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Common Burn Hazards in the Commercial Kitchen

Common Burn Hazards in the Commercial Kitchen

All employees that work around hot equipment or hazardous chemicals are in danger of suffering severe burns. It is important that restaurant employees and managers understand the dangers and take steps towards minimizing burns in the commercial kitchen.

Potential Hazards

Any person working around heating equipment, like steamers, ovens and ranges, can potentially be burned. There are several other ways that commercial kitchen employees can be burned:

  • Hot oil. Oil from deep fat fryers is the number one cause of burns.1
  • Hazardous chemicals. Using hazardous chemicals during cleaning practices can cause chemical burns.
  • Steam. Steam escaping from automatic dishwashers or steamers can cause severe burns.
  • Inexperienced workers. New workers are more accident prone, since they feel extra pressure to keep up during busy periods.
  • Hot plates. Servers can be burned while carrying hot plates or picking up plates that were under a heat lamp.
What Employees Can Do to Protect Themselves

Though it is the responsibility of the employer to provide proper equipment training and safety supplies, it is the employees’ responsibility to use the cooking equipment and safety supplies in the correct manner in order to prevent burns. The following list contains some useful reminders for both front-of-house and back-of-house employees:

Tips for Front-of-House Workers

  • Wear close-toed shoes. Closed toes will protect feet from hot liquid spills.
  • Use serving trays when carrying hot plates. Also, be careful when grabbing plates that have been sitting under heat lamps or heat strips; the plates will be hot.
  • Do not reach over tables. Tables that have candles can burn an employee serving or removing dishes. Walk around the table instead.
  • Let the coffee maker finish dispensing coffee. If coffee pots are removed before the maker is done dispensing coffee, it will continue to drip and can scald the operator.

Tips for Back-of-House Workers

  • Use hand protection. Oven mitts, should be used when handling hot pots and cleaning gloves when using cleaning chemicals. This will help prevent both heat and chemical burns.
  • Turn cookware handles to the center of the range. Cookware handles that are project out past the range or countertop can be knocked over by employees. Turn them to the center to avoid this hazard.
  • Use the correct utensils. When handling hot food items, use the correct utensils like kitchen forks, tongs and turners.
  • Do not drop foods into the fryer. Dropping food into the fryer will cause the oil to splash and burn the operator. » Learn More
  • Stand to the side when opening ovens and steamers. A burst of hot air or steam will escape and can burn the operator. When steamers are stacked, open the top compartment first then the bottom one to prevent injury from rising steam.
  • Crack dishwasher doors before opening them all the way. When opening a dishwasher, especially one that is in the middle of a cycle, crack the door first to prevent hot water and steam from causing injuring. Commercial dishwashers have a safety feature that will shut the machine down when the door is opened mid-cycle, but opening it all the way will still cause scalding water to spray out because the wash arms do not stop right away.
  • Do not overfill pots and pans. This can cause splashes that can both injure the operator and cause product loss.
  • Open lids away from your body. When checking food that is cooking in a microwave oven, be sure to open lids away from your body to avoid steam burns. Oven mitts may also be required because the dishes will be hot.
What Employers Can Do to Protect Employees
  • Give basic first aid training. Employees with basic first aid training should know what to do to treat minor burns themselves. They will also be able to know when a burn is severe enough to warrant medical attention.
  • Train employees to use the equipment properly. Emphasize the importance of proper use to promote both a safe working environment and efficient cooking methods.
  • Provide all personal protective equipment. Restaurants are required to supply employees with safety supplies, so they are protected from burns associated with handling chemicals or working with cooking equipment.
OSHA Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has specific standards that apply to reducing the threat of burns in all commercial establishments. If a restaurant is found to be negligent in its duties to provide a safe work environment, a health inspector or OSHA can fine the owner or manager for their oversight. The following OSHA standards apply to burn prevention:2

  • Standard 1910.132. Employers must provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all employees who perform potentially hazardous tasks. Oven mitts are an example of PPE, and taking items out of the oven is potentially hazardous task.
  • Standard 1910.138(a). Employers are required to make use of hand protection mandatory when employees are performing hazardous tasks. If a kitchen worker does not have access to hand protection when moving a hot pot on a stovetop, the employer is liable and can be fined.
  • Standard 1910.212(a)(1). Conveyor feed dishwashers need proper machine guards in place to protect workers from steam and hot water burns.

1 Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Cooking – Burns – Teen Restaurant Safety," http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/youth/restaurant/cooking_burns.html (accessed November 9, 2008).
2 Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Youth Worker Restaurant Safety," http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/youth/restaurant/index.html (accessed November 5, 2008).