Beyond making sure your customers remain safe and healthy, you’ll also want to make sure your employees are safe and healthy. This is actually quite relevant to preparing and serving healthy food to your customers. Besides the simple fact that you don’t want your head chef sustaining an injury and having to take the day off to see the doctor, an unsafe kitchen can affect the food itself, as well. Forgive us a brief lapse into crudeness, but how would you feel finding a band-aid in your five dollar bowl of tomato soup?
As you should already know, you shouldn’t even think of opening a restaurant, or any place of business, really, without making sure you have all of the following in place…
- First aid kits
- Emergency contact number listings (police, poison control and so on)
- An alarm system
- Smoke detectors
You’ll want to check the laws in your area regarding exactly what you’re supposed to be outfitted with, what measures you’ll be required to take, but there are a number of essential, common-sense measures you’ll need to practice, whether or not they have a law on the books…
No running in the kitchen
This is obvious, but needs pointing out, nonetheless. You don’t want to let your employees get away with any horseplay, running, or any sort of wild physical antics in general. What they do during their smoke break is their business, but in a crowded kitchen loaded from wall to wall with hard, angular surfaces, sharp knives, hot stoves, ovens and grills, not to mention grease drippings on the floors and wet towels all over the place, you really can’t afford the risk of your cooks putting on a Three Stooges routine in the middle of rush hour, no matter how hilarious it is.
Proper handling of knives
First of all, you always carry the knife with the point towards the ground. If you hand someone else a knife, you always hold the blade and hand them the handle. Keep the knives clean, and most importantly, keep them sharp.
When cutting food, a sharp knife will slice right through a steak or a tomato, but a dull knife is more likely to slip and slide. This means that, ironically, you’re much more likely to injure yourself with a dull knife than you are with a sharp knife.
We’ve covered this in the section on personal hygiene for your staff, but it bears repeating in this section for other reasons: Absolutely no loose clothes, nothing hanging off, hanging out, or otherwise not tucked in and form fitting.
As bad as it can be to dip your sleeve in the tomato sauce, it could be a whole lot worse if your shirt tails get stuck in a pizza oven’s conveyor belt, or you get a little too close to the grill while wearing incredibly baggy pants.
If someone cuts themselves, burns themselves or otherwise sustains an injury, however minor, take care of it immediately. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, how many orders you have to get out, you can let the other staff cover their workload for a moment.
The truth is that you never know how bad an injury is until you take a moment to actually look at it. Maybe it’s nothing, a small blister, a nick or scrape, or even a false alarm, but when you hear someone belt out a hearty “Ouch!” (followed by perhaps a few more words of their choice), you should immediately take them off the line and make sure that they’re okay.
More often than not, this may actually prove unnecessary. Minor bumps and scrapes are a given when working in a kitchen, but the one time out of ten when an injury requires immediate attention, when a significant injury is sustained, when, say, a cast iron skillet falls on a cook’s foot, you don’t want to be known as the manager who made your cook keep working with a broken toe.
Working in a kitchen isn’t quite as dangerous and demanding of your attention as, say, driving an F1 racer, but it’s close. Just about every single thing you’ll find in a professional kitchen is capable of putting you in the hospital if you don’t know how to use it correctly (and that even includes the food, which is why you reed this article up in the first place).
Sometimes, we have a night where we can’t get much sleep, and maybe we show up for work a little groggy the next day. It happens to everyone, so part of a restaurant manager’s job is just to make sure it doesn’t happen too often.
This essentially comes down to two things. First- Make sure to set the schedule sensibly. If you have someone close the restaurant one night, don’t make them come in and open the restaurant back up just four hours later. Second- Allow your employees their vices. Obviously you have to draw the line when someone brings a flask of bourbon to work, but providing free coffee for the opening staff and allowing a cigarette break after the morning prep work can turn groggy, grumpy employees into attentive, alert employees.
Dealing with Emergency Situations
Just bear in mind, this is an abridged version of what you need to do in an emergency situation. Do not even think of running a restaurant until you’ve read, in full, how to respond to emergency situations in a professional environment.
Your first aid kit will help you deal with minor injuries and accidents, but there are a few points to keep in mind should a serious injury occur…
- Call emergency services immediately. Make sure that somebody stays with the injured person while somebody else calls for help. Give the operator the address and all other relevant information and let the injured person know that help is on the way.
- Do not attempt to move the injured person unless absolutely necessary. A broken leg, a fractured rib or a laceration can become worse if the patient is moved about by people who are not trained medical professionals.
- In the event of severe laceration, forget what you’ve seen in movies or outdated safety videos about applying a tourniquet. The idea of a tourniquet is that you lose the limb but you save the life. Rather, you should bandage the wound with any available clothing, gauze, towels, whatever you have, and apply pressure above the wound, releasing pressure periodically in order to allow blood to flow.
- Do not attempt any medical treatment on your own unless you do have professional medical experience. Too often an untrained individual attempts emergency on-site treatment and only makes matters worse.
- And finally… do not rely on this chapter alone to completely prepare you for the event of on-site injury. We simply cannot cover everything you need to know in a single chapter. This chapter should serve as an introduction, at best, to what you will need to know in order to run a safe work environment. After all, the primary focus of this article is on food safety, so you simply cannot expect to know how to handle workplace emergencies without reading up on more specific texts dedicated solely to that subject and that subject alone.
In the event of an attempted robbery, an off-hours break-in, or any other sort of criminal activity, first of all, don’t be a hero.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a black belt in karate or if you’re “pretty sure” that you “can take’im”. Situations like these are absolutely nothing like they appear in the movies. In the real world, nobody ever swiftly knocks a would-be thief out with a swift left hook.
More often than not, attempts at capturing or apprehending criminals by anybody except for trained law enforcement professionals results only in making a bad situation worse.
Essentially, if a thief demands the money in the register, then give them the money in the register. If you have all your bases covered, then you’re probably insured against theft, anyways, so there is truly nothing to be gained from putting yourself, your employees and your customers at risk.