If you work in the kitchen of a Pennsylvania hotel or restaurant, you might feel disgruntled at times because all the credit goes to the front-of-house staff. The compliments of friendly service and excellent food hardly ever reach you and your co-workers in the hot kitchen where you face multiple hazards. While it is vital for kitchen practices to ensure customer safety, employee safety is as important.
Staying safe in the kitchen works like a double-edged knife — involving both you and your boss. Your employer must provide the necessary safety training and ensure compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regulations. In turn, you must pay attention to your surroundings, take note of potential hazards and practice what you learned in training.
Known hazards in a commercial kitchen
While there may be unique hazards in the kitchen where you work, some risks are common to the busy kitchen environments of all restaurants and hotels. Constant awareness and taking some necessary precautions may limit the damage to your health as you face the following hazards:
- Burn hazards: Wherever cooking takes place, burn risks will exist. Along with the dangers of hot equipment, scalding liquids, heated fats, oil and steam, clothes catching on fire can cause severe injuries. Precautions include not running in the kitchen, pointing saucepan handles away from stove edges, wearing proper safety equipment and learning how to use the fire extinguisher.
- Trips and slips: Random objects in a kitchen can pose trip hazards, and there are a host of potential slip hazards. Oil, fat, water and other substances can spill or splatter to cause slippery floors. While clean floors are essential, the risk will always be present and wearing non-slip shoes along with laying suitable floor coverings and installing effective drainage systems might prevent falls.
- Chemical hazards: Dangerous chemicals in kitchens include cleaners for floors, ovens and worktops, and improper handling could cause not only skin irritations but also serious chemical burns. Chemical containers must have clear labels — including safety warnings, and the storage area must comply with regulations.
Don’t forget your physical well-being
The nature of your job may be physically taxing, and your employer can limit the damage by ensuring the environment is ergonomically friendly. Paying attention to the following hazards may prevent ergonomic injuries:
- Repetitive motions: Allocating a task such as cutting or chopping large quantities of vegetables to one person can put undue strain on one worker’s ligaments and joints — spreading the burden among employees may prevent that. Ensuring knives are sharp and other tools are in good working order can prevent overexertion. Working in an awkward body position for extended periods can also cause long-term musculoskeletal damage.
- Standing: Standing for extended periods without breaks to stretch and relieve muscle tension can cause damage to muscles in your feet, legs, hips and back.
- Lifting: Any repetitive bending and lifting can be harmful, so you might want to learn lifting techniques to protect your back when you have to do heavy lifting.
Workers’ compensation benefits
Since safety hazards will likely always be prevalent in hotel or restaurant kitchens, chances are you will suffer an occupational injury sooner or later. Knowing that workers’ compensation benefits should cover your medical expenses and lost wages might be comforting. More good news is that you can focus on recovering from your injury while an experienced Pennsylvania attorney navigates the complicated claims process on your behalf.