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The perils of working in a restaurant kitchen

Restaurants and eating places are near the top of the list of industries in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and a significant portion of the workforce earns a living in kitchens. If you are one of them, you could suffer sprains and strains, cuts, burns and other injuries. Like in any other industry, your employer must provide a work environment that is free of known hazards, but unanticipated accidents happen in kitchens every day.

You can play a part in your own safety by learning about potential kitchen hazards and looking out for them. By paying attention to detail, you can reduce the risk of common dangers.

Crowded workspace

Crowded and cramped work areas exacerbate the existing risks, and the following steps are necessary:

  • Remove empty containers and boxes.
  • Clear away clutter from walkways and work surfaces.
  • Avoid crowding small areas of the kitchen.

Slip and trip hazards

Pay particular attention to the following dangers because falling while working with sharp and hot equipment can cause severe injuries:

  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Use trolleys to cart large containers of food or liquids.
  • Wear slip resistant shoes, and take particular care where floor surfaces are uneven.

Chemical hazards and burn risks

Hot oils, liquids, food and surfaces are par for the course in kitchens, and the following precautions are crucial:

  • Along with all the obvious burn risks, take note of the dangers posed by hot steam and spattering oil.
  • Wear long sleeves and an apron with a bib if you work in a high-splatter area.
  • Make sure you have heatproof gloves, side towels or hot pads handy to handle hot pots and pans.
  • Mind the burn hazards of chemical cleaners and sanitizers, and follow the manufacturer's instructions when handling them. Wear gloves and protective eyewear to avoid skin irritations or burns.
  • Make sure the first aid kit and eyewash station are accessible to all.

Ergonomics

Your job exposes you to ergonomic injuries from standing for extended periods and doing repetitive activities, while heavy lifting can cause strains and sprains. Keep the following in mind:

  • Use a back belt on inventory and delivery days.
  • Hold any object close to your body when you lift it.
  • Use the muscles in your legs rather than those in your back to lift heavy loads.
  • Hold your back straight and keep your head up while lifting anything.

Dangerous equipment

Any machine that cuts, chops or sears food can do the same to your hands if you are not careful. Look out for the following dangers:

  • Wear protective gloves that cover your wrists and are cut-resistant whenever you work with industrial slicers and mandolines.
  • Never use a machine that lacks the necessary safety guards, and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Take note that the moving parts of machines can catch loose-fitting clothing, jewelry and hair.

Food safety

Improper handling of different food products can have deadly consequences. Learn as much as possible about the following:

  • Cross-contamination occurs when you use the same equipment such as knives and cutting boards to prepare low-risk and high-risk foods without cleaning them.
  • Bacterial growth can take place if foods are not kept at the right temperatures, and improper storage or thawing temperature can cause illness.
  • Keep hot foods at temperatures of at least 140 degrees and cold foods below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Follow strict hand-washing habits.

Even if you adhere strictly to well-defined safety protocols and standards, you may be the victim of an accident in the kitchen. When this happens, it is only natural to feel anxious and concerned about the mounting medical bills and lost income. However, you can claim workers' compensation benefits. Injured workers in Scranton, Lackawanna and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania can utilize the skills of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to assist with the navigation of benefits claims.

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