Restaurants are full of potential hazards, which makes them an accident hotspot for both workers and customers. Fortunately, there are measures that can reduce the risk of accidents in restaurants. In this article, we’ll look at the potential hazards in a busy kitchen, the role build quality plays in making a kitchen safe and the importance of following health and safety guidelines.
The importance of a well-built kitchen
UK fire statistics show that between 2020 and 2021, the fire service attended 151,000 fires, and around 10% of these were on commercial premises. Restaurant fires not only pose a serious risk to life but they can also have a devastating impact on businesses, leaving owners out of pocket and employees out of work. In some cases, when the damage is significant the repair costs may be too high, which can result in permanent closure.
That’s why proper kitchen construction in restaurants is so important, as, without fire-resistant materials and proper fire safety equipment, fires can quickly and easily spread through the building, causing severe damage. Adequate fire-safety separation is vital and it’s important to use fire-resistant materials in kitchen construction, such as fire-resistant plasterboards.
Electrical lighting should be away from flammable materials and ducting should be installed by a suitably trained engineer and cleaned and maintained regularly. Equipment should also be installed by a qualified electrician or engineer and tested every year to reduce the risk of fire.
Potential hazards in a busy kitchen
Aside from fire, many other potential hazards can be found in a busy commercial kitchen. These can relate to manual handling, equipment use (or misuse), environmental hazards such as wet floors, trailing wires or dirty surfaces and human error.
Around 35% of all reported injuries in the food and drink industry are a result of slips, trips and falls with over 90% of these occurring when the floor is wet or contaminated with food. Meanwhile, around 30% relate to manual handling with the majority of these occurring during stacking, packing, and handling as well as during cutting and boning meat.
The importance of health and safety
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides detailed guidance for catering and hospitality. However, health and safety for restaurants can be divided into two distinct areas – protecting staff and protecting customers.
As a restaurant owner or manager, you have a duty to protect your employees from potential hazards in the workplace. This includes things such as:
- Providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ensuring they have a safe environment to work in
- Providing thorough health and safety training on a regular basis
- Maintaining the kitchen and equipment
There are many areas to consider when it comes to keeping customers safe in a restaurant. Health and safety responsibilities include:
- Regular checks and accurate record keeping – fridge temperatures, deliveries, food expiry dates
- Food labelling and stock rotation,
- Safe food storage
- Food hygiene
- Cleaning protocols
Health and safety is key to protecting restaurant employees and customers and upholding the reputation of your business. Failure to follow health and safety regulations in a commercial kitchen can result in injuries, financial loss, and legal action and can even be potentially fatal.