As millions of children go back to school around the U.S., so do the cafeteria workers who cook and serve lunch for them. Cafeteria workers don't just need to focus on serving healthy, nutritious foods for children throughout the day – they also have to maintain a safe work environment for themselves.
Here are a few tips for cafeteria workers to start off the new school year right and avoid these common causes of school kitchen injury.
Slips and Falls
Slips and falls consistently end up at the top of annual workplace injury reports, especially for people who work in the kitchen. The truth is that no matter how careful you are, it's likely that water, oil or grease will spill, splatter or spray on the floor at some point. This can easily create an unsafe work environment that facilitates slips and falls that lead to musculoskeletal injuries, head trauma and other serious issues.
While many slipping hazards are hard to avoid, it doesn't mean that people won't be able to protect themselves from falls. One of the best protections for cafeteria workers is nonslip shoes that use specialty rubber soles to improve friction with the floor even in the slipperiest conditions. In addition to slip-resistant footwear, cafeteria kitchens can install nonslip mats that help protect heavily trafficked areas from slips.
It's also smart to clean up spills promptly in order to reduce risk, keep walkways clear, and use splash guards for grease and water.
Burns are a serious danger for any cafeteria worker. Food Service Warehouse pointed to hot oil, cleaning chemicals, steam and hot plates as some of the top causes for burns in the cafeteria kitchen. The site advised avoiding grease splashes by not dropping food into the deep fryer, using proper hand protection for hot items, standing away from steamy objects, using utensils and not overfilling pots. Burns are also more likely for inexperienced kitchen workers. Make sure everyone in your kitchen knows the safety protocols and best practices for avoiding burns.
As The Washington Post's food and travel editor Joe Yonan explained, even the most experienced chefs can cuts themselves seriously in the kitchen. If a serious cut occurs, school cafeterias luckily have plenty of people around to help you get medical attention. In order to prevent a cut in the first place, Yonan advised cutting on a stabilized board away from the body and waiting until food is completely thawed before cutting. Don't try to catch falling knives and only use knives for their intended purposes.
Make sure your school year doesn't start off with an accident. Keep your cafeteria kitchen safe all year long with simple precautions.