Workplace Safety in Restaurants - 2021

Work Safety in Restaurants

In all countries there are hotels and restaurants, whose economies are closely linked to the tourism industry, business travel and congresses. Tourism is the main economic sector in many countries.

The main function of a restaurant es serve food and drinks people outside their homes. There are different types: establishments with several dining rooms and numerous staff (usually expensive); establishments and cafes with a "family atmosphere", whose clients usually belong to the same locality; bars whose main activity is to quickly serve food at the bar; restaurants fast food in which the public places their order at the bar and in a few minutes it is ready, usually to take away outside the establishment, and self-service cafeterias, where customers choose cooked dishes placed on display stands.

Muchos restaurants They have separate lounges or a bar where alcoholic beverages are served, while others, larger, have rooms for banquets and celebrations. In many countries there are also street vendors with food stalls, which generally belong to the informal sector of the economy.

workplace safety in restaurants
Photo: Sara Bolognini

The template of a restaurant It includes chefs and kitchen staff, waiters and heads of rank, bartenders, bar managers, cashiers, and cloakroom staff. In the restaurants larger staff are highly specialized in their functions.

The jobs that are done in a restaurant they are mostly manual and the level of education they require is minimal. Today, the bulk of the workforce of restaurants in developed countries they tend to be formed mostly by men and immigrants, while in developing countries the local population is used. Salaries are low in many countries, so the income of waiters and helpers depends for the most part on tips they receive from customers. In many places, tips are automatically included in the bill.

Un restaurant can vary in size: from a small food court to a restaurant of a large hotel, and generally comprises three main areas: the kitchen, where food is prepared and cooked; food service to customers in the restaurant, and the bar, a room that offers food and alcoholic beverages, enlivened with music and live or recorded shows.

workplace safety in restaurants


The kitchen staff includes: the chefs and the cooks, who prepare and cook the food; those in charge of the pantry, whose mission is to prepare the food to be cooked and keep the inventory of provisions up to date, and the assistants in charge of cleaning and maintaining the kitchen units.

Various types of accidents occur in kitchens, such as fryer burns, slips from grease on the floor, or cuts with knives. Lack or lack of maintenance in the kitchen area can lead to accidents. Freshly mopped floors should be marked with a “Wet Floor” sign to prevent injury from falls among kitchen staff.

workplace safety in restaurants
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Platters and plates must be stored securely to prevent them from falling over. Mats must be placed at the entrances and exits, and the wax applied to the floor in these areas must be non-slip. Boxes, garbage cans, or other obstacles should never be left in hallways. If there are loose tiles, exposed cables, substances spilled on the floor or there is any other circumstance likely to cause an accident, it must be notified and addressed as soon as possible, for which the work center must have a procedure for such notifications.

There is also a danger of accidents if the proper means are not used to reach the items stored on the highest shelves, which will be reached by stairs or stepped stools, never boxes or chairs. Stairs and stools must be stored in an appropriate place and kept in good condition.

Machines, knives and apparatus for cutting

Accidents and injuries occur frequently if proper safety measures are not taken. The type of cutting apparatus, the incessant activity and the work pressure present in the restaurants during meal times increase the risk of accidents.

Meat grinders, mixers, ice cube machines, and dishwashers are some of the most common machines in a kitchen, and misuse can lead to cuts, trapping of limbs in moving parts, or electric shock. To prevent these risks, kitchen staff must receive complete training before handling the appliances and follow the manufacturer's instructions for their safe use.

Other measures to avoid possible injuries are: make sure the machines are switched off and unplugged before cleaning; Wear comfortable clothing and do without loose pendants and ornaments that can fall or get caught in the machines (for the same reason employees with long hair must wear a hairnet to collect their hair), and carry out regular checks by authorized personnel.

Furthermore, food should never be put into the machines with your hands. Meat slicers, also used to cut fruits and vegetables, are very common in kitchens and are the potentially most dangerous appliances among kitchen equipment. When operating a slicer, the fenders should always be in place. Cleaning this equipment requires special care, especially when the cutting blades are in sight. After using the cutter, the employee must put it in the stop position and unplug it.

Knives can cause serious injury if they are misused or stored in an inappropriate place. Kitchen personnel often use knives to cut and chop meat and vegetables before cooking. To avoid injury, some measures must be observed: do not use knives for activities other than their specific use (for example, as a can opener); keep them sharp, otherwise the pressure exerted is greater and the risk of the blade slipping increases; transport them by the handle and with the blade towards the ground, and keep them in place as soon as cleaning is finished.

Ovens and stoves

Burns to the skin are the greatest danger to which kitchen personnel who operate ovens and stoves are exposed. Injuries for this reason vary from slight superficial scalds to third degree burns. As a preventive measure, it is recommended to use protective mitts to transport the pans, lift their lids or remove them from the oven.. Grease should not be allowed to accumulate in areas near the oven to avoid slipping and fires. If the ovens used are gas, the pilot must be connected before lighting it.

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Fryers are another common appliance in kitchens, used for frying meats and vegetables. The greatest danger is burns to the skin from splashes of hot grease. To safely operate a fryer, the following measures are recommended: prevent the oil from overheating and catching fire; clean the floor around the fryer of grease; Do not overfill it with oil to prevent it from overflowing, and take special care when filtering or changing the oil in the fryer. You will always wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves, aprons, and long-sleeved shirts.

Microwave ovens are widely used in kitchens to quickly heat or cook food. The most frequent dangers when it is not properly maintained are electric shock and exposure to microwave radiation leaks. It is radiation that, depending on the intensity and duration of exposure, can cause damage to the most sensitive organs of the human body. Pacemakers and other medical implants may also be affected by radiation.

The door and the sealing gaskets of the microwave must be free of grease and food residues, which can prevent the appliance from closing properly and causing radiation to escape to the outside. Instructions on its safe operation should be posted in the vicinity of the oven. All ovens must undergo periodic checks to keep them in good condition and detect possible radiation leaks. The necessary repairs and adjustments must be carried out by specialized technicians.

Dishes cooked to the customer's sight

Dishes flamed or cooked next to the diners' table can cause burns to the waiter and customers if the proper methods are not used. Only properly instructed personnel who know how to handle liquid or semi-solid fuel should serve these types of dishes. To extinguish possible fires it is necessary to have a carbon dioxide extinguisher.

workplace safety in restaurants
Image by Vardan Sevan from Pixabay

Refrigeration chambers and freezers

Large refrigeration and freezing chambers are used in kitchens to store prepared food and its ingredients. In addition to the low temperatures, the main danger is that the kitchen staff is trapped in the event of accidental closing of the door. All cold rooms must have interior opening handles and alarm switches, the location of which will be known to all personnel who normally use them.

You should enter the cold rooms carefully, since the condensation inside it makes the floor very slippery. The floor must always be kept free of grease and food debris. Before closing the establishment, make sure that nobody has been locked inside the cold rooms.

Extreme temperatures

All restaurant kitchen personnel are exposed to heat stress, although it is the chef or chef who is exposed to the greatest amount of exposure, since their work takes place very close to the ovens and stoves.

The extremely high temperatures that the air reaches in the immediate vicinity of heat sources, combined with the heavy uniforms that many chefs are required to wear, can cause certain health problems. Kitchen staff commonly suffer from, among others: high blood pressure, skin disorders, headaches and fatigue. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are also common, and there have been extreme cases of fainting and loss of consciousness.

To combat heat stress it is necessary to improve ventilation with hot air extractor hoods, organize work / rest periods and drink large amounts of water throughout the workday. Likewise, kitchen staff must be educated to recognize the symptoms of heat disorders.

They are workers commonly exposed to extreme temperatures when moving from cold rooms to kitchens, sudden changes that can lead to respiratory problems. Some employees spend long periods of time inside the chambers, unpacking, sorting boxes and cleaning the interior, for which they must be provided with suitable protective clothing.


To remove odors, fats and fumes from kitchens, appropriate ventilation systems are required. Grease suspended in the air can be deposited on the various kitchen equipment, making them slippery. Ventilation systems include exhaust fans, air ducts and hoods. Filters on these devices should be removed and cleaned regularly.

General cleaning


Dishwashing machines can cause burns to the skin when removing hot dishes or accessing them before the washing cycle has finished. They should never be overloaded, as they could clog and stop working, and gloves should be used when removing dishes from inside.


Various kinds of products are used to keep restaurant kitchens in the best conditions of cleanliness and hygiene. To clean the grease from ovens and kitchens, those that contain ammonia, a substance that irritates the skin and eyes, are often used. When using products with ammonia, the place must be ventilated using hoods and extractors.

The products used to unclog drains are caustic and cause burns to the skin and injuries to the eyes. To protect yourself from splashes, you should wear rubber gloves and face masks. The soaps and detergents present in floor cleaning products can cause dermatitis and throat irritation if soap powder is inhaled. Employees sensitive to this type of dust need to wear disposable masks.

Certain procedures must be observed when handling cleaning products in order to eliminate the risks they pose to workers. Thus, they should be kept properly labeled and away from places reserved for food; they should never be mixed, especially with bleach, the combination of which with other cleaning products can be dangerous. In many countries there are safety data sheets (FTS), with information on the content of cleaning products, their effects and instructions for their correct handling.

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Garbage compressors

Trash compactors are used to reduce the volume of large amounts of waste from kitchens. They must be designed to operate only with the lid closed to prevent trapping of hands or hair, and the water supply must be sufficient for effective and safe operation. It is important to be extremely careful so that no glass, metal or plastic gets into the trash compactor, as the machine will jam and stop working.


They are usually used in restaurants to combat insects that attracts the presence of food. Although most pesticides used in kitchens and restaurants present little danger to humans, some people who are especially sensitive to them can experience skin irritations and other allergic reactions.

To avoid the incorrect use of pesticides, it is necessary that the managers and cleaning staff receive prior training and, in the event that the infestation of insects is severe, go to authorized technicians. All pesticide product containers must have printed instructions, which the user must read before proceeding with their application, especially those referring to the safety of their use in areas where food is available.

Food service

The staff assigned to the food service includes: waiters in charge of the dining room, waiters in charge of the snacks, those in charge of the cocktails, those in charge of the bar, those who accompany the client to the table, those in charge of the banquets and the assistants of waiter. The duties of these employees consist of serving food and drinks, escorting customers to their tables, and cleaning and maintaining dining rooms.

Slips and falls

workplace safety in restaurants
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Injuries can occur from slipping on a wet floor or falling from tripping over boxes, carts, or garbage cans located in kitchens and dining rooms. These injuries include sprains, trauma to the extremities, cervical and dorsal injuries, and cuts caused by falling on sharp objects. To avoid these risks, employees should always wear sturdy, low-heeled footwear with a rubber sole.

Spilled food, grease and water on the floor must be cleaned up immediately, and loose cables must be securely attached to the floor.

All dining room mats must be non-slip or have a rubber or similar backing. Carpets should be checked for worn or raised areas that could trip food service personnel. The areas of the floor where the transition from carpet to tiles occurs must be properly marked to warn personnel of the change of surface.

Dining room setup is another important factor in accident prevention. Difficult bends, light shortages, and narrow kitchen doors can cause accidental shocks among waiters. Open, well-marked angles and sufficient lighting in the doors facilitate the passage and safety of food service personnel.


Food service personnel can suffer skin burns from splashing hot liquids, such as coffee or soup, or from melted wax from the candles that light and decorate the tables. To avoid this, waiters should never overfill glasses and plates when serving hot drinks at the table. When serving soup, they must be careful not to splash and be careful not to overfill the dishes.

Those in charge of bringing coffee makers and kettles to the dining room should protect their hands with a napkin.

Musculoskeletal injuries

Repetitive stress injuries (LER) and other musculoskeletal problems are common in employees who routinely carry heavy trays, and have to bend and stretch to remove, clean and set tables, or move boxes of restaurant supplies. These risks can be reduced through good planning of the jobs and their schedules, so that the work of the personnel assigned to the food service has a rotating nature, in order to reduce repetitive tasks.

Training in ergonomics (and risk factors for repetitive stress injuries) is also very helpful in preventing this type of injury among food service personnel.

Many neck and back injuries are due to the use of improper technique when lifting weights. Often times, transporting trays overloaded with plates and glasses in the wrong way can cause neck injuries and increase the risk of the tray falling and injuring another person. The risks of injury can be reduced with proper training on how to lift and carry the trays correctly.

Thus, the balanced distribution of plates and glasses throughout the tray and the placement of the palm of one hand in the center of the base, while holding the front edge with the other, contributes to creating a safer environment in the dining room.


Hotel dining rooms can be very stressful places due to the pressure of providing efficient service within a tight schedule. Work shifts, uncertainty about their income as they rely heavily on tips, and dealing with some difficult and irritable customers also play a role in food service staff stress. To this are added other physical stressors, such as noise or bad quality of ambient air. Some of the most common symptoms of stress are: headache, rapid heartbeat, ulcer, irritability, insomnia, and depression.

In order to prevent and reduce stress, it is advisable to hold work meetings in which employees have the opportunity to share views on how to improve the work method, as well as attend workshops on training techniques. management stress, air quality improvement and noise level reduction.

Bars and lounges

The concept of bars and lounges ranges from small venues and cocktail bars to large discos and venues with performances.

Broken glass they are a frequent danger in bars due to the large number of glasses and bottles used in these establishments. Employees and customers are inadvertently ingesting broken glass fragments. There is also a danger of cutting your fingers. To reduce these risks, various measures must be observed, such as periodic inspection to detect cracked or broken fragments.

All glasses that are not in perfect condition will be removed immediately. Also, do not hold several glasses with one hand, inserting a finger inside each glass, since they can break when colliding with each other.

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A glass should never be used to collect ice cubes. To put ice in the glasses, a metal pan should be used. In the event of a glass beaker breaking on top of the ice, it should be allowed to melt completely and carefully remove all pieces of glass. Broken glass should never be picked up with bare hands.

Pasive smokers. Employees of bars and lounges are exposed to secondhand smoke, especially in crowded places, which carries a risk, as lung cancer and other respiratory problems have been associated with passive smoking status. Therefore, it is essential to make the greatest efforts to improve the ventilation of the bars and to delimit non-smoking areas.

Slips and falls. The hustle and bustle of crowded bars contributes to slips and falls. Spilled drinks on the floor and dripping from some bottles make the area inside the bar especially dangerous for waiters, so it is necessary to scrub the floor from time to time.

Outside the bar, the floor needs to be scrubbed immediately after someone spills their drink. When the floor is covered with carpet, it should be inspected regularly to detect any irregularities or flaws where people may trip.

All employees must wear non-slip footwear with a rubber sole. If there is a dance floor on the premises, its floor must be made of wood or another material that allows it to slide on, but its color must be different from the other areas of the premises.

Lifting weights. Among the jobs of a bar clerk is lifting heavy crates and kegs of beer, for which he has to use a wheelbarrow whenever possible. Lifting weights incorrectly can cause neck, back, and knee injuries. Any weight lifting maneuver must be performed with a technique that guarantees safety.

Bar waiters often carry heavy trays filled with drinks, causing cervical and back stress. Therefore, they should learn appropriate techniques for carrying trays. Staying in good physical shape is also important to prevent back injuries.

noises. Excessive noise in venues with live performances can cause hearing damage to employees. Exposure to 90 decibel (dB) levels, the legal limit established in the United States and other countries, causes hearing loss in certain people. All employees exposed to levels between 85 and 90 dB for 8 hours a day must undergo audiometry.

To avoid this type of injury, the exposure time should be limited to high noise levels, in addition to trying to reduce the volume of the sound. If this is not possible, there are personal protection measures, such as ear plugs.

Compressed Gases. They are present in bars that serve carbonated drinks. The containers of these drinks should be kept face up to avoid possible explosions.

Fire Safety

All restaurant employees should know how to use fire extinguishers and know the location of fire alarms. An effective fire prevention program must include the training of personnel so that they know how to detect any fire risk and how to proceed if it does occur. Emergency phone numbers and instructions for calling should be prominently displayed, and all employees should be aware of the facility's evacuation plans and routes. They should be specially trained to put out any small fires that occur in the kitchen.

The key to preventing fires in a restaurant is in good maintenance and upkeep. The entire premises must be inspected so that traces of oil, grease or garbage do not accumulate. Once used, combustible materials, such as aerosols or greasy rags, should be stored in properly covered containers or garbage cans. Kitchen vents, filters, and extractors should be free of grease, which will also help keep equipment and facilities in good working order.

Restaurant emergency exits must be clearly marked and accesses to exits will be clear at all times, without boxes, garbage cans or other types of waste. Fire prevention systems and water sprays should not be missing in a prevention program.


The cashiers of a restaurant are in charge of the cash register: they handle the cash that enters the establishment, they prepare the invoices of the clients and answer the telephone. Restaurants are often the target of robberies and robberies in which cashiers can be injured and even killed.

Management must train cashier staff in handling money and how to behave in the event of theft. Other prevention measures consist of placing the box in an open and lighted place, and installing alarms in that area that reinforce security in the event of theft. Once closed, the premises must be very secure and the exits protected by alarms and signaled to be used exclusively in case of emergency.


Cashier personnel, especially in fast food outlets and coffee shops, may suffer repetitive strain injuries due to the design of their stalls and the high workload. Preventive measures include that the workplace is well designed, with the cash register at the appropriate height, and that the seats are flexible so as to relieve pressure on the legs and lower back.

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workplace safety in restaurants