Workplace safety should be an everyday collaborative effort between employers and employees. When working in a commercial kitchen, there are many workplace hazards that pose a burn, fire or laceration injury threat. This Burn Awareness Week, Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America (BRCA) is helping reduce the risk of injury in commercial kitchens by raising awareness and providing helpful hints to keep employees safe. With increased awareness and precaution, these hazards can be avoided, making the workplace a safer and cleaner environment for both employees and patrons.
Cutting the Risks
When it comes to handling knives, you can take a few precautions to cut the risks!
- Keep knives sharp to help prevent slipping or having to apply extra pressure to the blade.
- Keep knives put away when not in use.
- Consider using a no-cut glove or finger shield to protect your fingers while chopping.
- If you have not been educated on proper chopping/cutting techniques, ask for training.
A cut in the kitchen can be a biohazard and infection risk, which is why it is extremely important to protect your fingers and hands and practice proper wound care if a cut occurs. If a deep cut occurs, wrap your hand in a clean towel, apply sufficient pressure to slow bleeding and seek medical attention at your local emergency department or wound care facility. If an amputation occurs, put the amputated digit on ice and bring it with you to your local emergency department.
Extinguishing the Fire Hazards
Kitchen fires can cause extensive injury, death and thousands of dollars in property damage. Preventing kitchen fires comes in three steps: Identification, reaction and precautions.
Fryers, ovens, microwaves, grease build-up, overcooked food and cooking with alcohol are just a few fire hazards in the kitchen. Here are some tips to help identify fire hazards before they occur:
- Check appliance cords to make sure they are not frayed or damaged.
- Keep cords off the floor and out of the footpath.
- Make sure there is a fire alarm in the kitchen. An alarm will help ensure a fire does not go unnoticed.
- Keep flammable items put away. Anything with an alcoholic base should be kept away from the heat, along with grease products or bi-products, kitchen towels or oven mitts.
- Do not keep plastic items near the heat.
- If employees are allowed to smoke, make sure they know where the designated smoking area is and that smoking towers are available to put out cigarettes safely.
- If it’s smoking, it’s burning. This goes for ovens, microwaves, stove eyes or anything else that may smoke with nothing on or in them. Smoke means there is a build-up of grease or other debris that has the potential to catch fire.
Fight the instinct to move the object on fire and use good judgment to determine if the fire is small enough to manage yourself or if emergency services need to be involved. If a fire does happen:
- Do not attempt to move the pot or pan.
- If it is a grease fire, turn off the heat source. Do not throw water on the fire. Instead, use a metal lid or cookie sheet to smother the flames.
- If it is not a grease fire and is small enough, use the fire extinguisher located in your kitchen.
Every commercial kitchen should practice fire drills and have a fire evacuation plan. All employees should know the evacuation plan, where the fire extinguisher is located, how to use the fire extinguisher, activate the alarm and call 911. If there is something on this list you are unsure about, ask your manager immediately.
Everyone should be an active participant in fire prevention. To help prevent kitchen fires:
- Wear tight-fitting clothes to help keep your sleeves or other materials from catching fire.
- Keep your work area clean.
- Wear closed-toed, nonslip shoes.
- Keep a working fire extinguisher.
- Have and maintain fire suppression equipment.
- Make sure all doorways are easily accessible and free of hazards.
- Arrange the food prep station to be easily accessible to avoid overreaching.
Fire suppression equipment includes sprinklers, fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems. Fire extinguishers should be examined by certified personnel at least every 1-6 years, depending on the type of extinguisher. However, once a month, an employee should visually inspect the fire extinguisher to make sure it is in the designated spot, easily accessible and full.
Cooling the Burns
A burn in the kitchen can be severe. Knowing what to do or how to treat burns when they happen can make all the difference in the recovery process.
- Do not cool with ice. Rinse with tepid water for up to five minutes.
- Remove all jewelry from the affected area.
- Do not burst any blisters. Instead, cover the burn in a loose-fitting dry, sterile bandage.
- If the burn is worse than a sunburn, consider a visit to your local burn center.
Initially, a burn may present minor and worsen over time. This is normal but usually requires treatment. Infection risks increase with burns, and those who suffer burns are encouraged to seek medical attention to ensure their burn is properly cleaned and dressed.
Cleanliness is Key
In the end, workplace cleanliness plays a large role in employee safety. With that in mind:
- Ensure all spills are cleaned up as soon as they happen to avoid slips.
- Clean vent hoods often of grease and build-up.
- Clean all appliances inside and out of debris or build-up.
- Make sure the floors are clear of hazards.
BRCA believes everyone, no matter their occupation, should feel safe in their work environment. However, it takes everyone working together to make the workplace a safe environment. For more tools on how to prevent fires and burns at work or home, please visit us at www.burncenters.com.