Restaurant Safety Tips

April 19, 2018

The restaurant business is intense and fast-paced. However, it’s not recommended to let employees simply “hit the ground running.” There are required steps designed to protect your staff from danger.

The first two employer responsibilities under OSHA restaurant regulations are to:

  • Furnish to each of his/her employees a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his/her employees.
  • Inform employees of the existence, location, and availability of your medical and exposure records when you first begin employment and at least annually thereafter. Employers also must provide these records to you or your designated representatives within 15 working days of your request.

That being said, thoughtfully designing and safely running your kitchen are two matters to take into account before even getting started with the decor and menu. Below are some additional restaurant safety tips.


Fire & Burn Prevention

Kitchen fires are all-too-common but extremely preventable. Employees and all staff should be well versed in your building’s evacuation plans, the sound of your fire alarm, and where to find and how to operate your fire alarm and safety equipment (including your fire extinguishers).

Portable fire extinguishers are your first line of defense when your range hood or other faulty kitchen equipment catches fire, which explains why monthly inspections and annual maintenance are required by NFPA 10. Range hoods also come with semi-annual testing regulations per NFPA 17 standards. Safety and proper use training for both come highly recommended. Contact us for more information!

Food Services of America (FSA) urges preventative steps and proper housekeeping to prevent most kitchen fires. They recommend the following:

  • Never leave dish rags or aprons near a hot surface.
  • Never leave stoves or other equipment unattended when in use.
  • Clean range hoods and stoves on schedule to help reduce build-up.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets.
  • Don’t force three-pronged cords into two-prong outlets.
  • Don’t use equipment with a frayed cord or bent prongs.
  • Don’t use equipment that smokes, sparks, or otherwise arouses suspicion.

Burn risks evolve from hot surfaces, water, oil, and food. The FSA suggests these additional steps in reducing burn risks in your commercial kitchen:

  • Make potholders easily accessible.
  • Provide adequate room for the safe handling of pots on the range top.
  • Install safety devices such as temperature and pressure relief valves to help reduce the potential for an explosion of pressurized water heating systems.
  • Reduce the temperature on your hot water heaters to reduce the potential for scalding when using hot water in sinks.
  • Train employees to stand back when using the automated lid on a braising pan or steam-jacketed kettle.
  • Only allow trained employees to condition deep fryer grease, and only with proper protective equipment. Post written procedures specific to the equipment in use.

Long sleeves, skid-resistant shoes, and heavy, stable pans are great practices to employ to further reduce burn risks.


Slippery Floors & Heavy Loads

Speaking of footwear, kitchen floors tend to be greasy and slippery. Employees are often moving about in a frenzy to perfect orders and serve fresh, warm plates of food to patrons. Frequent changes in direction and quick stops and starts are not uncommon – try communicating your location using verbiage like “behind you,” “coming through,” “corner,” etc.

Carrying heavy loads around in this environment can quickly turn into a disaster. Not only is skid-resistant footwear recommended, but proper and thorough cleaning of kitchen floors should be done regularly. Floor cleaners should contain grease-removal properties and floors can be treated with slip-resistant coatings as an extra safety measure. Spills should be cleaned immediately and signs should be placed in any slippery areas.

Be sure employees are well versed with the proper form for handling heavy (25-50+ pounds) loads. Bend at the knees, lift with the legs, and don’t lift more than you can safely handle. Keep aisles wide and free of clutter. Use small steps rather than turning and twisting motions and use a dolly when possible.


Sharp Knives & Chemical Hazards

Don’t rely on previous training when it comes to knife and chemical safety. Teach and train your staff on your restaurant’s techniques and policies. Knives should be stored when not in use, blades covered. Always keep knives sharp and handles secure and consider using cut-resistant gloves.

For the protection of their staff, all restaurants must follow the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard. Any workers who will be exposed to hazardous chemicals should be properly educated on handling and know where to find the safety data sheets for each product.

Noted below are the major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard in the past few years:

  • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for the classification of health and physical hazards, as well as the classification of mixtures.
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
  • Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
  • Information and training: Employers are required to train workers on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.



Personal Hygiene & Proper Attire

Hand-washing minimizes the transfer of harmful bacteria. All restaurant employees should follow the code for clean hands and wash thoroughly in warm, soapy water when handling food and kitchen equipment. Gloves can prevent cross-contamination but they only work when you change them. Aprons should be worn, but not in the restroom or outside the kitchen. Hairnets are required at some restaurants but long hair should always be pulled back.

Activities such as smoking and eating should not be done in food prep areas. Sick employees should stay home; the last thing you want is someone coughing and sneezing around food that will be served to patrons. As mentioned previously, always wear skid-resistant shoes as most kitchen floors are slippery!

Which additional safety precautions have you implemented in your restaurant? We’d love to hear how you’ve gone above and beyond to keep your staff and patrons safe!

For more information on fire safety, fire inspections, range hood, portable fire extinguisher inspections, and safety and proper use training please contact us. We’ll also make specific recommendations to ensure your restaurant, cafeteria, or food truck is properly protected.