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The Kitchen: Workplace Safety

A commercial kitchen can be a hazardous working environment. With kitchen and waiting staff rushing about constantly in a compact area, there are plenty of potential dangers. Whether you work in a bakery, restaurant, fast food outlet, hotel, pub or cafe, strict laws are in place to boost workplace safety.

Potential hazards include spillage on the floor, hot surfaces, sharp implements, harmful substances and gas and electrical equipment, all of which can cause an accident and create a high level of injury. Sadly, despite safety measures, accidents still occur in commercial kitchens.

Kitchen workplace

© davit85 / Adobe Stock

According to the Health and Safety Executive, there are more than 4,700 accidents per year in UK commercial kitchens, equating to 13 people being injured daily. There are 620 major injuries, while around 3,700 injuries sustained are significant enough to keep employees off work for at least three days.


Slips, trips and falls

The HSE estimates the figure may be higher, but minor accidents and injuries are often not reported. Around 50% of reported accidents are caused by a combination of slips, trips and falls and manual handling or lifting accidents. Around half of the injuries caused by these accidents are hand injuries.

The second biggest cause of injuries occurs when people are using a knife. Injuries range from minor cuts to serious accidents causing the loss of fingers. It seems inevitable such accidents will occur, due to the large number of knives used in commercial kitchens.

Of all the injuries treated in hospitals for knife-related injuries, 36% of them have occurred due to using kitchen knives. It is unclear whether this is due to staff being unaware of safety procedures, disregarding the risks involved, or simply having an unavoidable accident.


UK legislation

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (amended in 2006) cover health and safety in the UK's commercial kitchens.

Key requirements are that the employer must prepare and adhere to a safety policy, including carrying out a workplace assessment to ascertain the most significant risks, and taking effective steps to control them.

If the HSE finds safety regulations have been breached in the event of an accident, it is likely the business will face a stiff financial penalty, in the shape of a hefty fine. It is therefore vital that business owners understand and manage health and safety in their kitchens.


Safety flooring

The HSE recognises that slips, trips and falls commonly occur due to wet and slippery floors. It's important that any spillages are cleaned up immediately. Warning signs saying "wet floor" should be placed in the vicinity of the spillage until the floor dries.

Another cause of slips and trips is when the flooring is uneven or contains loose and damaged floor tiles. Kitchen floors must always be well-maintained, with areas where employees walk kept free from trip hazards and obstacles. An important safety tip when carrying knives is to always keep them pointing down to the ground – never facing towards you.

An appropriate floor surface, such as rubber matting for kitchens, restaurants and bars, is important to minimise the chances of falls in this high-risk environment.


Rubber matting benefits

The benefits of rubber matting include its durability and slip-resistant qualities. It is also shock absorbent and water, chemical and oil resistant. Rubber kitchen matting is easy to install and is low maintenance once in place.

Failing to properly assess the risks, poor communication and a lack of responsibility for managing health and safety in the kitchen can greatly increase the likelihood of accidents. Keeping the floor clean and dry at all times is paramount to keeping staff safe.

Contact Coruba on 01702 560194 for details of our restaurant, bar and kitchen matting - it can help you to safely operate your workplace kitchen!

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