A workplace is not a dangerous environment, as employers take employee safety very serious. In fact, the law requires employers to provide a safe workplace, and this includes communal areas, such as office kitchens. Hence, many employers have ‘Health & Safety’ manuals and training sessions for their employees to ensure that no untoward accidents or incidents occur, not even in the kitchen. However, even then, workplace safety may get compromised in an office kitchen due to faulty kitchen appliances, hot water or even a slippery floor. That is why employers must keep the following in mind, especially when even an individual worker’s work habits may end up causing the worker injury!
Assessing and Addressing Risks (Risk Assessment)
As employers are legally bound to provide safe working environment, it is therefore important to carry out regular risk assessment of workplace kitchen. This should be conducted not just with health and safety in mind, but also to ensure that the office assets are protected and well-maintained. This assessment involves checking the kitchen area in the office carefully and making a note of the hazards. It is important to check all kitchen appliances and their cords, carpeting, walls, wiring, and electrical fixture. The kitchen should also have a safe device to grab a sandwich or toast from the toaster or sandwich maker to avoid burns to the fingers. Stoves and ovens should be equipped with some type of warning to warn employees that they are left on. Also, a workplace kitchen with such appliances should have oven mitts and Teflon-coated spoons to remove hot food. Sharp items, such as knives, should be stored away safely to prevent accidents. These are some of the basics of workplace safety when it comes to the kitchen area in the office.
Display Signs (hot water, wet floors etc)
It is amazing how many people get injured at workplaces because of lack of health and safety signs, such as wet floors or hot water. These signs are often neglected, as employers think that employees will use their common sense. However, what many people forget is that common sense is often uncommon! So to prevent large hospital and treatment bills, make sure that you buy and place the relevant signs. Be sure to position the signs in such a way that workers in your establishment can see them clearly and understand the hazards.
As there are electrical wirings, stove and electrical gadgets, the risk of fire is always present. Hence, an office kitchen should have a fire extinguisher to put off a stove fire. In case of an electrical fire, there are special fire extinguishers available. Alternatively, a fire blanket can be used. The fire extinguishers should be checked and inspected regularly to ensure that they are in working condition.
Ensure that employees do not prepare or heat food in the pantry. Make sure that all food items in the pantry are properly labelled and stored. Discard old and unlabelled food. Do not store kitchen cleaning chemicals in the pantry. Instead, have a special cupboard to store these chemicals, preferably away from food items.
A hot cup of tea or coffee can scald or burn very easily. Rather than rushing around trying to find something to soothe such painful burns, it is best to be always well-prepared. Have a first aid kit in the kitchen with correct supplies. Ensure that the kit has plaster, bandages, eyewash, disposable gloves and dressings. If the injury is serious, the person may need professionals to treat him or her. So have telephone numbers of ambulance services displayed clearly, so that other employees can refer to it. Have blankets at hand, as an injured person must be kept warm till the professionals arrive.
Keep the Kitchen Tidy
Educate staff about cleaning up after they use the kitchen. An untidy kitchen increases the risks of accidents. So have a rule where employees have to place their used plates and cutlery in the dishwasher. Have the cleaner wipe up spills and splashes. If there are tables and chairs, make sure that the employees or the cleaner stores the chairs away from the walking area. The kitchen area at the office should not be used for storing cartons, files or bags, as these items are tripping hazards.
Paying a little attention to health & safety in an office kitchen will keep your employees and you safe and injury-free. These are a few tips to get employers started on workplace safety, as the kitchen area is perhaps one of the most neglected areas of an office.
Ross Davies wring for Lebreton Health & Safety Training the leading training provider for various health and safety training courses throughout the UK.