How to Prevent Burns in Commercial Kitchens

Topics: Loss Control

Recent industry statistics indicate that restaurants in the United States employ 14.7 million individuals, with employment expecting to increase to 16.3 million by the year 2027. While the restaurant industry is booming, offering a variety of different jobs to those of all ages and skill levels, these workers face a variety of risks that can lead to injuries and lost time in the workplace.

Common injuries include cuts, punctures and scrapes, muscle strains from slips and falls or improperly lifting heavy objects, and burns from hot surfaces or oil. In fact, according to the Burn Foundation, the restaurant and food service industry reports around 12,000 burns every year, the highest number of burns of any employment sector.

Burn Safety Tips for the Workplace

Kitchen workers, cooks, food handlers and wait staff are all listed among the top 50 occupations at risk for burn injuries incurred on the job, with the highest number of those hospitalized for scalds and burns being those involved in food preparation. Workers can easily come into contact with hot surfaces like grills or stoves and hot oil, liquid and steam as they go about their daily duties. And, after an employee suffers a burn, he or she will miss an average of 17.5 days of work recovering.

For this reason, it’s imperative that workers understand how to prevent burns and scalds in the kitchen as they go about their regular tasks. Use the following tips to help ensure employees stay protected:

Use the right protective gear

Too often, kitchen workers will reach for hand towels when lifting hot pots and pans instead of using protective gloves or oven mitts. Always make sure employees have easy access to the proper gear to not only keep their hands safe from a burn or scald, but also that provides improved grip on hot containers. Use of hand towels may be traditional – and difficult to break the habit among experienced chefs – but history has shown they are a poor substitute for proper protective gear. Additionally, handling hot oil from deep fryers requires special protective gear (more information on this below).

Wear proper attire

If workers will be using fryers or cooking with hot oil, make sure they’re wearing spatter shields or gauntlets to protect their arms. Additionally, kitchen employees should wear non-skid shoes to prevent slipping on wet or greasy floors. It is not uncommon for kitchen employees to slip and accidentally plunge a hand or arm (and on occasion, even a foot or leg) into the hot deep fryer oil, sustaining extremely serious burns, making the prevention of slips and falls, a serious hazard in and of itself, even more dangerous in the vicinity of deep fryers or ranges with containers of hot liquids.

Avoid lifting or carrying heavy, hot stockpots or oil containers

Whenever possible, allow stockpots full of hot liquids or containers of hot oil to cool before moving them. Never carry or move oil containers when the oil is hot or on fire. If heavy pots need to be relocated immediately, have workers help each other when lifting and carrying them, and make sure the surface they’re being set upon is sturdy enough to hold them. A few guidelines for safe lifting and carrying methods include lifting with the legs while keeping the back straight and the head up, bringing the load as close to the body as possible, and limiting lifting materials above shoulder level.

Follow procedures for deep fryers

According to OSHA, deep fryers are the number one cause of burns in restaurant kitchens. This is why it’s essential that employees are properly trained to use them and understand basic safety precautions. For instance, using the correct grease to help prevent splatters, changing the oil frequently and not overfilling fryer baskets to avoid spillage. Remember that oil and water don’t mix, so baskets should be thoroughly dried after washing before the next use. Also, workers must be taught that frozen foods plunged directly into deep fryers often have frost or ice intermixed, which will cause spattering of hot grease.

The most important deep fryer precaution is to ensure that external filtration, or draining the hot oil for replacement, is done by the safest method possible. This means that the handling of the oil must be done when the oil is as cool as possible. Fryer units with internal filtration and pumps, and integral systems for draining and refilling are much safer than manual-handling methods. Use of a simple pail or container to drain the hot grease, then manually carrying it to a waste receptacle is extremely dangerous and responsible for many very serious, debilitating burn injuries. At the very least, a wheeled “caddy” should be use to drain oil, so it does not need to be lifted and carried to the waste receptacle. Only thoroughly-trained workers, equipped with full protective gear (splatter-resistant face shields, gauntlets, thermal resistant mitts and heavy protective aprons) should be allowed to handle hot oil from deep fryers.

Be prepared for an emergency

Understand that accidents can happen no matter how trained employees are on preventing burns in the kitchen. Make sure fire extinguishers are inspected regularly, are updated and available to all workers, and keep first-aid kits stocked and readily accessible. One employee on each shift should have first-aid training, too, with basic knowledge about how to treat burns and scalds.

AmTrust Restaurant Risk Report

Loss Control and Restaurant Insurance from AmTrust Financial

Whether your restaurant requires safety and loss control consultation, technical loss analysis, training resources and more, AmTrust’s Loss Control Department can give you the individual attention you deserve, identifying specific hazards and offering solutions that fit your operation. We are dedicated to providing the right recommendations and resources necessary to create the most effective loss prevention program for your specific needs. Additionally, we offer coverage to a variety of restaurant types, from fine dining establishments to mobile food vendors. Please contact us today to learn more.

Amtrust Financial’s review of restaurant class codes reveal average claims costs vary widely across different injuries, lost time, seasonality, geographical and restaurant types. For more information, download our report today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors.

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