Safety & HCM Post

Serving Up Safety in the Kitchen

In the food industry, electrical shock is not the only hazard you have to worry about; other pitfalls lurk in a commercial kitchen, too.


The toaster was unplugged! Again! Frustrated, 18 -year-old Mike* knelt down to plug in the toaster. Within seconds, Mike was convulsing on the floor. The assistant manager of the fast food restaurant ran to the breaker box to shut off the current, but he couldn’t find the appropriate breaker. By the time the emergency response team arrived, Mike had been in contact with the electricity for anywhere between three to eight minutes. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Investigators concluded that while Mike was plugging in the toaster with one hand and holding open the grounded metal receptacle cover with his other, his index finger touched an energized prong of the plug, resulting in an electrical shock across his chest. *This fatality is, unfortunately, real. Only the name is fictional.

In the food industry, electrical shock is not the only hazard you have to worry about; other pitfalls lurk in a commercial kitchen, too.

Slips, trips and falls
Always clean up spills (water and grease) immediately, and wear slip-resistant footwear. Keep your work area clutter-free.

Cuts and abrasions
Keep knives sharp for better control, and wear steel-mesh gloves when cutting. Always cut away from the body on a proper cutting surface.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and aprons, and use oven mitts when handling hot dishes. Extra caution (and PPE) is also required when working around deep fryers. Heat illness Take scheduled breaks in a cool environment, and drink plenty of water.

Electrical shock
Don’t use equipment with loose or frayed wiring. Unplug and lock out kitchen appliances before cleaning and maintaining them. Do no overload electrical outlets.

Repetitive strain
Avoid sitting or standing too long in one position. Stretch and exercise your muscles if they begin to ache.

Keep all flammables away from hot surfaces, and regularly clean any grease build-up from ovens. Never leave cooking unattended, and keep a fire extinguisher (Class K) handy.

Prepare, cook and store food properly to avoid contamination. Always clean surfaces before putting food on them, and wash your hands frequently to prevent disease.

Wear protective equipment when handling chemicals and cleaning solutions. Use chemicals in well-ventilated areas, and never mix them. Be sure to refer to a chemical’s material safety data sheet for health and safety information.

Contact dermatitis
Protect hands from contact with detergents and cleansers by using gloves. Also use moisturizers to keep natural hand oils intact.

Working in any type of eatery is hazardous, especially if workers are rushing to fill orders. It’s important to keep customers happy, but never at the expense of your safety. Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:


  • Slide a lid over a grease fire. Don’t throw water on it.
  • Ask questions if you are unsure of a task, or get appropriate training.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting.
  • Cool cooking oil or grease before moving it.


  • Reach across fryers, stoves or other hot surfaces.
  • Store heavy supplies overhead.
  • Panic in the face of an emergency.
  • Use equipment that smokes or sparks.

Cooks are not the only food service workers who have to watch out for hazards. Servers also face the task of dodging injuries while catering to customers. Here are some of the hazards that servers should be aware of on the job:

  • Collisions at two-way doors
  • Infection from undressed cuts
  • Inappropriate footwear with poor traction
  • Lifting heavy trays above shoulder height
  • Carrying too many plates
  • Awkward postures
  • Burns from hot surfaces
  • Emergency evacuation procedures


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