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How to Keep Your Industrial Kitchen Clean and Safe

Restaurants with commercial-sized kitchens are loaded with safety and cleanliness hazards: sharp knives, slippery floors, chemicals and hot oil, to name a few. And if your kitchen isn’t up to code, you could be moments away from a workplace disaster. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 3.6 out of every 100 employees in the food service industry incur a nonfatal injury each year.

To avoid potential large-scale mishaps and health violations, it’s important to keep up with sanitation and safety enforcement. Here are some must-dos to ensure your kitchen is safe and clean.

Make Sanitation Your Top Priority

It’s no surprise that cleanliness and sanitation is key in the foodservice industry. 

“You can sum it up in the white glove test,” says Wook Kang, lead instructor of the Culinary Department for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. “Can you put on a white glove and have it still be clean after swiping through the kitchen?”

Like most chefs, Kang prides himself on having a clean kitchen. He and Mike Rich, product development manager for Safety Services Company, the largest supplier of safety training material in North America, both recommend using safety and cleanliness checklists to hold staff accountable for safety and cleanliness. Checklists act as a great reminder for all tasks that need to be done and provide a record of any past issues or breakdowns, Rich says.

Kang also uses a daily checklist to ensure he and his staff don’t miss a crumb — yes, even the one in the back of the freezer. “Employees are tasked with specific duties on a spreadsheet per schedule,” he says. “Their duties may change weekly, as we like everyone to be cross-trained in all areas of cleaning.”

Duties on Kang’s checklist for him and his employees include:

  • Making sure major equipment, tabletops and counters are cleaned and sanitized with an all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner specific to the surface, like a stainless steel cleaner.
  • Floors are swept and mopped.
  • Chemicals are stored properly and away from food products.
  • Appliances and equipment are shut off if not in use.
  • The garbage is taken out and containers are relined with garbage bags.

Maintain Proper Training

Adequately training employees helps prevent potential problems. “Employees should know how to sanitize their stations, be aware of their surroundings and much more,” Kang says. That means ensuring employees understand kitchen guidelines, as well as the equipment they will use. Employees should also know how to properly calibrate thermometers. “The best way to prevent any type of injury is training staff on the equipment they’ll be working with,” Kang says.

For example, Kang holds brief training meetings each time they get new equipment, as well as refresher sessions on existing equipment twice a year to ensure employees are properly trained. “Sometimes people don’t know how to use a slicer,” he says. “So we go over breaking it down, cleaning it and then putting it back together.” He also keeps each machine’s manuals next to it so employees can refer to it if a manager or co-worker isn’t around to help.

Additionally, monthly training meetings can provide an opportunity for employees to voice suggestions or concerns. “Someone may have figured out a safer or more efficient way to do something, or point out a dangerous process,” Kang says. “Giving him or her an opportunity to share that [each month] will better your program.”

Consider Re-configuring the Traffic Plan

Kitchen safety also includes redoing a hazardous kitchen design. “Having a well-designed floor plan for directing kitchen traffic prevents workers from colliding when they are moving rapidly around the kitchen,” Rich says.

To minimize accidents, look in your kitchen and consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a clearly defined traffic pattern? Rich says traffic coming into the kitchen should be on the left and leaving on the right, and recommends posting arrows on the walls as a reminder.
  • Are there jutting corners, appliances or edges? Rich recommends marking the areas with colored tape.
  • Do you have a clear entrance and exit? Make sure these areas are easy to enter and exit to avoid mishaps.
  • Do you have blind corners? If so, put mirrors in the corners so employees can see if someone’s coming, Rich says.

Taking such a proactive team approach to kitchen cleanliness and safety, especially when onboarding new managers and employees, will help minimize potential problems and maintain a consistent level of sanitation.

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