November 13, 2018

Holiday safety tips for every kitchen

With autumn’s changing leaves and our first snow of the year already gone, it may feel like hibernation time. But with the holidays around the corner and ski resorts already open, Colorado’s busy winter festivities are imminent. Hearty food, and lots of it, is back in fashion, whether indulging at a holiday party or après-ski gnosh. It’s that time of year when both restaurants and the home kitchen are packed and chaos can quickly lead to injury.

Whether you’re a restaurant manager with multiple holiday events in one night, or a home cook throwing the annual Thanksgiving feast, it’s important for those involved to be able to manage the hazards of the kitchen. A properly trained staff can avoid catastrophes that can seriously hurt your restaurant’s bottom line, and home chefs can keep themselves and their guests safe and happy. But we know this is easier said than done, which is why we’ve put together these comprehensive yet straightforward training modules for restaurant professionals. In all kitchens, whether home or professional, follow these simple tips to keep your holidays worry-free.

For the home cook

Do not leave an open flame or a hot oven unattended.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in America, with Thanksgiving being the most hazardous day of the year for fires, at four times the daily average. Leaving stove tops and ovens unattended greatly increases the chance of fire in your restaurant or home. It’s also important to make sure that the room is well-ventilated, that loose items are kept far away from heat sources and that fire extinguishers are easily accessible. Find the right fire extinguisher for you.

Clean up spills immediately and make friends with the step stool.

Believe it or not, falling is a leading cause of holiday injury. It’s easy to scoff, but a simple fall could not only strain a muscle, it could break a bone or even cause a concussion. Luckily, falls in the kitchen are easy to avoid if you treat the possibility seriously. Keep the work area clear and inspect your path of travel to make sure it’s clear of clutter or hazards. Spilled liquids should be wiped up and the surface sanitized immediately so that no slick residue could lead to an unexpected fall in the future. It’s also important to always use a step stool, rather than a chair or bar stool, to access higher shelves or cabinets. They have non-slip steps to help you grip more easily, and they won’t swivel on you either.

Keep oven mitts and towels handy.

Along with fires and falls, burns rank high in kitchen accidents during the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation with your favorite aunt, or to be handling 10 skillets at once if you’re a pro, but before you know it, you’ve stuck your hand on a piping hot pot handle. Avoid burns by keeping oven mitts and towels handy, by using handle covers when possible, and by wearing long sleeves when operating a fryer. Always use elbow-length oven mitts when taking out the turkey… and leave the overhead vent on to suck out that steam.

For the restaurant professional

More prep work equals more cuts and burns.

Kitchen staff should take care to properly sharpen knives and to tuck fingers in when cutting. Slicers and grinders should be operated with care; it’s important that guards be in place during operation to prevent cuts, or hands or fingers becoming caught in the equipment. Fingers shouldn’t come into close contact with the blade. When cutting, consider using cut gloves. To avoid burns, oven mitts and towels should be easily accessible for holding hot pots and pans, and fry cooks should wear long sleeves to avoid hot oil splatter.

Busier service equals more risk of collisions and broken tableware.

Front-of-house staff are at a higher risk of injury from collision-related accidents during busy, fast-paced service times. Service staff should be trained to round corners cautiously, calling out warnings like “corner” to notify other staff of their imminent arrival. Broken tableware is the most common result of collisions, and it should be disposed of properly. Sharp objects like broken glass or ceramics should be cleaned with a broom and dustpan, not with bare hands, and should be disposed of in specific broken glass bins.

More cleanup equals more risk of chemical hazards.

More guests means more to clean, and for staff, this means increased exposure to hazardous chemicals. Because all restaurants use a variety of cleaning supplies, it’s important to go over each chemical’s label with your staff so they understand how to properly use it. Standard safety procedure calls for safety goggles and elbow-high gloves for protection when using chemicals. When working with chemicals, review the safety data sheet for recommendations on appropriate personal protection equipment such as goggles, safety glasses or gloves.  

More dining setup equals more risk of strains.

Especially relevant to banquet staff is a high risk of injury from moving furniture, heavy chafing dishes, and racks of dishes and glassware. Teaching your staff the importance of proper lifting could save your company a hefty sum. Make sure that your employees know to lift with their legs rather than their back, to avoid awkward movements like contorting or leaning, and to use the buddy system when moving particularly heavy objects.

More sauces and soups equals more risk of slips, trips and falls.

Never a day goes by in a restaurant when some liquid isn’t spilled. Keep your staff safe this holiday season by mandating appropriate slip-resistant footwear in the workplace. Make sure towels and sanitizing buckets are close at hand so cleaning up spills is second nature to your kitchen staff. As mentioned earlier, step stools are ever important for preventing falls from heights. Don’t forget that when it comes to fall prevention, good housekeeping practices are vital, including keeping work areas clear and removing and replacing worn mats.

Jump-start your safety awareness with these simple tips and you (and your staff/guests) will be on your way to a smooth holiday season. Happy holidays from the Pinnacol team, and if there’s anything you need, we’re only a phone call away.