use tongs to add food to the fryer, but she encourages them to use their hands once they gain experience. “Tongs do provide a little space between your flesh and the oil, but most, once they understand how to handle it, use their hands.”

Use Best Fryer Safety and Oil Preservation Practices

Hot cooking oil that is poorly stored or monitored could lead to life-threatening injuries, especially during rush hours when employees are moving fast. Slips, spills, and issues with transporting old oil are some of the most common causes of severe burns in the kitchen. To avoid cooking oil accidents in your kitchen, teach your staff to follow these policies:

  • Never change or filter hot oil; change only after it’s cooled
  • Never deep clean a fryer manually without letting it cool overnight
  • Carefully ease foods into hot oil to avoid splashing
  • When not using the fryers, turn off the heat to prevent injury
  • During slow periods, lower the fryer temperatures
  • Keep fryers covered during downtimes
  • Never mix water with hot oil and remove excess liquid before frying
  • Clean up spills or splashes immediately to prevent slipping
  • Never perform tasks above heated oil, such as hood vent cleaning
  • Consider implementing a closed-loop empty-and-refill system

Invest in a Portable Cooking Oil Shuttle System

Cooking oil disposal can be a dangerous and labor-intensive task. If your employees attempt to transport hot oil, they run a high risk of sustaining serious and potentially life-threatening burns. And even if they do wait for the oil to cool completely, your staff could still become injured when shuttling heavy jugs from the kitchen to the disposal area. 

To solve this problem, Restaurant Technologies designed a portable cooking oil shuttle system that protects kitchen workers while streamlining the oil disposal process. With connector hoses and fully enclosed tanks, your employees will never have to touch a drop of oil again. Each solution is also customized to your unique kitchen needs, and our staff will automatically deliver and pick up oil to keep your business running smoothly without disruption. Learn more about Total Oil Management today!

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