Whether preparing traditional items like French fries and fried chicken, or novelty foods like fried ice cream and deep fried spaghetti, commercial fryers are essential pieces of equipment in many restaurants. Though they are relatively easy to use, fryers can pose a health threat to the kitchen staff if safe operating guidelines are not followed.
All kitchen workers, especially fry cooks, are at risk of the following injuries when working around a commercial fryer:
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is given off when something is burned. Commercial fryers come with a special vent to help divert the poisonous gas to the vent hood. But if the vent hood or fryer exhaust is not functioning properly, carbon monoxide can quickly fill up the entire kitchen. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headaches, nausea, weakness and dizziness. People that are exposed to carbon monoxide for long periods of time can lose consciousness or even die.
Child Labor Laws: Federal child labor laws prohibit teens younger than 16 years of age from operating a commercial fryer, unless that fryer is equipped with automatic basket lifts. Check with your local health department, because the laws may be stricter in your area.
What Employees Can Do to Protect Themselves
Restaurant managers are responsible for providing a safe work environment, but it is the employees’ task to actually heed all warning and follow safe operating procedures in order to protect themselves from harm. Here are some safety tips for employees who work with our around commercial fryers:
- Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Oven mitts and pot holders can be used when lifting baskets out of the oil. And steam gloves should be worn when filtering or changing the oil.
- Only add oil up to the fill line. When the oil heats up and food items are added, a fryer vat that is too full can overflow.
- Let the oil cool down. When reaching above the fryer to remove and clean the vent filters, allow sufficient time for the oil to cool down to reduce the risk of burns should you slip. Also, let the oil cool down before filtering, if using a manual filter. Built-in filtration systems can be used when the oil is still hot.
- Do not spill water or ice in the fryer. Water or ice spilled on hot oil will cause it to splash and can burn the operator.
- Keep the floor clean and dry. An oily or wet floor can cause workers to slip and fall onto hot surfaces. Additionally, avoid working around the fryer if the floor is wet or oily.
- Wear slip-resistant shoes. Shoes with slip resistant treads as well as closed toes will help protect users from harm.
- Do not drop baskets or food items into the fryer. Fry baskets and whole food items need to be lowered into the hot oil with care. Simply dropping items in will make the oil splash and potentially burn the operator.
What Employers Can Do to Protect Employees
In order to protect employees from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning, restaurant owners and managers can implement some of the following tips:
- Train employees properly. Ensure that employees who work with commercial fryers know proper operating and cleaning procedures and are comfortable working around hot oil.
- Use high quality oil. Higher quality fryer oil, like canola oil, has fewer impurities and is less likely to splash or splatter while frying foods. Oil quality and type also determines the flavor, healthfulness and nutritional value of the food. » Learn More
- Put down non-slip mats. Placing non-slip floor mats around the fryer will reduce the probability that an employee will slip while working around the fryer or carrying oil.
- Regularly inspect vent hoods. Vent hoods that are clogged with grease or have cracks in their piping will not operate properly and will cause carbon monoxide to accumulate in the kitchen.
- Have a Class K fire extinguisher near by. Class K fire extinguishers use a dry chemical that is formulated to put out grease and oil fires. Class K extinguishers are the only type approved for use in commercial kitchens. » Learn More
- Replace older fryers. New commercial fryers have features like built-in filtration systems, basket lifts and more efficient exhaust vents that are all designed to improve efficiency and reduce operator risk. Several new fryer models have also earned the ENERGY STAR® and will save on utility expenses.