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The world can be a dangerous place for employees of every industry — it might seem impossible to avoid workplace accidents. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about 93,800 private industry workers in full-service food establishments received nonfatal injuries and illnesses in just a single year. These injuries ranged from serious to low-risk, but one-third of these cases required at least one day off. 

Restaurant industry employees face unique challenges compared to other areas of work, but there are precautions restaurant owners can take to protect their employees. Read on to discover common hazards, OSHA’s standards for commercial kitchens and restaurant safety practices that every eatery employee should know. 

Identifying common kitchen hazards

The best way to avoid workplace incidents is to be aware of the most common kitchen hazards. Ensuring your employees are properly educated will lower the risk of one of them being injured. 

According to the Tripartite Alliance for Workplace Safety and Health, the most common types of injuries are slips, trips and falls, which are caused by unattended hazards. There are many types of unattended hazards, but some common examples include:

  • Unattended cooking
  • Wet or oily floors
  • Boxes, bins or other obstructions left on the floor
  • Gas accumulation and vapor cloud formation
  • Uneven or loose flooring

Due to the fact that commercial kitchens include an abundance of flammable materials like oils, flour and dish towels, fires and explosions are also key hazards for every restaurant staff member. 

How to avoid hazards in restaurants

Knowing what the hazards are is half the battle. But how can you or your employees truly stay safe when working in a commercial kitchen? Here’s how to get started.

1. Take safety precautions

Reduce falls by applying mats and anti-slip floor coatings in the most common slip-risk areas. Also, encourage all employees to wear slip-resistant shoes. Ensure all boxes and crates are picked up and nothing remains in the way. 

Prevent fires and explosions by fixing your kitchen ventilation to keep dangerous gasses from building up. Install gas detectors to alert employees if or when gas concentrations reach a dangerous level, and periodically check and replace any old equipment or gas hoses. 

2. Introduce a method for reporting incidents 

Make sure you and your employees have a way to report any and all concerns, notify when an accident happens and alert unsafe practices. Encourage your employees to pay attention to potential issues, and have an open line of communication with you. 

3. Educate employees on best practices

The best way to keep your employees safe is to educate them on what to do if and when an emergency happens and give them proper training. Also, instate a dress code that will protect from burns, cuts and slips. 

Another important educational tool for you to follow is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) worker safety practices.

OSHA’s expectations and standards for restaurants 

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor and is meant to ensure safe and healthful conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards as well as providing training and educational tools. The three main standards that OSHA expects you to grant your employees are:

1. The right to know about workplace hazards

2. The right to protection from these hazards

3. The right to act to improve workplace safety.

Ultimately, you must inform your restaurant employees about any potentially harmful aspects of their jobs, give them safety training and protection from injuries as well as the ability to create positive change where needed. 

Other rights granted to employees through OSHA include:

  • At least a minimum wage salary
  • A half-hour unpaid meal period after no more than five hours of work and a 10-minute break after every four hours of work
  • Work free from any kind of harassment
  • An ability to organize or join a union

While OSHA gives guidance on how to avoid restaurant hazards, there are also food safety practices that are important to run a successful and comfortable business. 

Food safety in restaurants 

Your guests expect your staff to operate in a clean and healthy environment — this means practicing good food preparation and food safety procedures in your restaurant. According to the CDC, the four basic principles of food safety include:

1. Washing your hands often.

2. Using gloves properly

3. Checking the temperature of cooked food with a thermometer

4. Not working when you have vomiting or diarrhea, as those are illnesses that can be passed through food

Ensure that your restaurant runs using established safety procedures, food safety practices, good hygiene and Grubhub tips and tricks to join our growing list of restaurant success stories.

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