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Common Injuries in the Restaurant Kitchen

Updated on October 11, 2012
Common injuries include burns, cuts, strains, and falls. Protect yourself in the kitchen.
Common injuries include burns, cuts, strains, and falls. Protect yourself in the kitchen. | Source

Burns, lacerations, strains, and falls are among the most common injuries in the restaurant kitchen—and most of them can be prevented.

Working in restaurants is a serious matter when it comes to safety. The restaurant industry contains one of the largest groups of workers injured on the job. Poignant also is the fact that besides some pretty nasty injuries, they often occur to youth who are working their first jobs in life. So understanding workplace safety is crucial.

This article will examine four of the most common injuries and offer tips for keeping safe.

Burn Injuries

There are 12,000 reported cases of burns in the U.S. each year, but the actual number is far greater. Minor burns are common in restaurant kitchens when cooking: popping grease is unavoidable. What should not be common is splashed grease, scalding, and fires. Follow these tips to avoid injury:

  • Wear protective clothing and equipment.
  • Cook food at appropriate temperatures.
  • Keep flames beneath a pot and never rising around it.
  • Guard clothing and loose garments from contact with fire and hot equipment or grease.
  • Keep pot handles away from burners and never let handles stick over the edge of the range.
  • Be mindful of oven doors. If not close fully they could swing back and cause severe burns.
  • Check hot foods carefully, especially when cooking, and never leave unattended.
  • Always use hot pads or mittens when picking up or holding items.
  • Never splash hot water or grease.
  • Know whether you’re legally allowed to work in the kitchen if you’re a teen.
  • Make sure your employer keeps first aid burn supplies on-hand or keep your own.

Workplace Safety Tip

Your employer is without excuse for not having necessary first aid treatments in place—and so are you if you don't make sure they know it.

Deep Fryer Safety

It is important to mention a few things about commercial deep fryers here. These fryers contain several gallons of superheated oil (to about 500 degrees). They cook quickly and efficiently by boiling the moisture in foods placed in the oil.

To avoid injuries workers should be sure to never mix excess liquid or ice with oil, not overfill fryer baskets, and avoid leaning over hot or frying oil. If the fryer doesn’t have a lowering mechanism, avoid splashing when placing baskets into grease.

Usually these vats of oil have to be maintained daily (sometimes more than once) and on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. This means that hot, spent oil will need to be handled. Make sure protective gear, from head to foot, is worn. Move slowly and carefully. And follow instructions when filtering oil, disposing old oil, and adding new oil.

Lacerations are common restaurant injuries that can be prevented entirely.
Lacerations are common restaurant injuries that can be prevented entirely. | Source

Have you ever experienced a significant injury in a restaurant kitchen while working?

See results

Laceration Injuries

Cuts are often to the hands and fingers due to regular use of knives and cutting appliances. Some can be gravely serious. Follow these tips:

  • Pay attention while using knives and cutting appliances.
  • Be sure to use knives that are appropriate for the task.
  • Knives should be sharp. Dull knives can slip. Also, handles should be tight. Never use loose-handled knives.
  • Use box cutters and remember that cut box edges cut like knives.
  • Store knives sheathed (if possible) and in appropriate areas.
  • Use cut-resistant gloves.
  • Use cutting boards. Place non-slip pads or damp cloths beneath them.
  • Stop cutting if interrupted.
  • Pass cutting objects by laying them down or with the blade pointed down. Never throw or try to catch a sharp item and when it is falling.
  • Keep fingers tucked when cutting.
  • Never leave sharp items in dishwater.
  • Be careful with broken glass and do not use bare hands to clean up.
  • Youth should make sure they are legally old enough to use certain cutting appliances.
  • Know how to use cutting appliances. Never place fingers in feed openings. When finished make sure power is off and certain appliances are fastened and locked.
  • Make sure first aid is available for cuts.

Strain Injuries

Lifting is required in commercial kitchens. Many food items arrive in large boxes and bags, let alone the need to unload or stock an order and remove garbage. Proper lifting techniques, therefore, must be used. This means always standing close to items, bending, keeping the head up and back straight, lifting with the legs, watching your path, using the feet to turn, and setting down loads with the legs. Never use the back to lift or lower.

Also, incorporate a hand truck when necessary and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Wear gloves to avoid abrasion and check for splinters, nails, and staples.

Kitchen Safety - A Good Visual

Fall Injuries

Did you know that one-in-three disabling restaurant injuries results from slips, trips, and falls? It costs restaurant chains a million dollars each year. Most of the injuries occur on wet floors or are due to poor housekeeping. How do we avoid this common injury?

  • Always use wet floor signs to warn fellow workers.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes in the kitchen and keep shoes laced.
  • Keep pathways clear and never block your view when carrying items.
  • Eliminate tripping hazards, like cords and hoses.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings. Don’t make sudden moves and never run. Move cautiously around corners.
  • Be wary of where floor surfaces transition. This could lead to slips and trips.
  • Report problem areas to management.
  • If you fall and especially if a head injury is sustained, make it clear whether or not you need to visit the emergency room. Don’t refuse the offer to be checked out.

Workplace Health and Safety

Hopefully your restaurant has a training program or safety marshal who works to reduce and eliminate injuries. It takes the cooperation of everyone to keep the job site injury-free. Make sure you read your company’s manuals on policy, safety, operations, workers compensation, and emergency procedures. Knowing the rules is half the battle in avoiding common injuries in the restaurant kitchen.


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    • ithabise profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael S 

      7 years ago from Danville, VA

      So true. I've watched these things happen to folk I've worked with in the restaurant before. Burns happen all the time. I slipped quite a few times where the floor transitioned--and nearly onto a grill or into a fry vat. I've watched a person slice their finger because someone else tossed a lemon slicer into dishwater. Some things are design issues; others are common sense issues! Thanks for reading!

    • GlstngRosePetals profile image


      7 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

      How true this is the kitchen is just packed with obsticles we encounter everyday and become complacent with the dangers that are around us. We do stupid things all day long in the kitchen and get away with it untill that one day everything lines up for thwe perfect disaster. Example tapping a jar lid with the edge of a butter knife to break the seal, retreaving something that went into the garbage disposal, using old non-microwave plates to cook with or re-heat stuff on, using a knife to split frozen food and my favorite using cold water on a hot greasy frying pan. All theses things we do and know its wrong. Great hub. Voted up!!!

    • ithabise profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael S 

      7 years ago from Danville, VA

      You're right, William. I've had some of those encounters myself, like burning myself with a fryer basket, tripping into the grill, and having 400*-grease splash on me. I've worked on the railroad, and, besides it being a dangerous job in general, I don't think it compared to the frets that I encountered in the kitchen. The kitchen was surely much harder work, something folk who casually eat fast food don't realize.

    • William Young profile image

      William Young 

      7 years ago from Eaglle Grove, Iowa

      Very interesting Hub! I remember when I was in high school I worked at a Wendy's Restaurant and one day I heard the most blood curdling scream coming from the kitchen. One of the employees had spilled a scalding hot pot of chili on her arm and some pretty serious burns. The restaurant kitchen can, indeed be a dangerous place!

    • ithabise profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael S 

      7 years ago from Danville, VA

      You know, I've thought recently that some type of permanent, illuminated fixture or contraption could be made to warn of a wet floor because, as you've expressed, a person could still trip over the sign! Thanks for reading!

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 

      7 years ago from uk

      My elder son's first job was in a well known fast food restaurant, he often came home with a burn to the hand. You're quite right, young people in a busy working kitchen are at risk. I find the "wet floor" cones at work a hazard in themselves, as I tend to trip over them. Oops. A useful hub.


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