Health and safety in the kitchen is non-negotiable no matter the industry. Keeping staff safe and adhering to food safety standards is of paramount importance, and every business that uses a commercial kitchen should have stringent kitchen health and safety measures and a kitchen risk assessment in place. This includes hospitality venues such as restaurants and hotels, and public sector organisations including hospitals and schools. Even offices with kitchen facilities will need to have some kitchen health and safety provisions in their workplace risk assessment, for example in regards to fire safety or slip hazards.
Commercial kitchens catering for large numbers of people will require an in-depth kitchen risk assessment due to the size and scale of operations increasing the potential for accidents. Working with sharp instruments, hot surfaces, and electric and gas appliances are just some of the risks in a kitchen environment, which can be exacerbated in busy kitchens with lots of people. It goes without saying that food hygiene is also an incredibly serious consideration when looking at health and safety in the kitchen. This guide will delve into the hazards in a kitchen and how they can be prevented by implementing proper kitchen health and safety.
In order to prevent and reduce hazards in the kitchen, the first priority is to identify them. Health and safety in a kitchen is primarily the responsibility of the business owner, but all staff should obviously be made aware of the risks in a kitchen so they can contribute to maintaining a safe environment where possible. Although the specifics may vary according to the size and type of kitchen, these are some of the most common hazards in a kitchen:
Slips, trips and falls are some of the more common workplace accidents, even when working from home, but there is a higher chance of them happening in a kitchen. Food, drinks and cooking oils are all par for the course in a kitchen, and any spills could lead to someone falling over and hurting themselves. Ensuring that any mess is cleaned up immediately and that wet floor signs are used can help reduce these types of risks in a kitchen.
Every business must practise fire safety and have a fire risk assessment in place. With kitchen health and safety, there are often open flames to contend with, as well as electrical equipment and flammable substances. To reduce fire hazards in the kitchen, any electrical items should be well maintained and safe to use, flammable goods should be stored safely away from sources of heat, and staff should be trained on safety procedures when cooking.
As with fire risks in a kitchen, the potential for burns and scalds is also increased due to the nature of the working environment. Hot surfaces, boiling water and cooking utensils can all cause burns and scalds. Allowing plenty of space for staff to work can help reduce these risks, as can ensuring that staff declare when they are moving around with hot pans or food. Even if the burn is relatively minor, it is important that these kinds of accidents are reported under RIDDOR to improve ongoing health and safety in the kitchen.
Knives and other sharp objects are commonplace in any kitchen. Training hospitality staff on how to use knives and other implements safely is one way to reduce the likelihood of cuts and grazes; for example, knives should always be carried with the sharp end pointing downwards. Broken glass is another one of the hazards in a kitchen that could cause serious wounds and so any breakages should also be cleared up immediately.
Kitchens must be kept clean in order to manage food safety. However, cleaning products contain chemicals that can be hazardous in certain circumstances. Some food preservatives and additives can also pose a threat, as can any pesticides used. To properly prevent chemical hazards in the kitchen posing any serious threat, a separate COSHH assessment can be completed, which outlines the chemicals found in the kitchen and advises how to safely use them.
There can be some heavy lifting required when working in a kitchen, be it large deliveries of ingredients or heavy pots and pans filled with food. Working in a kitchen requires many other manual tasks, and the repetitive nature of some jobs can lead to muscle and joint strain. Therefore, to improve kitchen health and safety, staff should be trained on how to safely perform each task and how to lift heavy items correctly.
Hazards in the kitchen can arise simply from the environment and the nature of the surroundings. Kitchens are often loud places with people shouting and noise coming from appliances like food processors. They can also be smoky and humid places. Exposure to loud noises may cause hearing problems, such as tinnitus, and having inadequate ventilation may result in respiratory issues. A kitchen risk assessment should allow for staff to take regular breaks from the noise, and the ventilation system should be routinely checked.
Ensuring that all staff follow hygiene guidelines can greatly contribute to kitchen health and safety. Wearing correct clothing, using hair nets, and regular hand washing are just some of the ways those working in a kitchen can take personal responsibility. Staff should also stay away from work in the event of illness to prevent the spread of infection. Illnesses can be very easily passed on when preparing food, and so a kitchen risk assessment should set out what employees are to do if they become sick.
Food safety is an extensive area when it comes to health and safety in the kitchen, and the Health And Safety Executive (HSE) has a detailed list regarding food hygiene. Inadequate food hygiene poses a significant threat to those consuming the food, rather than those in a kitchen. Whether it’s in the restaurant industry or the healthcare sector, managing food hygiene should be taken very seriously to prevent patrons becoming ill. Ideally, there should be a separate kitchen risk assessment solely for food safety that has clear method statements to manage storage, cooking, chilling and cross contamination.
To properly and thoroughly manage the many areas of health and safety in a kitchen, a kitchen risk assessment should be performed periodically by a competent person. As stated above, there may be an individual kitchen risk assessment for different areas and hazards in the kitchen. With any risk assessment, the hazards must first be identified. From here, the risks and potential for accidents should be evaluated and prioritised. Once these first steps have been taken, it is crucial to put control measures in place according to the priority list and to make all staff aware of these measures. Documentation should be stored safely and the kitchen risk assessment should be monitored and reviewed often.
Using health and safety experts means that every aspect of your kitchen health and safety policy will be managed and maintained to the highest standards. Owing to the large number of hazards in a kitchen, it is essential to reduce the margin for error. Having a detailed kitchen risk assessment helps you to do just that.
We can support you with any element of your kitchen health and safety, from completing a health and safety audit to see where you could do better, to implementing accident investigation procedures that protect your business and your employees.
We work with hospitality venues, public sector organisations and private leisure groups all across the UK, helping to ensure they comply with all health and safety laws. Contact us to find out how we can help you too.