Keeping your kitchen staff safe should be one of your dining program’s number one priorities (along with providing healthy, delicious meals for your residents). As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, the four biggest safety risks in food service are cuts and lacerations, slips and falls, sprains and strains, and burns and scalds.
Most accidents are avoidable, and there are preventative measures you can take to ensure your team stays out of harm’s way in the kitchen. Plus, having a safe workplace not only protects your team and lowers workers’ compensation, but it also increases employee retention. When employees feel safe where they work, they’re more likely to have higher morale and stay with the company longer.
Here are five ways to keep your employees safe and happy at work.
1. Regular Training for Everyone
One of the most effective ways to keep your team safe is with comprehensive training on a regular basis. And we don’t mean just for new hires. We recommend holding annual training every year for your entire foodservice team to refresh their knowledge about kitchen safety procedures. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that “an effective safety and health program can save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested.”
2. Signage and Manuals
Once your annual safety training is over, the information should still be communicated via signage. Consider putting signs detailing your safety procedures around your facility to remind workers of what to do in various situations (how to operate equipment, what to do if someone gets a cut, how to handle sharp utensils, etc). That way, they don’t have to spend time trying to remember the right steps if an emergency does happen. The instructions will be right there in front of them.
When it comes to manuals for your equipment, make sure that they’re easily accessible so employees can reference them when using the tools. We also recommend that all safety instructions and manuals are documented in English, Spanish, and any other languages that your kitchen staff may speak. This ensures that each member of your team completely understands the procedures you’ve designed.
3. Management Buy-In
Anytime you’re starting a new initiative, like a new safety program, it works better when all of the management team and senior staff members at your facility are on board. Management shouldn’t just be telling employees what to do. They should be showing them by using the best practices and safety procedures that you’re communicating during training.
4. A Complete First Aid Kit
You probably already have a first-aid kit somewhere in your kitchen (it’s required by OSHA), but you should be checking it regularly and refilling it or replacing expired items to make sure it’s still functional. This way, if there are any minor injuries in your kitchen, employees have a way to take care of it quickly.
We recommend putting the first aid kit in a very visible, accessible cabinet. You should also attach a sign to the front of the cabinet to make it clear that the first aid kit is inside. OSHA recommends that you fill the kit with gauze pads, a variety of bandages, a wound-cleaning agent, scissors, a blanket, tweezers, adhesive tape, latex gloves, resuscitation equipment (like a resuscitation bag, airway, or pocket mask), elastic wraps, a splint, and directions for requesting emergency assistance.
5. Empower your Employees
Finally, employees should feel empowered about their own safety and their coworkers’ safety. One way to do this is to involve your team in making decisions about safety procedures. You should regularly ask them what they think the biggest risks in your kitchen are and how you can solve them. And make sure that your team knows that they can come to management or senior staff with any concern and that their job won’t be negatively affected for doing so. If you think employees still might feel uncomfortable bringing up concerns, consider an anonymous suggestion box or digital survey where they can be 100% honest.
You could also designate certain team members to be responsible for different safety topics in the kitchen. Then, once a month, those employees could hold a meeting with all of your other kitchen staff to refresh their knowledge on that topic.
Turning Up the Heat on Safety
To keep everyone safe at the facilities we work with, Culinary Services Group created a safety program that provides information to our facilities regarding hazardous concerns and gives comprehensive training to new hires. The goal of this program is to lower workers’ compensation costs and minimize the number of injuries.
This program turns up the heat on safety by incentivizing employees to work together toward a prize. Each facility keeps track of how many “days of safety” they’ve had and then they get rewarded when they reach various milestones. Every facility also appoints a Safety Captain who will educate teams about different topics each month. The Safety Captains are also responsible for administering quizzes and random “Scavenger Hunts” where they will purposely rearrange aspects of the kitchen and then have team members point out mistakes. At the end of each month, a “Safety Star” is awarded to individuals who have proven to stay safe during their everyday duties by following procedures such as wearing a cut glove, cleaning up spills, using wet floor signs, etc.
If you’d like to know more about how you can keep your team safe, lower workers’ compensation claims, and improve employee retention, feel free to contact us here. We can help your facility implement a comprehensive safety program that keeps morale high.