I’ve seen my share of gruesome accidents in the kitchen over the past 20 years. One thing all of these mishaps had in common- they could have been prevented. Take a minute to look over these tips; it could make a big difference in how you conduct yourself in the kitchen.
Knives: If you’re carrying a knife in the kitchen, always make sure that the tip is pointed down. Also, when carrying a knife, make sure that you’re not carrying anything else. Remember to keep your knives sharp- this will help prevent cuts, and other possible injuries. If you do cut yourself, apply pressure to the wound, and immediately seek medical help.
Floors: I’ve seen countless people fall on wet floors. Make sure that the surfaces in your kitchen are dry, and free from debris. If you do spill, and can’t get to it right away, throw some salt on the floor- this will absorb the fluid, and create traction.
Be Vocal: If you’re carrying hot water, make sure that your co-workers and family member know it. In commercial kitchen I usually yell “hot” so that everyone knows to move out of the way. The same works for sharp objects- by saying “sharp” your fellow employees will know to stay clear of you.
Side Towels: Always carry a dry side towel. Remember that it is best to assume that everything in the kitchen may be hot. If you’re opening an oven door, or reaching for a pan on the stove, your side-towel will save you from burns. Remember, a wet side-towel does not protect you against heat.
Mandolin: A mandolin in a French cutting tool with very sharp blades. I’ve seen more serious cuts with this tool than any other. If you’re using a mandolin, make sure to wear a protective glove.
Cleaning Supplies: Keep your cleaning supplies labeled, with the caps/covers on securely. Always store your cleaning products low to the ground- if chemicals are stored too high, they can spill and get in your eyes.
Misc. Equipment: Make sure your kitchen equipment is clean, and in optimal working condition. If you need to clean a Cuisinart, or other piece of equipment with blades, make sure that it is unplugged.
Remain Alert: If you’re overly tired, or have worked too many hours, stay out of the kitchen. Most accidents happen while employees are exhausted and taking short-cuts. If you’re tired, take a break, or stay out of the kitchen.
Steam: Steam causes many burns in commercial kitchens. If you’re working with a steamer, or removing a lid from a boiling pot of water, take your time. First, use your dry side-towel, and slowly remove the lid or open the steamer as you take a step back. Once again, let your fellow employees, or family members know when you’re going remove a lid by saying “hot.”
Electricity: Kitchens are havens for damp, wet areas. Remember, you need electricity to run all of that equipment in your work area. Before operating electrical equipment, make sure that it is dry, and free from steam, or other sources of water.
These are just a few suggestions for keeping yourself safe in the kitchen. If you have any to add, please forward them to me, and I will be happy to post them.
Chef Chuck Kerber