Working in the kitchen can be a fun but sometimes dangerous business. Whether you are a professional chef or just cooking at home, kitchen-safety is essential. While using proper technique and being careful can help to avoid most injuries, accidents can still happen to even the most careful cooks. So, we put together a useful guide that highlights the most common kitchen injuries and provided some tips on how to treat them.
Make sure to always keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your kitchen; which, along with the below information, will help you and your staff be prepared for all kitchen injuries and situations.
Keeping your knives sharp is essential to an efficient kitchen, but knives need to be treated with respect, or else they lead to one of the most common kitchen injuries – cuts.
How to avoid cuts:
Keep Your Knives Sharp
Secure Your Cutting Board
Ideally, use a cutting board with rubber grips that keep it from slipping. If not – place a damp rag or towel under the cutting board to keep it in place while you work.
Keep Utensil Drawers Organized
Make sure your knives are visible and toward the front of drawers, to avoid accidental cuts when looking for the right utensil.
Invest in a Bagel Slicer
Many cuts happen when trying to slice a bagel with a regular knife. Using a bagel slicer not only makes the process safer but also faster and easier.
Exercise extra caution when washing your knives as the soap and water will make them slippery and more difficult to handle.
Wear Cut Resistant Gloves
For an added layer of protection, you can wear a cut resistent glove while working in the kitchen. This is especially helpful when using tools that put your hands close to sharp blades like mandolines and slicers.
How to treat cuts:
- Major cuts – If the cut is deep, bleeding heavily, or longer than a half-inch – cover the wound with gauze or a clean, dry towel and apply pressure. Then seek immediate medical attention at the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility.
- Minor cuts – If the cut is smaller, clean with soap and water then apply pressure to the cut with gauze, a clean cloth or bandage. Change the bandage and check every day until healed. Make sure to wear a glove over the injured hand until it is fully healed.
- If the cut does not stop bleeding after 20 minutes, becomes inflamed, or has discharge – seek medical attention immediately.
Along with cuts, burns are a widespread occurrence in any kitchen. While most are minor, some burns can be much more severe and dangerous, even third-degree burns, which require serious medical attention and skin grafts.
How to avoid burns:
Always Use Oven Mitts or Gloves
This may seem like common sense but whenever you are pulling something out of the oven or working with hot pots or pans, make sure to protect your hands.
Keep Pot and Pan Handles Turned Inward
Keep the handles pointed inward on the stove, or else they could be accidentally bumped and spill hot contents on the floor or the cook.
Wear Long Sleeves
When working with hot liquid, grease, or other foods on the stove top, it is best to wear long sleeves or a chef coat to prevent burns from spatter and spills.
How to treat burns:
- First-degree burns – Affects only the top layer of skin. Your skin will look red and painful, like a sunburn. Place the injured area under cool, running water for five minutes. Then apply an antibiotic ointment (do not use ice, as this can damage the skin) and cover it with a clean bandage. A first-degree burn should heal within 3-6 days.
- Second-degree burns – Affects the top two layers of skin and causes pain, redness, swelling, and blisters. Place the injured area under cool, running water for 10-15 minutes. Cover loosely with a clean bandage or gauze but do not apply ointment or cream unless prescribed by a doctor, as the wrong type of ointment can cause harm to a second-degree burn. Seek medical attention as a doctor can determine the severity of the burn and provide medication if needed.
- Third-degree burns – Damages all layers of skin and affects deeper tissues. Will result in blackened, charred, or white skin. These burns may not cause pain, as the nerve tissue can be destroyed. If a third-degree burn occurs, call 911 immediately. Cover the burn loosely to protect it with a clean bandage but do not soak in water or apply ointments. To prevent shock, lay the person flat and elevate the feet, keeping the burn area above the heart, if possible. Keep the person calm until medical professionals arrive.
Hot Pepper Burns
While not as common as thermal, or temperature, burns – hot pepper burns can be just as annoying and uncomfortable in the kitchen. These can happen when working with hot peppers or sauces but are relatively easy to avoid.
How to avoid hot pepper burns:
You should always wear gloves when working with hot peppers including jalapenos, chilis, etc. Gloves help prevent capsaicin, the active component in peppers, from getting on your skin and causing a burning sensation.
Use Eye Protection
This may not seem necessary, but eye protection is essential when cutting peppers or preparing spicy foods like salsa and hot sauce. The juices from hot peppers can easily splash into your eyes and cause serious discomfort and other problems.
Do Not Touch Your Eyes
Most people do not realize how often they touch or rub their eyes. It is important to avoid this reflex while cutting peppers, as getting juices or particles from hot peppers in your eye can cause serious pain and vision issues.
Consider Wearing a Mask
If you are working with extremely hot peppers like ghost peppers, you may want to consider wearing some sort of mask to protect your breathing. Inhaling particles from hot peppers can cause discomfort and other serious issues.
How to treat hot pepper burns:
- On your skin – Do not wash your hands, as capsaicin does not dissolve in water. Use a combination of rubbing alcohol and dish soap to best clean your hands and neutralize the capsaicin. Other remedies include washing with an acidic liquid like vinegar or using oil, like olive oil, to soothe your skin.
- In your eyes – Start by blinking fast to produce tears in your eyes, then flush your eyes immediately with water. If there is still irritation, use milk or a saline solution to rinse out your eyes.
- In your mouth – Acid is your best friend after eating too many hot peppers or wings. Try drinking tomato, lemon, lime, or pineapple juice to dull the pain. Milk is also acidic so it can provide relief as well.
Falls can be some of the most painful and scary injuries to occur in the kitchen. They can lead to a range of injuries from minor bruises to more severe incidents like head injuries and broken bones.
How to avoid falls:
Keep the Floor Dry
Keeping the floors dry in your kitchen, coolers, and storage areas is the best way to prevent falls. Clean spills immediately and make sure to use wet floor signs after mopping.
Wear Non-Slip Shoes
They may not always be the most attractive footwear, but non-slip shoes are a must for everyone in the food industry. These will give you extra grip wherever you go in the kitchen and help to counteract wet and slippery floors.
Use Rubber Mats
Placing rubber mats strategically around your kitchen, dishwashing area, and bar will help you and your employees avoid dangerous falls.
These tips will help you avoid the most common injuries in the kitchen, but you should always be careful and take every precaution available to keep a safe kitchen. If a kitchen injury does occur and you aren’t sure how to treat it – always seek medical attention!