Health and Safety in Restaurants

When you have multiple staff in a confined space, you increase the risk of accidents. Of course, you cannot always expand your kitchen or move sites, but it’s important to train your staff on effective communication within a space, especially if you have multiple chefs, KPs and trainees crammed in one room. For example, Chef Joe may be sauteeing at the cooking station, and then he wants to move to the plating/finishing station, but as he’s passing the prep/chopping station, Chef Sue doesn’t announce she’s stepping back and the two collide, causing chaos – knives flying, hot food, oil, and a pan in the air, ready to crash down. A cramped space – and lack of communication about how to move in that space – can cause undue and unforeseen accidents.

Point one leads into point two, train all restaurant staff to announce their whereabouts, especially when they are crossing someone’s path. This tip works for both small restaurant kitchens, and big sweeping, spacious kitchens too (for those lucky enough to work in such a place). Just as seasoned chefs know they need ergonomic movement – i.e. only newbie chefs are seen flailing around the kitchen without moving deliberately – it’s important to let others know when you’re moving away from your designated station. Be aware of surroundings and let other chefs know if you’re walking around the corner by yelling “corner” – behind someone “behind” or “hot behind” when moving with something hot. When carrying hot items add “hot” and sharp items “sharp.” Breaking these rules is dangerous because other people’s movements cannot be predicted, and if you’re coming round the corner with a sharp knife, and you haven’t announced it, and another chef is turning that same corner, it could spell accident.

One of the biggest concerns is cross contamination, when harmful germs are spread between food, surfaces, and equipment. All restaurant staff should understand basic food safety to avoid making themselves or their customers sick. No one wants a salmonella complaint to lower high restaurant reviews. You’ll clear your dining area before you can blink!

Every restaurant kitchen should know to keep raw meats and poultry separate from fresh produce, use different chopping boards, and to disinfect and wipe down all surfaces when handling raw foods. All equipment should be washed in hot, soapy water before using it again. All kitchen staff should wash their hands routinely. Most chefs who use prep gloves may not keep these safe practices in mind when they do not feel contaminants on their hands, so change gloves routinely, or work with your hand

Remove clutter from food surfaces in the prep area to keep everyone safe. Make sure all sharp knives are sharp because a sharp knife is safer and doesn’t slip.

Chefs and kitchen staff sometimes have a uniform, or chefs like to wear their chef whites and checkered pants, but to ensure safety make sure your chefs are provided with (or purchase) cotton chef jackets with knotted and not plastic buttons. These types of chef jackets protect the wearer from the heat of the kitchen – from burns over open gas flame and splashes from boiling water – as well as melting buttons or buttons catching fire. Natural fabrics are more breathable – and a proper chef jacket can be reversed or easily removed. Each chef should have a spare in the back to change into if hot oils have spilled onto their coats or if a guest asks to compliment the chef, so they are presentable. The right breathable clothing can ensure safety and cleanliness in the kitchen.

Chefs also need to be provided with quality ISO tested slip-resistant footwear (which tests slip resistance on steel and ceramic tile coated with glycerine), combined with slip-resistant mats, and slip-resistant floors. Since slips, trips, and falls are the most common accident, slip-resistant footwear ensures maximum safety for your staff. Many styles are both more comfortable (with cushioning, water resistance, waterproofing, breathability, ventilation, clog resistance, special soles, extra light, etc) and cheaper than traditional high-street trainers. None of your kitchen staff should be wearing trainers (sneakers) in the kitchen because they are simply not safe and protective enough for purpose.

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