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Food Preparation Hazards in the Commercial Kitchen

Food Preparation Hazards in the Commercial Kitchen

Slicers, dicers, choppers and mixers are among the tools used in commercial kitchens to perform food preparation tasks. If the worker is not properly trained or fails to heed the warnings outlined in their training, food preparation can be a hazardous occupation. But, as long as OSHA standards are observed and managers monitor their workers for proper procedure, the dangers posed by food prep equipment can be greatly reduced.

Potential Hazards

Food service employees who specialize in food preparation tasks face the following hazards:

  • Cuts. Kitchen workers that are not paying close attention to what they are doing when cutting or slicing food items can easily be cut by their tools.
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  • Amputation. When using commercial meat slicers or meat saws, the inattentive employee may have a finger or limb severed.
  • Strangulation. Jewelry, baggy clothes or long aprons can strangle restaurant workers that use dough mixers and other food prep equipment.
What Employees Can Do to Protect Themselves

Restaurant safety does not lie solely on the owner’s shoulders. Workers must heed all manufacturers’ warnings and follow their managers’ training guidelines to assure an accident-free environment. Here are some tips that food preparation employees can follow to protect themselves from harm:

  • Do not attempt to remove items, like spoons, that fall into the batter while a mixer is running.
  • Turn off and unplug the machine before cleaning or removing any blockages.
  • Do not open the lids of food processors or blenders to stir contents or add more ingredients while the machine is running.
  • Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry because it can become caught in the machinery.
  • Use all machine guards properly. Do not bypass or remove safety guards.
  • Always use push sticks or tamps to feed product into the machine, and never put your hands near moving parts.
What Employers Can Do to Protect Employees

Restaurant managers and owners are required to provide a safe working environment for all of their employees. The following is a list of tips that managers can follow to protect food preparation workers from harm:

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA forbids workers younger than 18 years of age from operating, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling or repairing meat slicers, grinders, choppers, cutters, mixers and any other power-driven bakery equipment.1
  • Train employees on the proper use and cleaning of all food prep equipment. Reference the manufacturer’s instruction manual for proper use and cleaning practices.
  • Include, in your training, the proper use and importance of machine guards on food preparation equipment.
  • Provide personal protective equipment, like cut resistant gloves, for employees using commercial meat slicers to protect their hands from cuts.
  • Secure all machines like mixers or food processors to benches, kitchen work tables or the floor to keep them from falling over or "walking" off during use.
OSHA Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards are designed to protect workers that use food preparation equipment.2

  • Standard 1910.212(a)(1). One or more methods of machine guarding are required to protect the operator from moving parts.
  • Standard 1910.212(a)(3)(iii). Special hand tools need to be used when placing or removing material, so the operator’s hands are not endangered.
  • Standard 1910.263. All belts, sprockets and gears that are on bakery equipment must have guards, and those guards must be properly used in order to protect the operator.

1 Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Food Preparation – Machine Guarding – Teen Restaurant Safety," http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/youth/restaurant/foodprep.html (accessed November 11, 2008).
2 Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Youth Worker Restaurant Safety," http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/youth/restaurant/index.html (accessed November 7, 2008).

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