Any manager in the food service industry knows how quickly a busy night can put you in the weeds. A hectic kitchen can not only stress out your staff, but also the increased work pace can lead to in-the-moment injuries such as cuts, burns and falls. However, even on slow lunch shifts and quiet Tuesday nights, accidents are bound to happen. Whether your workers are prepping food or tackling a heap dirty dishes, it's important that they feel safe while they perform work functions. Of course, having a first aid kit approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the top priority, but here are five additional tips for making safety a priority in your restaurant kitchen:
1. Make sure first aid supplies are readily available
A kitchen first aid kit only serves its purpose if it's readily available to your workers. Avoid leaving first aid supplies in a locked office or other location that requires finding a manager for access. Make sure new workers are oriented with the location of first aid kits throughout the restaurant as well. Furthermore, make a point of inspecting your first aid kit regularly and replacing items that are out-of-date.
2. Know the difference between state and federal requirements
Adhering to federal safety regulations is a must, but depending on what state you're in, there may be more expected of your business. When stocking and replenishing your first aid kit, ensure that you have the proper materials to meet both sets of standards. The National Registry of Food Safety Professionals has a handy overview of the food safety regulations for each state.
3. Emphasize food safety
Food safety should be a top priority in any kitchen. This of course relies foremost on your employees following proper sanitation procedures, but also on ensuring your workers can adequately dress and cover cuts and other wounds when they're in the middle of a shift. For example, if one of your line cooks cuts him- or herself on a knife, he or she will need bandages, finger tape and gloves to prevent the injury from coming in contact with any food or preparation surface.
"Many common injuries in a restaurant kitchen are entirely preventable."
4. Minimize hazards
Many common injuries in a restaurant kitchen are entirely preventable. Cuts are often due to knives not being properly sharpened, burns may be caused by hands moving too quickly and slips occur because floor mats are old and have lost their traction. To mitigate these risks, create a comprehensive list of tasks for your workers to ensure your kitchen and front-of-house stay free of unnecessary risks.
5. Make note of what's in high demand
If your kitchen seems to be running through a box of burn gel packets each week, there may be a larger underlying issue. Address common injuries at the root source, and also keep track of how fast you're using items so that you can order more before running out. After all, no one wants to be in a position where a worker is injured and there aren't adequate supplies to take care of the situation.