OPINION: Don’t slip up by letting your kitchen become a danger zone

Kitchen floor

When food service is in full swing, it can be difficult to keep everyone safe, but since slips, trips and falls are the most common workplace accident, it’s vital to prevent incidents that can be costly to both employee and employer. So how do you keep the kitchen safe? Tom Larkin of slip resistant footwear maker Shoes For Crews (Europe) Limited gives his 4 simple steps to keeping the kitchen safe during peak times.

1. Mise en place

Keeping workstations neat and orderly is simple, but common sense. However, in the rush of service, it’s often a forgotten step. Professional chefs are often trained to keep their workstations tidy – mise en place (implementation) – in culinary school and it’s best practice, but newer chefs sometimes forget that making good, tidy habits early will serve your entire career. When chefs are busy making dish after dish, dirty pans, pots, and chopping boards can pile up on surfaces, leaving an unsightly and unsafe mess in its wake.

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To keep your kitchen safe, it’s vital to tidy your workstation, and this step can be achieved as you go or with efficient planning. If you food prep ahead of time, as some items are cooking you can wipe down your station, tidy away and wash your chopping boards and knives, clean utensils, and get ready to prepare the next dish. If your kitchen has a KP (or a few) – kitchen porters – you can take all items through to the wash area as you’re preparing the next dish. Be sure to give instructions as to which tools, pans, and boards you’ll need to prepare the next dishes so that service isn’t slowed down.

With messy workstations, it’s very easy for a chef to swipe the side of a surface with a hip or an elbow, knocking items like knives to the floor, and, if the floor is slippery and someone falls onto an unsafe surface, disaster can ensue. By planning ahead and making sure everyone prioritises having a clean and tidy space, workplace accidents can be avoided or reduced. Plus, all of your chefs will be more organised and relaxed if everything is clean and put away, ready for when they need it.

2. Keep floors clean

Another simple and common sense piece of advice is to keep all of your floors clean. If you have a leaking ice machine or fridge, now’s the time to get those problems fixed. It’s not just in the food prep areas where accidents can happen. The store rooms, the pantry, the fridge areas and so forth can cause hazards. For example, a leaking ice machine could cause an accident, which may cost your restaurant thousands in fines. Of course, it won’t cost that much to fix the ice machine leak, but you could cost your employee his or her life!

In cooking and food prep areas, if there are spills, notify people, mark off the area and get the spills cleaned up as quickly as possible to keep everyone safe. There’s no guarantee that no one will ever slip or trip over something, but it’s best to reduce the opportunities for workplace accidents. It’s complacency on the rules that increases accidents so never think the service is too busy to mop up a spill or, at least, cordon off the area.

Thai Sabai, Leeds 03

3. Use slip-resistant flooring and/or matting

Slip-resistant flooring or matting is a must for a commercial kitchen to keep workers safe, especially when combined with slip-resistant footwear. Since a health and safety assessment will determine that measures need to be put in place to keep workers safe, separate from any added safety equipment, then installing slip-resistant flooring when building your kitchen is a great idea, but if you’ve moved into a space without appropriate restaurant flooring then mats are your best bet. Even if you have speciality flooring with welded joints, impervious sealant, and coved molding, slip-resistant mats add that extra layer of safety.

4. Wear appropriate clothing

Just as your chefs will wear safe, reversible cotton chefs jackets with knotted – not plastic – buttons to ensure they’re safe from burns as well as special chef trousers in checkered or black to reduce the look of mess from spilled foods, what your chefs wear on their feet is vital for safety, especially when things heat up in the kitchen. Slip-resistant footwear is a must to keep everyone safe.

Research the safest slip-resistant footwear in the industry with shoes that surpass the rigorous ISO standards – anywhere from 2-4 times the minimum slip-resistance – and that’s when testing the shoes on glycerin-coated steel and detergent-coated ceramic tile surfaces.

Follow these simple tips to keep safe in the kitchen when the lunch or dinner rush hits. Small changes can have a big impact on the safety of your service – and small costs now can save big costs in fines and health and safety violations down the line. It’s important to consider safety and comfort for your workers as the commercial kitchen is a hot, stressful and busy place to work, but with the comfortable footwear, it can make all the difference to your staff whilst keeping them safe. Safe chefs can focus on the task at hand – making well-presented, delicious food for hungry customers.

Tom Larkin is marketing controller with Shoes For Crews (Europe) Limited, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of slip resistant and safety footwear. Previously Tom held senior marketing roles on the client and agency side for companies in both London and Dublin.

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Andrew Seymour

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