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Working in a kitchen is rewarding, but it does present some dangers. Between sharp knives, hot oil and crowded work conditions, you are daily risking your health. So, you want to stay in this job without injury for as long as possible. How do you do this? Well, it’s actually as simple as following some safety guidelines.
The Right Shoes
The first element in safety is equipment, and one of your most valuable pieces of equipment is your shoes. Invest in non-slip, comfortable work shoes that can take you standing in them all day. The non-slip part will prevent you from slipping on the inevitable spills that kitchens are notorious for. The comfortable part will spare your back, legs, and feet from stress injuries.
You will also want something that repels water, as standing in soggy shoes for hours after mopping up a spill threatens your toes with fungus. Such slip-resistant, water-resistant and comfortable shoes may take time to find and cost quite a bit when you find them, but the investment will save you a lot of money lost in time off and doctor’s bills later on.
Cover Your Arms
Hot water and hot oil flies in kitchens, and they can leave burns worse than actual fires. To limit the damage that hot oil splashing out of a pan and landing on your arm can do, wear sleeve protectors. These are cloth coverings that cover your wrist to your elbow. This will put an easily-removed barrier between you and the heat.
Find The First Aid Kit
Every restaurant should be equipped with a first aid kit that the kitchen staff can quickly access. Bandaging an injury immediately prevents infections and other future complications. If your kitchen doesn’t have a first aid kit or the one you have is running low, get one. An emergency could happen at any time, and you don’t want to be scrambling around for gauze in the middle of a shift.
Handle Knives Correctly (And Generally Be Aware Of Your Surroundings)
Remember what you learned about knife safety when you were learning to be a chef. Tuck your thumb under the hand you’re using to hold something still when cutting. Hand knives to people handle first (or put it in front of them handle first if possible.) Don’t run, especially not with sharp objects in your hands, and just be aware of your surroundings. Busy kitchens can get crowded and have lots of cutting edges. Don’t fall victim to them.
Change Up Your Tasks
People tend to associate injuries caused by repetitive motion with factories and offices, but any job that requires you to make the same motions over and over stresses the joints and muscles in your body. The stress causes inflammation which leads to pinched nerves, weakness and pain. The best way to avoid this is to change activities and give the stressed group of muscles a rest. Let the line cook take an afternoon off of frying to chop vegetables. Give the prep chef’s hands a break by letting them do the dishes. Variety is both the spice of life, and a dose of prevention in this case.
Watch The Heat
Kitchens get hot. Restaurant kitchens can get particularly hot because they are crowded and have sources of heat running all day long. They should be properly ventilated, with a screen door that allows hot air to leave and a fan to move the heat along. A line chef, of course, doesn’t have much control over that, but he or she can take along bottles of cool water to sip from throughout the day and dress in layers. Try to wear breathable clothes as much as possible, and make sure any ventilation available is on.
Every great job has its risks, but you can mitigate them with a little care. Follow these guidelines and you will enjoy a long, safe career in the food industry.
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