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 Kitchen Health & Safety

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Probably the two most dangerous things around the kitchen (after people and food) are: Knives and Fire.

Knife Safety

Keep knives sharp. If your knife is sharp, it will slide easily through what you are cutting, with little force involved. If the knife is blunt, you have to force it and if you slip there is real danger of cuts.

Point Away. When you are using a knife, don't cut toward you or your fingers. Pay a lot of attention to where the edge of your sharp blade is pointing, and make sure it can not get you if you slip a bit.

Don't leave sharp knives loose in a drawer. Banging around in a drawer ruin the good sharp edge on your knives, and can be dangerous if someone reaches into the drawer .

Do not try and catch dropped knives. If you are working with or handling a knife and you drop it, step back and let it fall, don't try to catch it. This sounds elementary, but the instinct is to try and catch it, and that can be dangerous.

Do not put knives in the sink. If you have a dirty knife, don't put it in the dishwater as it will not be visible and will cause cuts. Wash the knives separately.

Put knives down safely. When you are working with a knife, and you lay it down, don't lay it down with the blade pointing up an make sure it is away from the surface edge.

put broken glass in a safe container. Broken glass is sharp and dangerous. Clean it carefully up preferably with a brush and put in a separate metal container, make sure you don't leave pieces of it in the sponge or cloth. Don put broken glass in the rubbish bag wrap it in old newspaper and put it in a box or something, and warn all concerned.

Fire and Hot Oil Safety in the Kitchen

Most kitchen fires start because of heating fat or oil. As oil gets hotter at first it smokes a bit, if it gets hotter it bursts into flame. To extinguish a fat fire cover it with a fire blanket or damp cloth and turn off the gas or power. You can use foam of powder extinguishers but NEVER use water. Do not try to carry the burning pan!

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Deep Fat Fryers
One thing to pay particular attention to is never put water or other liquid into hot cooking oil .... it turns into steam instantly, and can violently explode hot oil in all directions.

Watch the electrical cords carefully. Don't leave it where something might snag it, and spill hot oil about.

Be careful even when you add food to a deep fat fryer. If the fat is too hot, or if there are pockets of liquid in the prepared food, the hot fat will spray up.

Always remember that the steam will rise out of a boiling pot of water when you take off the cover. Remove the cover far side first so that this steam does not scald your hand. If you take a hot pan or a cover from the oven or stove top and put it on a counter, leave a cloth or oven gloves on the hot lid or utensil as a warning to the others in the kitchen that it is hot. (And tell them this is the way this message is conveyed.)

In many kitchens a dusting of flour on the utensil is the warning that it is fresh off the fire and hot.

Always be aware of where fire extinguishers are available and learn how to use them.

Don't let the pan handles on the stove stick out over the floor.

They can catch on clothing and spill. Turn them to the side, but don't let them extend over adjacent burners.

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First Aid

There can always be a mistake, and someone in the kitchen, preferably you, should be trained in at least basic first aid.


If you cut yourself wash the wound under cold water if the wound is shallow and bleeding stops dry the skin around the wound with paper, a clean cloth or cotton wool and cover with a waterproof coloured plaster.

If the wound is deep:

  • Apply presure to it to stem the bleeding
  • Raise it above the heart
  • Seek medical attention


If you burn or scald yourself apply cold water or ice: place hand under gently running cold water or wrap ice in a plastic bag and place gently on the affected area. It is important to take the heat from the area and although this may hurt prolonged apllication of cold water or ice can substantially reduce blistering.

Take care not to break the skin, if you spill quantities hot liquid onto clothing do not remove the clothing get under a cold shower or into a cold bath and get medical attention: removing the clothing will rip off the skin!

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Food Hygiene

There is of course also Hygiene to consider

Wash boards, equipment, containers and hands immediately after preparing an item.

Avoid cross contamination

Store food correctly

Food Poisoning, Spoilage and Temperature Control

Keep foods either hot above 65C or cold below 5C. The bacteria that cause food poisoning grow best when food in warm.
Be especially careful with raw poultry, seafood and foods with a base of eggs, such as mayonnaise or egg salad, or bread, like stuffings or puddings.

Make sure the temperature in your refrigerator is 5C degrees or under.

Get a good thermometer for the fridge, keep it in there where you can see it, and check it at regular interval and record the readings.

Keep shellfish and such in the refrigerator on ice. Ideally, put the seafood on top of the ice, and the ice in a colander or other bowl with holes in it so that when the ice melts it can drain into another container.

When you want to refrigerate a hot dish, preferably cool it rapidly in a blast chiller or stand bowl in cold water in sink to aid rapid cooling or with the lid ajar so that it can cool down before you put it in the refrigerator. If you put a hot dish in before it cools, it will warm up the refrigerator, endangering everything else in there.

A soon as you have served a stuffed bird such as a turkey, remove the stuffing that is left in the bird so that it can cool down faster.

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There are often a lot of chemicals in the kitchen.

Drain cleaners, bleaches and strong acids can be dangerous.

Never mix different types of these products, explosions or dangerous gasses may result. Make sure these are always used strictly according to the directions on the package, and make sure that the containers are properly sealed when not in use.

Carbon monoxide results from incomplete burning of fuel. Monoxide poisoning can result from improperly adjusted or poorly vented gas appliances. They must be checked regularly by an authorised inspector/engineer.

Cleaning fluids, gasoline, kerosene and such are often flammable, can easily cause fires and explosions, and should never be stored in a kitchen.

Pesticides such as pest killers, rat or cockroach poison and other rodent bait should be considered dangerous. If you get them on your hands, wash them off. When you use them, make sure there is no uncovered food they can get into. Store carefully, and preferably not in the kitchen.

If you must store cleaning chemicals and other possibly toxic non-food items in the kitchen, always store them on shelves below foodstuffs, so if they leak, they can't get into your food. Slips and FallsSoapy water, grease and oils, and things like the traditional banana peel are standard in kitchens and are all slippery. Here are a couple ways to keep slips and falls to a minimum.

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General Safety Rules

If you spill something on the floor, clean it up and dry . Use a warning sign whilst area is wet.

Often when you are working in the kitchen you are moving fast. Don't leave boxes, stools, bags of groceries or anything else out on the floor where they can trip up a fast moving cook.Safety around Kitchen ElectricityKeep your eyes on the electricity in your kitchen, it can electrocute you, or cause fires if it gets loose.

Keep an eye on all electrical cords. Watch for any breaks or cuts, or frayed areas where the cord passes over an edge or something has sat on it. Repair any damage you find.

Don't overload circuits by using multiple plugs, extension cords or the like. If you have old wiring, it is often a good idea to get it checked by a professional for load carrying capacity.

Don't use appliances near the sink or other water. If one falls in, it can electrocute anyone nearby. If you must have a wall socket near the sink, make sure it has a "Ground Fault Interrupter" type socket assembly.

Glass Utensils on Kitchen Burners, Explosion Danger

Hot Glass Utensils Can Break,

Wet Cloths, Oven Cloves and Hot Pads can cause burns as heat turns the dampness to steam.

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Posted for Mark Ward 17/04/02