Coaching Food Safety

7 Dangers Lurking Behind Your Kitchen Door


Table of Contents:

Good food safety practices begin with all employees during orientation and continue with ongoing training.

It’s easy to slip into a false sense of security when you think you’ve got the basics of food safety covered with your staff. However, there are many other hazards that impact your bottom line. For example, slip and fall accidents are at the top of the list of safety concerns. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—there are many other dangers that must be considered.

The first point of contact regarding safety hazards in the kitchen should be handled during orientation between the supervisor and the new employee. Most orientations only cover food safety and give little regard to the other issues that can cause problems in the kitchen. Orientation is the best chance to communicate the company philosophy regarding kitchen safety. While food safety is paramount, don’t forget to review good standard employee safety as well.

Orientation and ongoing employee training should include the following topics:

1. Slip and fall prevention: Keep floors dry and obstacle free, employees should wear slip resistant shoes (follow warranty) and utilize safety mats. Keep tiles and grouting in good condition. When passing other employees in the kitchen, give verbal alerts to avoid collisions.  Use safety cones to designate wet floor warnings.

2. Sharp object accidents: When using knives make sure the knife is sharp, wear safety gloves and utilize proper handling techniques. Never put knives or any other sharp objects into standing sudsy dish water. When utilizing mandolins and slicers use safety guards not your hands. Be careful when disassembling (unplug first) and reassembling the devices when cleaning them.

3. Chemical accidents: Never use a chemical that you haven’t received training for! Ensure all employees are familiar with the SDS chemical manual that includes first aid info and safety equipment to be used while utilizing the chemicals. Never mix chemicals as they can turn into a dangerous substance. You just can’t say it enough: LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Labeling is your first line of defense against chemical accidents. Some chemicals and food substances can resemble one another, such as sugar and lye.

4. Hot beverage accidents: For the back of the house, make sure that all equipment for hot beverages and soups are functioning properly and that staff has been trained on usage. Check thermostats daily. Use a calibrated thermometer to check temperatures. In addition, have periodic maintenance performed to calibrate them correctly. When filling beverage or soup containers do not fill them to the rim but an inch below the top. Remember to place items on the table in a secure fashion (away from children) and to warn the patrons that the items are very hot. In addition, use the proper safety lids for to go orders and warn the patrons regarding the intense heat of the items. Properly wrap (secure hot items in an extra bag) hot to go orders.  Use disposable matching cups and lids that have a clear warning advisory that state “CAUTION: CONTENTS HOT.”  It only takes seconds for liquid at 180°F to cause second- or third-degree burns.

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What's Coaching Food Safety?

Tips and strategies for keeping food safe and avoiding legal and PR disasters.


Jeff Nelken

Jeff Nelken is a food safety/HACCP expert who specializes in food safety and accident prevention in foodservice. Check out for more information about Jeff and his work.
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